Summary: In a day of despair, there is hope in the promised Messiah of God.
Hope for Hopeless Times
During the Second World War the US Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Some of their soldiers were left behind, and became prisoners of the Japanese. The men called themselves "ghosts", souls unseen by their nation, and were forced on the infamous Bhutan Death March, forced to walk over 70 miles, knowing that those who were slow or weak would be bayoneted by their captors or die from dysentery and lack of water. Those who made it through the march spent the next three years in a hellish prisoner-of-war camp. By early 1945, 513 men were still alive at the Cabanatuan prison camp, but they were giving up hope. The US Army was on its way back, but the POW’s had heard the frightening news that prisoners were being executed as the Japanese retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. Their wavering hope was however met by one of the most magnificent rescues of wartime history. In an astonishing feat 120 US Army soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas outflanked 8000 Japanese soldiers to rescue the POW’s. Alvie Robbins was one of the rescuers. He describes how he found a prisoner muttering in a darkened corner of his barracks, tears coursing down his face. "I thought we’d been forgotten," the prisoner said. "No, you’re not forgotten," Robbins said softly. "You’re heroes. We’ve come for you." Often in life we can start to give up hope, to feel that God has forgotten us, abandoned us to dark and hurtful experiences, but the cross of Christ reminds us, "No, you’re not forgotten" and the resurrection gives us the assurance that some day we too will see our rescuer face to face and be liberated from the distresses of this life. When he returns we too will hear him say, "I’ve come for you." (Scott Higgins, OzIllustrations)
On this Sunday, we come to a marvelous passage of Scripture. This section of Jeremiah is known as The Little Book of Consolation (ch. 31-33), since its primary theme is encouragement and hope in the midst of horrible catastrophe and despair. In our text, Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” had a word of encouragement for his people—God was going to restore the people of Judah! I believe that we are in need of a book of consolation today. So much pain and sorrow fills so much of this world. We need a message of hope for hopeless times. Today that message is ours—let’s listen to what God has to say through the “weeping prophet.”
I. Our world can be marked by despair.
A. The context of our verse reveals a time of total chaos and despair in Judah.
B. Into each of our lives come tragic endings.
1. We have the ending of innocence, when at some point we willfully turn away from the God who created us to seek our own way.
2. We have the ending of harmony in our lives, when someone we love hurts us deeply—and we never quite seem to recover from that wound.
3. We have the ending of health, when we face bad news a doctor brings.
4. We have the ending of life face us as people we love die, leaving us behind with our grief.
5. These endings that we face seem so powerful, so overwhelming—so insane:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (Shakespeare, Macbeth)
C. With those endings often comes hopelessness.
Trans. Sentence: Even though our world can be one of despair, we must remember that
II. God offers us a reason to hold onto hope.
A. To Judah was promised a new start through the Branch of David.
B. The hope that comes to us today is not an empty hope—it is based on God and his grace.
C. The promise of a new future gives us strength to face darkness and overcome it.
1. I am not promising you an easy life: you know me better than that by now.
2. I am promising you that hope can truly and honestly be yours today—and that this hope can empower you to press on in the darkness.
3. When endings come in our lives, we do not have to give into despair: the Christ has come into this world—and will come to us to give us hope!