This Sunday Pastor Rob Bugh will continue his sermon series based on his book, When the Bottom Drops Out. This week’s sermon will focus on the example of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament. For several decades, Jeremiah warned the kingdom of Judah of its impending destruction if the nation did not turn back to God.
When Jeremiah began his ministry, Judah was relatively prosperous and secure; however, its fortunes turned once Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gained power in the region. The book of Jeremiah is full of God’s warnings to His people, urging them to return to Him. Lamentations, which Jeremiah composed just before and after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., mourns the fall of the city through a collection of five emotionally charged poems.
We thank Kim Miller—a senior editor at Tyndale House Publishers who worked with Pastor Rob on the editing of his book—for preparing these devotional thoughts. Kim also attends Wheaton Bible Church, and leads a small group of sixth grade girls in Quest56.
Today we are reading and meditating on Lamentations 3:26-32. The text below is taken from the New International Version, but feel free to read from the version of your choice.
26It is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
There once was a prophet from a privileged family who spoke out against the ruler of his nation and called his people back to obedience to God. The tyrant, angered by what he considered the prophet’s insurrection, had the prophet imprisoned. The prophet did not give in to despair; instead, he urged his countrymen and women to walk in faith and hope.
This prophet certainly sounds like Jeremiah. When the Babylonians finally sieged Jerusalem, Jeremiah was charged with treason and insurrection and imprisoned in the royal palace of King Zedekiah.
The opening paragraph describes a modern-day “prophet” as well: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German who stood up to Adolf Hitler. Both Jeremiah and Bonhoeffer exemplify the fourth characteristic of persevering faith: total submission to the plan of God.
Unlike many in the upper military and professional classes of Germany who justified their tolerance of Hitler out of deep-seated loyalties to German culture, Bonhoeffer resisted the Fuhrer from the beginning. Just two days after Hitler gained power in 1933, Bonhoeffer made a radio broadcast in which he warned the nation about the dire consequences Hitler’s policies could bring. A year or so later, he joined with other Lutheran theologians in Germany to form the Confessing Church, which opposed the Nazi-controlled state church.
As war became imminent, concerned friends urged Bonhoeffer to seek refuge in the United States. He refused, submitting to God’s call to stand with the true church in Germany. Just a few years before, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer had written, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
And yet Bonhoeffer’s submission didn’t reflect a sense of despair. Consider the words he wrote in January 1943, just three months before his arrest:
There remains for us only the very narrow way, often extremely difficult to find, of living every day as if it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future. It is not easy to be brave and keep that spirit alive, but it is imperative.
Like Jeremiah, Bonhoeffer didn’t sugarcoat the extreme difficulties of a world in which the bottom seems to have dropped out. At the same time, he knew that a sovereign God would never abandon his people.
Hitler personally ordered Bonhoeffer’s execution in April 1945. From a human perspective, his death may seem tragic. Yet Bonhoeffer had found eternal freedom even before his nation began its slow liberation from Nazism. In fact, Nazi Germany had become the laboratory in which Bonhoeffer worked out his understanding on the true meaning of grace:
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because . . . it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
As you face your own challenges today, remember the grace Christ poured out for you. And pray for God’s help in modeling just how rich and costly that grace really is. As your submission to your loving Creator grows, so will your hope!
Your grace to me came at such a high price to You. May I never cheapen it by taking it for granted or refusing to extend grace to others.
In your name,
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 89.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (New York: Touchstone, 1997).
 Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 45.