Lamentations 3:22-33

Trinity IV

June 9, 2017

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

 

“Bearing the Yoke”

 

To la∙ment’ is to “cry out loud” and to verbally express one’s grief!  Sometimes the emotions are so strong, they defy expression – coming out only as sounds – groans… sobs… wails!  I one counseled a woman who had had an abortion.  And once she realized she had murdered a defenseless baby – she could not stop her cries… deep, broad, long. 

 

The Book of Lamentations, inspired by God through the pen of Jeremiah, is a remarkable piece of literature that puts into writing the profound grief that overcame God’s people when their nation was overrun by the Babylonians and they were hauled into exile!  They realized the seriousness of their wrongs before the Almighty.

 

Jeremiah, apparently now an old man, sifted and sorted through his recollections of the debacle with a maturity that came only through time and holy contemplation.  And he finally presents an eloquent series of lessons for those who will listen.

 

Of everything we might consider this morning, let us look at verse 27: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

The use of the term “man” here is generic.  He is speaking of all people!  It is good for a man [for a woman, for a young person, for a child] that [they] bear the yoke in [their] youth.  It benefits every stage of life!

 

A yoke is a device designed to harness an animal’s strength to pull a load, whether a plow or a cart or a log.  It is seen in the Bible as an instrument of discipline.  The term “discipline” is derived from the word “disciple.”  To be a disciple is to be yoked in the service of one’s master.  A yoke harnesses all of our strengths and all of our talents and all of our abilities to accomplish the goals and objectives of someone greater — in our case, Almighty God!

 

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

This was certainly the case with Jeremiah.  When he was called to his prophetic office, God told him not to marry any woman and not to bear any children – to have no family!  “Why, Lord?” he might have asked.  “Because ‘normal life’ for you, Jeremiah, is about to end.”  And every time that God called him to address the leaders of the land with His truth or with a reminder of His justice, he was drawn into a political vortex of gargantuan proportions, strength, and viloence which led to continuous threats on his life!  All of his strength… energy… resources… for expended for God!

 

On one occasion he was even thrown into the ooze of an abandoned well (also translated “dungeon”) and left to die. 

 

And after the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, he was then accused of being a Quisling – a conspirator against his own countrymen! 

 

Eventually, he is kidnapped and taken down to Egypt (against his will) where he continued to deliver the Word of the LORD to those threatening him.

 

All these events at the time were incredibly painful to Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.”  Yet after he had passed them through the refining medium of the “bigger picture” — God’s holy purposes — one of his conclusions for you and me after all was said and done and fashioned into an irreducible axiom is this: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

It is good that we do not always have our own way!  It is good to discover that life is about much, much more than just ourselves!  And the sooner we learn this, believe you me, the better off we are!  Narcissus (of Greek mythology fame) was so self-centered that when he saw the reflection of himself in a pond of serene water, he could not pull away – and died of starvation and thirst!

 

How many princes were coddled in their youth only to become self-centered egotistical despots in their prime who eventually brought down their countries?

 

Yet on the other hand, how many boys and girls (hopefully including you and me) have been fortunate enough to receive loving correction from their parents and teachers and relatives and friends – learning the importance of work as well as play… learning the importance of obligation as well as privilege… the necessity of holy concern as well as endless joy — and reaped the incredible benefits of a self-controlled and self-disciplined and self-governed life? 

 

Strange thing, is it not?  So many who have had so much for so long in so many places end up being some of the most unsatisfied, disgruntled people in the entire world – and most unpleasant to be around!  I can list a dozen movie stars or athletes or financial moguls or political figures so wrapped up in themselves, they self-destructed!

 

And yet so many who have had so little… indeed, such debilitations and handicaps to overcome – triumphed over them and left great footprints in the sands of time!

 

Helen Keller was both blind and deaf, yet she was most humble and gracious.  And Oliver Wendell Holmes (U.S. Supreme Court Justice) was constantly taunted about his short stature even from his youth – only to discover that it produced a “remarkable” strength inside!  On one occasion a friend asked if he did not feel small and insignificant in a crowd of such “big men.”

 

He replied, “Indeed, I do!  I feel like a dime in a collection of pennies!”  He knew his worth was dependent upon much more than the height and shape of the dust from which he had been formed!

 

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

Jesus said as much in His parable concerning Lazarus and the rich man (Dives). Lazarus, who had nothing in life but misery and lowliness ends up in the company of Abraham in Heaven.  And Dives (the rich man) who had everything in life (but humility and a perspective greater than his own ease and comfort), ends up in the torment of hell!

 

Jesus said… Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 

 

He also said… If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

 

God designs all of our challenges in life and all of our difficulties in life for our own good.  Self-denial and the rigors of a yoke have had their important place in our development!  And the sooner we figure this out, the better off we are… and the better off is the land in which we live!

 

St. James goes so far as to declare in the General Epistle bearing his name:

 

Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (trials); knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience!

 

Some people are so convinced their comfort and ease are the goal of life, they fall apart when the slightest difficulty comes their way.  What a pity!

 

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

I once viewed a sign in front of a humble Church that read: Father knows best.  Trust God!  How true it is!  Our Heavenly Father knows best!  Trust Him!

 

There are a great many things more important in life then our “ease” and our “happiness.”  How about our character?  Responsibility!  Self-sacrifice!  Helping others!  Doing something good for God!  Pity to the sons of Adam or the daughters of Eve who never learn this!

 

God’s purposes for us are much greater and wiser and more far-reaching than only our plans for ourselves.  Let us give thoughtful consideration and attention to this as we pass through the Trinity Season!

 

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

 

This is the Word of the LORD… and it is true!  Amen. 

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