“For Dust You Are and to Dust You will Return” – Genesis 3:19
The scripture readings emphasize the need for repentance and humility before we can receive God’s righteousness and peace. As we enter into Lent, we are reminded that in God’s eyes, we are dust. Yet, He is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” to those who fear Him.
Jonah 3:1 – 4:11
[Jonah warned the people of Ninevah to repent or they would be destroyed.]
“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
[When the people repented, Jonah was angry. He wanted them to be punished for their sins; instead they were forgiven. This was his response to God’s mercy]
“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
[The Pharisee saw himself as righteous before God; he used the corrupt, unholy tax collector as a source of comparison. Yet Jesus looked into the heart and saw the tax collector as redeemable because of his humility]
“God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” (the tax collector prayed).
“I tell you,” (said Jesus), “that this man, rather than the [Pharisee], went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Scripture tells us that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Lk.18:14). This has little or no meaning in the corporate culture. Confidence and humility may seem mutually exclusive, but a proper understanding of who we are before God is an essential step towards reconciliation and growth. Before the infinite God, we are dust.
Lent is the time for humility, not pretense. It is not bravado or boasting that the Lord listens to, but a humble, repentant heart that cries out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke18:13) Self-criticism is false humility; acknowledging your giftedness and subjecting yourself to God’s leading is true humility. We are clay pots holding the treasure of His spirit. (2 Corinthians 4).
Lord, we acknowledge that we are dust and to dust we will return. Yet, we know that you are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love towards those who call upon you in humility. We confess that we fall short of your holiness and ask for forgiveness and mercy as we truly examine our lives in this season of Lent.