A Living Hope
Psalm 71:1-8; Hosea 2:14-17 & I Peter 1:1-9
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, …” I Peter 1:3-4
1 In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. 3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 4 Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. 5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. 6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. 7 I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. 8 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. 15 There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 16 “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ 17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.
The opening three verses of I Peter give us a wonderful image of the Holy Trinity: God, the Father, who knows us and chose us, the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, cleans, prepares, and helps us to be holy, and Jesus who’s sprinkled us with His ever-cleansing blood.
Today we continue our journey to the cross and to the empty tomb. This Lenten season, we walk with hope. Our New Testament reading isfrom first Peter, chapter 1.
We continue today to look at our hope and our inheritance. Let’s listen for God’s word to us today. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer. “Father, our prayer is that your Word IS alive and redemptive in our hearts. May Your living, enduring word shape us and mold us into the people of God we are called to be. Amen”
I Peter 1:1-9
Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ. To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for the obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.[i]
How many of you saw the images of Billy Graham’s motorcade as they brought his body the 100 miles to his final resting place? Listen to this quote from Billy’s son, Franklin, “My father, Billy Graham, made me promise long ago that we would take him back to Charlotte after he died, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing right now. The outpouring of love we are seeing as we travel from Ashville to Charlotte via the motorcade with him is overwhelming. People lining the streets, the overpasses—whole families, young and old, some holding signs, some holding up their bibles. We are so incredibly touched. My father would be humbled and honored. He would want all the glory to go to God. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” What a picture of living hope. Here are few quotes from Billy Graham on hope;
Billy Graham’s Hope
“Faith points us beyond our problems to the hope we have in Christ.”
(The Journey, W Publishing Group, 2006)
“Earth’s troubles fade in the light of heaven’s hope.”
(The Journey, W Publishing Group, 2006)
“Perhaps the greatest psychological, spiritual, and medical need that all people have is the need for hope.”
(Hope for the Troubled Heart, Word, 1991)
“My hope does not rest in the affairs of this world. It rests in Christ who is coming again.”
(The Jesus Generation, Zondervan, 1971)
"Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."
"My home is in Heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."
"When we all reach the end of our earthly journey, we will have just begun."
"The Bible says that as long as we are here on Earth, we are strangers in a foreign land. There are enemies to be conquered before we return home. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in heaven."
Hope! Hope! Hope! What does it mean? What is hope? How can we have hope in our troubling times?
DOOR OF HOPE!
The Prophet Hosea gives us a wonderful word picture of hope in our Old Testament reading. The prophet tells the people that God will bring them out to the desert, away from all their worldly distractions. God will bring them out of the Valley of Achor --- which literally means “trouble”. Hosea is prophesying to the people that God will bring them out of the Valley of trouble and will transform their valley from a door of trouble into a door of hope.
How many of us here today are in the valley of trouble? Are we resident aliens living on the edge of society? Have we been scattered, or dispersed? Are we living in troubling times? Has the weight of the world collapsed on you? Has a recent medical condition brought you to your knees? Maybe you are suffering from a broken relationship with a family member, father, mother, brother, sister or friend; you understand the valley of Achor --- trouble. Is the valley of trouble your place of employment or lack of employment? Maybe your Valley of trouble is school. We live in troubling times. Maybe, just maybe, this is your time of the Valley Achor --- the Valley of trouble. Good news, hear verse 15 again: “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” The Old Testament (Hebrew) word that Hosea uses for “hope” is “tiqvah --- teek-vah.” “Teek vah” means “to wait for, to look expectantly in one direction.” In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the image of hope was a red or scarlet cord. This image comes from the story of Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. Rahab was a relative of Boaz—she is an ancestor of both David and Jesus! Her home was built into the city wall. Her “occupation” brought many visitors. One day she harbored Israelite spies—no one thought much of it but the spies instructed her to tie a red cord in her window so that Rahab and her family would be safe from the Israelite invasion. (Joshua 2:18-21) Hold the visual image of a red cord in your mind as an image of hope. The very valley of your trouble—God can turn into your door of hope!
The people to whom Peter is writing his letter to are living in troubling times. They are dispersed around the known world. For us, it would be places like Rancho Cucamonga, Alta Loma, Etiwanda, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Riverside, Corona--Southern California and the world. One of the main reasons that our good friend, Peter, wrote this letter was to raise these sojourners above the world they lived in. Peter wanted to remind this people group that they were not of this world. Our good friend and mentor, Peter, wanted to give them a living hope and open to them the door of hope. “Wait expectantly. Look in one direction. This is the door to hope: wait for it to open!”
The Greek word for “hope” is “elpis --- el-peece” meaning “a happy anticipation of good, a favorable and confidant expectation.” Today we’ve lost the deep meaning of hope, instead-- it’s almost like wishing. During New Testament times, hope was not just an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking; it was the confident expectation based on solid certainty. Biblical hope rests on God’s promises. Hope is our confidence in grace’s future accomplishment. What area in your life are you waiting for God’s grace to accomplish God’s work in your life? Hope is your door out of the Valley of trouble—we anticipate this door opening!
Billy Graham hoped beyond hope as Paul wrote in Romans five. Billy was hanging onto Jesus Christ--a blessed hope, a living hope. Jesus Christ was the open door in his Valley of Achor—he was 99 years old when God called him home.
Peter is writing to the suffering Christians of the first century, he wanted to encourage them and identify with them. The word he used for describing hope is “living”-- dynamic, vital, and alive. This hope is like living water flowing from a perennial spring that never runs out. In the Greek language, “living” is a present, active participle--meaning that the action is going and ongoing. What Peter is saying is that over and over again, through God’s great mercy, those who are in the valley of trouble are eternally offered a door of hope through the red cord of Christ’s death and resurrection. The good news is: we have a living hope! We have a living hope that we can count on over and over again! Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Jesus Christ is now alive forever and we have a living, ongoing hope—we can look expectantly in Christ’s direction. We can anticipate with pleasure that our door of hope will open!
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.” It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized he 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 he’d completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. 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?”[ii]
This living hope kept the young boy alive.
Our eldest daughter was engaged to be married. We had the church, and the hall secured. Down payments made. The wedding dress was hanging in the closet! It was beautiful, she was going to look like a queen. Six months before the wedding, her fiancé called the wedding off. Our daughter was crushed. She stopped eating. She got down to 100 pounds. And then, one day her youth friend was in a terrible diesel engine accident. He was in the burn unit from January until May. He and his girlfriend decided to get married. Yes. You guessed it. Jennifer had the girl stop by the house, try on the $750 dress—and GAVE IT TO HER. God had turned this valley of Achor into our daughter’s valley of HOPE. That merry month of May, she was accepted into BIOLA’S graduate program for psychology. You guessed it again—she met her husband on the first day of class. He went home and wrote a poem about the girl he was going to marry.
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we have been given a living --- alive--- active --- vital--- hope! If our God raised Jesus from the dead—is anything too hard for Him?!
AN INHERITANCE KEPT IN HEAVEN
I was thinking of hope as an acrostic --- I like to think in those terms because it helps me to pray and remember the word. Here is my attempt, I encourage you to make up your own:
H --- Hold H --- Hang H --- Heaven’s
O --- On O --- On O --- One
P --- Praying P --- Pray P --- Promise
E --- Everyday E --- Expectantly E --- Eternity
A number of years ago, in a mental institution outside Boston, a young girl known as “Little Annie” was locked in the dungeon. The dungeon was the only place, said the doctors, for those who were hopelessly insane. In Little Annie’s case, they saw no hope for her, so she was consigned to a living death in that small cage which received little light and even less hope. About that time, an elderly nurse was nearing retirement. She felt there was hope for all of God’s children, so she started taking her lunch into the dungeon and eating outside Little Annie’s cage. She felt perhaps she could communicate some love and hope to the little girl.
In many ways, Little Annie was like an animal. On occasions, she would violently attack the person who came to her cage. At other times, she would completely ignore them. When the elderly nurse started visiting her, Little Annie gave no indication that she was even aware of her presence. One day, the elderly nurse brought some brownies to the dungeon and left them outside the cage. Little Annie gave no hint she knew they were there, but when the nurse returned the next day, the brownies were gone. From that time on, the nurse would bring brownies when she made her Thursday visit. Soon after, the doctors in the institution noticed a change was taking place. After a period of time, they decided to move Little Annie upstairs. Finally, the day came when Little Annie--the “hopeless case” was told she could return home. But Little Annie did not wish to leave. She chose to stay, to help others. Little Annie cared for, taught, and nurtured Helen Keller. Yes, Little Annie’s name is Anne Sullivan.[iii]
Think of this for a moment! An unnamed elderly nurse who was at the end of her career gave a brownie to a hopeless, caged, little girl. That brownie was a lifeline--a red cord of hope. This small gesture of hope changed a young girl who went on to touch the lives of millions through her love and care for Helen Keller. So --- think back through your life and remember the people who have hung a red cord of hope out for you. Think of those in your life who have helped you to build your foundation in God--our rock and fortress. Take a moment to give thanks for those who have helped you in your journey of hope. I don’t know about you but I am eternally grateful to all those who came and left the brownie of hope next to my cage.
The real “so what” for us today is to think of those whom God has placed into our lives. Who can we give a brownie to? Who can we hang a red cord of hope for—to help them look expectantly to the future with hope? Who can we stand with? Who can we pray with--looking expectantly to the hope that is coming just behind their Valley of Achor?
Just beyond our Valley of Achor is our door of HOPE. It looks like an empty tomb. But it isn’t just an empty tomb: our door of HOPE is the RISEN CHRIST!
“One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died. Don’t you believe it. On that day I’ll be more alive than ever before! I’ve just changed addresses.”
This past Friday one of my best friends changed addresses. He’s more alive than he’s ever been.
HOPE: Heaven’s ONLY PROMISE: ETERNITY.
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California
February 25, 2018
Pastor Dave Peters
[i]The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
[ii] Hewitt, James S., Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale Publishing, Wheaton, IL.
[iii] Hewitt, James S., Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale Publishing, Wheaton, IL.