Summary: Despair looks within itself, and the heart withers. Hope looks outside oneself, and the heart rejoices. Hope sees a future where despair cannot see past the present circumstances. Join us as we look at our Biblical Hope on this first Sunday of Advent 2
Voices of Hope - Isaiah 64:1-9 – December 2, 2012
Several years ago a teacher assigned to visit children in a large city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy's name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I'd be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn't fall behind the others." It wasn't until the visiting teacher got outside the boy's room that she realized his room was located in the hospital's burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn't just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, "I'm the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs."
The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" Before she could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: "You don't understand. We've been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live." The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?" (Unknown)
That boy, all alone in that hospital burn unit, had been given something extraordinary. He had been given a tremendous gift – the gift of hope. When he had been made to realize that his life need not end in that hospital bed, but that one day he would recover, that he would leave the hospital and return to a normal life, everything changed. He moved from death to life - that’s the power of hope.
Despair might be the opposite of hope. Despair sees no way out, no recourse, no future. Despair focuses on the need, on the circumstances, on the troubles that we face. Hope looks beyond all these things to something better. Despair looks within itself, and the heart withers, hopes looks outside oneself, and the heart rejoices. Hope sees a future, where despair cannot see past the present moment.
Not surprisingly then, the word of God has a lot to say to us about hope. But the Bible often speaks of hope in a way that the world does not. So often when we speak of hope what we’re really talking about is “wishful thinking.” We hope, we desire, we eagerly yearn, that something would come to be.
As children we hope we get that special toy we’ve been wanting as a Christmas present. As adults we hope that we will be successful in our jobs, that we will find the right person to marry, that our children will be born healthy. We hope for long, vital, trouble free lives, and as our death approaches we even hope the passing from this life to the next will be quick and pain free. We hope for so many things! We hope we aren’t late for the movie; we hope that the kid’s didn’t eat up all the ice cream so that there’s some left for us; and when we’ve had a bad day we hope that tomorrow turns out better. But folks, none of that is hope as the Bible speaks of hope. We fervently wish that things will come to pass as we have desired, yet we know full well that at some point in our lives those hopes may be completely, and perhaps irrevocably, destroyed. We will experience heartache, tragedy, and sorrow in our lives and, as time passes, we come to exchange our fickle hopes for tarnished reality. Our hoping is so often nothing more than wishful thinking. Circumstances overcome wishes on a daily basis but biblical hope is something far more.
Whereas the hope the world clings to is the hope of “wishful thinking” the hope the Bible speaks of is the hope of “confident assurance.” When the Bible speaks of the hope we have it is not the wish-filled desire that something would come to be, but rather the confident assurance and expectation that God’s word will be done just as He has said it will be done.
It is the hope that is found in the message of the prophets. It is the themes of salvation, redemption, grace and mercy, which the Holy Spirit has woven through the words of Scripture and which God has wrought the story of history around. It is the answer to the cry of the prophet Isaiah in the 64th chapter of the book which bears his name, when he implores God, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!” … “For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Isaiah’s crying out to God, pleading with Him, begging Him, to enter into the midst of human suffering and need, into all the darkness of sin and make all things new.