Wait for Him (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Main Idea: It’s not enough that we should have hope. We need to put our hope in the right thing.

Text:

In 1981, a millionaire named Eugene Lang promised a class of sixth graders: “Stay in school, and I’ll pay your college tuition.” The students in that class went on to have the highest percentage of graduates in that school and in that area for years. It wasn’t because that class was smarter or more advantaged, it was because they were given hope.

On the show The Office, Michael Scott, who had a reputation for putting his foot in his mouth, made the same promise to an underprivileged class of third graders. But when it came time for him to pay for them to go to college ten years later, this is what happened:

[Clip from The Office of “Scott’s Tots”]

You see, it’s not enough that we should have hope. We need to put our hope in the right thing.

We talked last week about putting our hope in the Lord. No matter what, there’s always hope, and God has given us abundant reasons to put our hope in Him. And Scripture is clear that God is able to make good on all of His promises.

But sometimes we can feel as though hope is just a carrot on a stick. Like, we don’t just want hope of the carrot, we want the carrot! We don’t just want hope of good things to come, we want the good things! So why should we hope in the Lord, waiting for His promises, waiting for His blessings, instead of just going out and taking whatever we want now?

So we’re going to continue just one more week in the book of Lamentations. In Lamentations, Jeremiah was crying out to God because of the destruction of Jerusalem, and He put His faith in God not because things were going well, but even when things were going very very badly. We saw last week in the book of Lamentations that even when we’re in the pit of despair, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies are new every morning, and therefore, we can hope in Him.

And then Jeremiah wrote this in Lamentations 3:25-27:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the person who seeks him.
It is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is still young. (Lamentations 3:25-27)

Father, we know that You are good. And we know that waiting for Your promises is good. And yet, we’d much rather not have to wait. So help us to see the good in waiting, and to hope in You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I’ve shared this illustration before just about a year ago, but I’ve got the mic, so I can share it again.

I hate waiting in lines. When we eat dinner here on Wednesday nights, I rarely stand in line to get food. I’d much rather wait until everyone else has their food, and then go to get mine, because I loathe lines that much.

But sometimes that approach isn’t very ideal. My favorite breakfast food is biscuits and gravy, so I always get a little excited when someone brings biscuits and gravy when we eat breakfast together on the fourth Sunday of the month. But sometimes, after I go to get my food after everyone else has already gone through the line, I find that all the biscuits are gone! How dare you!

Waiting isn’t fun, but it’s often good and necessary if we want the very best. Jeremiah wrote in verse 25:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the person who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:25)

In ancient Hebrew poetry, which is what this is, the lines rarely rhymed, except sometimes by accident, and yet there was a certain kind of rhyme utilized by the poets. What we have here in these lines is something called parallelism, in which the second line relates to the first line in some way.

Sometimes in Hebrew poetry, the second line would contrast the thought of the first line, like if I were to say:

I love pizza rolls and ice cream,
but I hate oatmeal.

That’s what’s called Antithesis parallelism, because the second line is the antithesis, or the contrasting point, to the first line.

Another type of Hebrew parallelism was when the second line completed the thought of the first line, like if I were to say:

I love pizza rolls
because they truly are the world’s most perfect food.

That would be called Climactic parallelism, because the second line provides a kind of climax or rationale to the thought of the first line.

So when we read this poem in Lamentations, or any poem in the Old Testament, it can be helpful to see what type of parallelism it’s using each step of the way. So when we read in verse 25:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the person who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:25)

I think it can make a huge difference to understand what Jeremiah is actually saying.

Jeremiah seems to actually be using Synonymous parallelism in these lines, meaning that the second line basically repeats the first line. Rather than saying that we should wait AND seek, Jeremiah appears to be saying that we wait for the Lord BY seeking Him, saying that seeking the Lord is part of what it means to wait for the Lord.

I say that because of what it says in the next verse. Verse 26.

It is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)

If you desire to receive salvation from the Lord, it says to wait quietly for it. So, what does it mean to wait for the Lord?

First, as we saw in verse 25, it means to seek Him. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It means to earnestly seek the Lord. It means to study His word, and cry out to Him, and actively believe His promises.

Faith is more than what goes on up here, in your head. Genuine faith is lived out. Now, that doesn’t mean we take salvation for ourselves as if we could earn it. Rather, it means that we’re thankful for God’s salvation, and we look forward to God’s salvation, so we desire to be about His business as long as we live.

Second, verse 26 tells us that waiting for the Lord means having a quietness about you. Now, that doesn’t mean that if you’re a loud person, you need to completely change your personality. No, it’s talking to all of us. Waiting quietly means that when it comes to your anxious thoughts, and your plans for the future, and even your feelings about the present, that you have a confidence through it all that God will do what He’s promised.

You don’t have to worry about tomorrow, Jesus says, because today has enough worries of its own. And Jesus wasn’t really even saying that we should worry about today, but rather trust Him who takes care of the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field. The posture of a Christian is to wait for the Lord, having a quiet confidence in Him.

And you see, waiting for the Lord goes beyond what’s happening internally in our minds and hearts. Verse 27.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is still young. (Lamentations 3:27)

Sometimes the best thing you can do as you wait for the Lord is to get busy. God doesn’t desire that we be idle. As they say, “Idleness is the devil’s playground.” So even as you wait for the Lord, get busy working! Get busy serving God in the ways that He’s called you to serve Him. No matter what other demands you have on your life, God calls you to give yourself first to the Lord.

And bearing the yoke while you’re young, as it says in verse 27, is wise and good because that’s when you’re establishing patterns for the rest of your life. I hear that there are a lot of things that you just can’t do in your old age. Whenever I complain about anything related to my health, Claude Markham reminds me, “Oh, wait ‘till you’re my age.”

Our bodies start to fail us. And they start doing that pretty soon, sooner that most people realize. Our outer self is wasting away

But the idea in verse 27 isn’t really that you should serve God when you’re young, because we can’t when we’re old, but rather that you serve God from your youth and onward, even all your life. It’s good to work hard when you’re young because if you don’t learn to work hard then, you won’t probably work hard later in life either. But if you start godly habits while you’re young, you’ll see that God is faithful, and you’ll have these established in you all your life as you walk with the Lord.

I read an article about an experiment done in the 1950s that some would consider cruel today. Curt Richter, a professor at Johns Hopkins, did a psychology experiment on rats to see how long they would swim before giving up.

He knew that rats had a reputation for being able to swim for exceedingly long periods of time in rivers and sewers, more than 50 hours. Yet when he placed rats in a bucket of water, they quickly discovered they had no way to get out, and literally gave up, allowing themselves to simply sink to the bottom and drown within about 15 minutes.

Richter knew that the rats had the ability to continue swimming much longer, so he concluded that they died not because they weren’t physically able to keep swimming, but because they came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter how long they swam. There was no way out, so they simply gave up.

So Richter tried the experiment again, this time pulling the rats out of the water once he saw them beginning to struggle. He let them rest for a short time before returning them to the bucket. They once again began swimming, testing the confines of their surroundings, but instead of giving up and allowing themselves to sink and drown, they kept swimming, and swimming, and swimming! Many swam up to 60 hours until their bodies could simply no longer endure.

What was the difference between these two groups of rats? Richter concluded that the difference was hope. These swimming rats had been saved once, so they were instilled with the hope – the expectation, the reasonable confidence – of eventual rescue yet again.

Hope is an amazing motivator. You may feel hemmed in on every side, with no visible means of relief or escape. Your body, not to mention your mind and spirit, may want to just give up. But, in the immortal words of Dory the fish, “Just keep swimming!”

Rest in the assured promises of God to keep you motivated. God has promised you eternal life, and He’s promised that Jesus is coming again in power to rid this world of all sin and suffering! So wait for Him, which means, continue to seek Him and His righteousness, and all good things will be added unto you.

Maybe you’ve seen this picture before, or one like it.

[Picture of the Carrot on a Stick]

The man on the horse has a carrot and a stick. Actually, he has two sticks, one holding the carrot, and the other “motivating” the horse to go faster.

And people are like that, too. Some people are carrot people and some people are stick people. Some people are motivated by the promise of rewards, like the carrot, and some people are motivated by the threat of punishment, like the stick. And certainly both of these things are in the Bible. There are great blessings for us when we obey, like contentment, peace, and joy even in this life, and there are threats of punishment because we haven’t obeyed, even hell, apart from faith in the grace of God.

But when you really get down to how God wants us to be motivated to serve Him, it’s not by the carrot or the stick. These things might get us to take notice, but God doesn’t really want us just to serve Him out of fear or greed. He wants our hearts. God’s love is described in the Bible as unconditional. It’s not a bribe, and it’s not a threat.

We love because He first loved us. We serve Him because He first served us. Jesus died on the cross for us, so that we would gladly deny ourselves and follow Him. And only God’s unconditional love can transform a human heart so that love is the only motivation we need.

In truth, compared to eternity, we are all still so young. So when it says in verse 27 that it’s good for a man to bear the yoke while he is still young, I think ultimately it’s saying that this life is going to be full of hardships, trials, and things that we’re not going to have any idea why we have to endure them, but in the end we’ll look back at this life and say with Paul:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

You see, we have a hope that helps us through every hardship. This life is transient. It’s temporary. And we’ve known that all our lives. But Jesus is eternal. And we have an eternal hope in Him.

And yet, we still have to wait. But it’s good to wait. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. And God doesn’t lie about His promises. He’s not like Michael Scott, who can’t make good on his promises. God promises us good things, and He’s able to bring them about.

And God doesn’t have big dreams that He isn’t able to bring about. He’s able and willing to accomplish all of His will. And He’s faithful. Even when it seemed hopeless for us, because we sinned, and messed up His creation, even then, God loved us, and Jesus came down to rescue us. He died for us, so that we could live in Him.

So even though we continue to have pain and sorrow in this life, we know that God is faithful. So we wait with patience, while serving God, and seeking to know Him more, because Jesus Himself is our greatest hope.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Series: General
Bible Passages: Lamentations 3:22-24
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