“He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.” Lamentations 3:16 NIV
In this chapter of Lamentations, we find some of the most downcast descriptions of human misery the Bible has to offer. A prophet tormented at seeing his words come to pass, taken into exile with his people by the Babylonians, Jeremiah is beyond sorrow. And though he sees under the old covenant, all punishments righteously coming from God’s hand, he is also able to hope in God’s ultimate goodness, like Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15 partial NIV).
Jeremiah has no way to fight his enemies, he is remembering all the terrible things he has seen, and the afflictions he has partaken of. It must indeed have seemed like his very teeth had been ground away, that all he had left to eat were stones, all he had to fight with were bleeding gums.
It is the toughest lesson in life, to sit face to face with our own powerlessness. But in a turn of faith, it is also the place where all is changed. Because it is not until we can face our true nature as dust, not until we are grounded in humility (humus=earth) and ground into our smallest particles, that we can finally look about us like toothless infants and see that all the control belongs to God. Once the acceptance of that truth comes we become strangely powerful ourselves, because we are his, because we know that we can rely on his words and his teeth to save us.
For it is whilst he is meditating on all this suffering and brokenness that Jeremiah comes to the far more well-known verses from this chapter, the conclusion that,
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV
It is also good to remember that without the lament, we do not find the hope. The one lived through becomes the other, and we serve a God who delights in transformation, even turning a vile death on a cross into a universal victory. Yes, the world should beware those ground into the dust, the toothless and the weak. We are people of the living God.
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