Hope and Promise
by Bob Burridge ©2017
“Hope” is one of the themes we hear about at Christmas time. But people don’t always mean the same thing.
God created us to be concerned about what’s going to happen to us. But without confidence in the promises of an all-powerful and merciful Creator that concern about what’s going to happen turns into anxiety, worry, fear, and absolute dread. Things seem hopleless.
Without confidence in a Sovereign God, the pessimist has no hope, no reason to expect things to work out for good. He lives in fear of every disaster, disease, and disappointment he can imagine. He sees no love behind the hard lessons our Heavenly Father sometimes teaches us. He can’t imagine any wise purposes behind things he doesn’t understand.
Without God the optimist tries to ignore anything negative. But for him it’s just empty wishful thinking. Even religious optimism, if it tries to find encouragement without a God who is Sovereign, is empty. It has no foundation for it’s pretended confidence, no hope when really hard times come. Christmas can become just decorations, Santas, holiday movies, and gifts – and of course sales at the stores. But sadly, for some all that becomes a replacement for the real message of Jesus as Savior.
But there’s real hope from the God of hope for the humble believer in Christ. Christmas is a celebration of the coming of our Savior to fulfill our Sovereign God’s promises. We ought to be certain and assured that there really are good things to come. We should remember that there are better purposes and reasons behind things than we can see right now. We have God’s pledge that our lives, all the events of history, are moving toward a glorious eternity. This confidence, longing, and expectation gives us “real hope“.
Merriam-Webster defines hope as “a cherished desire with anticipation.” It includes a belief that what’s hoped for could come to pass. But for those who rest in Christ, it’s more than a cherished desire. It’s a trust that what’s promised by God will certainly come to pass.
This hope is there all the way from Eden to Glory,
and it’s all centered on the birth, life,
and sacrifice of our Savior.
In the Hebrew Old Testament there are 15 Hebrew words that are translated as “hope” in the King James Version. But the lack of a specific word doesn’t mean that hope isn’t described very clearly there.
Adam and Eve had that hope back in Eden, right after sin broke their relationship with God. Though their souls were corrupted, they had a promise to hope for. It wouldn’t be fulfilled for thousands of years, but God promised that a special child born to a woman would crush Satan and evil. Today, we know that the woman was Mary, the child was Jesus.
That hope was passed on generation to generation through the great flood in Noah’s time, then to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Starting in the time of Moses that hope was remembered every year in the Passover Feast. It wasn’t just a feast to remember their deliverance from Egypt. It was about the greater deliverance promised which would come by the Lamb of God sacrificed on the cross. He would fully pay for the sins of all those who trust in God’s assurances. It was an unstoppable plan, the sure hope of a coming Savior.
The hope was kept alive in the Psalms. Twice in Psalm 42, in verses 5 and11, the writer comforts God’s people with these words, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; …” The same words are repeated again in Psalm 43:5.
Psalm 146:5 says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,”
It was the hope of Isaiah and all the other Prophets. Long before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke of the “hope of Israel” in Jeremiah 14:8. He said that hope was a Savior in the time of trouble.
Then, long after that, the promise was realized.
It came in the form of a baby laid in a feeding trough in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. The birth of Jesus fulfilled the promise made in Eden. It was the hope that assured the heart of Mary and Joseph. This was that hope that brought Simeon and Anna to the Temple court. They saw Jesus presented there when he was eight days old. God had shown them that this was the One hoped for since Eden.
Then after the resurrection of Christ, when Paul was arrested for his faith he said in Acts 26:6, ” And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers.” The gospel of Jesus was the same hope in the same Old Testament promises.
That hope has a sure foundation – a promise of God that can’t possibly fail. Hebrews 6:18-19 says, “so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,”
We have that same hope today
because we have the same sure promise.
It’s based on a foundation that can’t be shaken no matter what the circumstances might be. It’s the core of what life here on earth is all about.
Paul explained this many times even in the earlier days of his ministry. For example in Romans 15:4 he wrote, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
The world around us can’t comprehend this hope. But we can expect a good outcome through every trial, because of the promises of God in Christ. Paul said in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Without hoping in God’s promises,
it’s no wonder people are so discouraged today.
Most of them have no real hope, no foundation, no promise that can’t fail.
In Ephesians 2:12 Paul reminded the new believers about their former life outside of Christ, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
We’ve been given a wonderful gift of grace! a promise for every minute of every day! It opens our eyes to see that God has a good and eternal purpose and plan. And the Lord of our lives, our Good Shepherd born in Bethlehem, makes each believer an integral part of it.
He’s there for us when we go through the dark valleys. We’re never alone in the dark nights. When things don’t make sense to us, we know that it all weaves into a beautiful pattern.
It’s not just empty wishful thinking. It’s the promise of God himself, the Creator and Lord of all things.
There are promises now, and more still to come,
because of the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem.
Jesus is still alive and with us this very moment! He comforts and guides us to give us courage, boldness, and peace in hard times. He loves us dearly when we feel alone, and he assures us that there are good things to come.
When our life on earth is completed, it’s not the end. It’s a beginning. Those redeemed will be translated into the eternal presence of that Savior born in Bethlehem. All the things we fear, dread, worry about now will be forever eliminated.
Colossians 1:5 says this confidence is, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven…”
While we wait for that coming again of Christ, it’s not a time for fear, dread, or worry. It’s a time that ought to be filled with hope and anticipation.
Titus 2:13 tell us what our focus should be. It says we should be, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”
This is our hope in the Christmas season.
It’s a certainty, a sure thing. It goes beyond all the things that keep us busy in December: the cards to mail, gifts to buy, decorations to put up. Beyond the lights, trees, family gatherings and dinners, keep in mind what the birth of our Messiah means.
We should make it a season to rejoice in the promises, to rest in the hope that’s ours in Christ.
When the pressures, plans, and Scrooges get us down, this is the remedy:
– Remember the promises fulfilled in that manger in Bethlehem.
– Appreciate the promises now being enjoyed by what that Saviour accomplished for us.
– Be aware of the continuing real presence of Jesus Christ with us all the time, every day!
– And anticipate the coming again of that same Messiah when this world and all the heavens will be transformed.
Paul summarized our focus in Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you — the hope of glory.” It’s our confidence at Christmas – and every other day of the year.
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.