The Season of Hope
The Season of Hope
Isaiah 40:28-31; Psalm 40:1-3
Angela and I are thrilled to be here today—your hospitality and friendliness has made us feel very welcomed. I can imagine that this Christmas season has been a busy one—for all of us. With all the stressed-out “stuff” that we have to do this season, I think most of us can identify with this video clip:
Illustration: 12 Days of Christmas Video Clip
Many of you (in fact, some studies suggest over 80% of you) can easily find yourselves overwhelmed by the busyness of the season: gifts to buy, families to visit, and parties to attend—just thinking about it takes your breath away. Add to this all the pressures, worries, and responsibilities of normal, everyday life—and unless you are gifted in multi-tasking and managing chaos, you get that overwhelming, “where-can-I-hide” kind of feeling.
Life, no matter what day of the year, can be difficult to manage. I wonder how many can identify with the Sons of Korah, in Psalm 42:5, as they said: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Reality is that life can be tough—it is a challenge to understand. It seems that once you get your footing, another wave of problems crash over you with a vengeance.
When you read the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always…” or “Do not be anxious about anything…” or “the peace of God will guard your hearts…” those words seem distant and unattainable. They sound good, but experiencing them, well that’s a different story.
And yet, God’s Word is clear—God has a promise for you. The prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11) declared: “This is what the Lord says:…For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” “What, God has a plan for me?” Yes. “God wants me to prosper; He wants to give me a hope and a future?” Yes. “What do I need to do? Where do I sign up?” Good question. And, I think the best way to answer your questions is to visit ancient Israel.
It was somewhere between 605 and 538 BC—the people of Israel were in exile—captives of Babylon and Persia. They were in despair. The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, the Temple broken to bits—all seemed lost. Israel paid a high price for their continued sin and rejection of God’s Law. Although they may have reflected upon the ancient words of God to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make you name great, and you will be a blessing”, those words now seem to be an ever dimming, distant memory. I would imagine that the people felt lost and alone. Hopelessness set in. Discouragement seemed to reign supreme.
But, God does not forget His promises. Years before Babylon defeated Israel and led them into captivity; God raised a prophet by the name of Isaiah. God gave the prophet a word – and word for the people in exile—His people. A word that would inspire, encourage, and give hope for the future. What was this word?
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
All was not lost—the people of God were not forgotten. He reminded them that He is God the omnipresent, God the omnipotent, God the omniscient—the God who can and will secure and hold safe His people.
But, nestled in this incredible declaration of God is a revelation of man’s responsibility to receive God’s grace and mercy. What did Israel need to do to receive God’s blessing and receive God’s strength? What do we need to do? In verse 31 we find the answer: “but those who hope in the Lord.” What does it mean to “hope in the Lord?” The word translated “hope” in the New International Version of the Bible is from the Hebrew word: “qavah.” The King James Version and the New American Standard Bible translates “qavah” with the word “wait.” It means to wait with patient, eager expectation of what will surely come to pass.
What happens when a person waits for God with patient, eager expectation of what will surely come to pass? What happens when a person trusts in God for the answer to their problems? And this is the question I want to answer through God’s Word this morning.
What happens when a person patiently, eagerly, and confidently waits for God is wonderfully illustrated in a Psalm of David. King David was discouraged. Maybe it was because of sin. Maybe it was because of the taunts and ridicule he was receiving from his enemies. Whatever the reason, David waited; he “qavah” for the Lord:
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV) I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…”
When David waited—when he patiently, eagerly expected from God what would surely come to pass—well he experienced an amazing transformation in his life. “I waited patiently for the Lord…“He turned to me and heard my cry.”
David said he:
I. He Heard Me – Cry
What David is saying is that God is not some aloof, disinterested, uncaring entity. God is not some human creation, a figment of man’s imagination—a notion promoted by Christopher Hitchens’ book God Is Not Great and Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. The holy, infinite, transcendent God, by His will and purpose, has reached down into the hearts and lives of people, and has declared His love and compassion for us. What David is declaring is that God is personal, and He cares about you.
What ever your struggle, what ever your pain, God knows and cares. Doubt, fear, uncertainty, confusion, frustration, stress, grief—God cares about you and wants to enter the affairs of your life. When you cry—he hears. When you pray—you have His attention. Even when you are trying to hide from Him, He is calling out to you.
In the Old Testament of Scripture, there was a man who was running from God. He finally came to a place in his spiritual life where he could run no more. His name was Jonah. Listen to his testimony of God’s desire and power to intervene in our lives: Jonah 2:2 (NIV) He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
When we pray, God does listen. Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NIV) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. And again, we are given this promise: Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
This is incredible! The God of the universe, the Creator, the Lord of Life—He cares about us.
Illustration: Sometimes in the very early morning hours at the Walker Home, I am awakened to the whimpers of my eight-month old son, Matthew. I will immediately go to the boys’ room to see if there is a problem. Maybe his leg got stuck through the wooding bars of the crib; or that he may be cold; or that he may be just lonely. I must confess, that against all the advice from the experts, I find myself reaching down, and lifting him up close to my chest, and reassuring him that everything is going to be ok.
If I am considered a good father, what about God? Jesus gives an answer to this question in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:9-11): “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
God is the God who hears. But, He does not just hear.
David, as he waited patently—eagerly expecting God’s grace—passionately hoping for God’s inevitable intervention said: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.” He did not just hear me, he…
II. He Lifted Me – Out of the Pit
We see that David was going through a very difficult time. He was in a place of discouragement—a place of stagnation—a place of hopelessness. Whether it was his sinful, adulterous affair with Bathsheba; or the taunts and ridicule from his enemies; or the betrayal of family or friends—we do not know. What we do know is that David was in serious trouble.
He was in a slimy pit—a place of no escape. He was weighted down in the mud and the mire—unable to experience any joy or peace. It is that valley of the shadow of death. And, we know it all too well.
Maybe the pit you find yourself is the slimy pit of doubt. Trusting in God completely has been weighted down by the mud and mire of humanistic philosophies—a culture that has long ago rejected God’s Word as true—and holds in contempt the cross and the empty tomb. The more you struggle the more you find yourself wrestling with faithlessness and unbelief. It has left you spiritually devastated and destitute.
Maybe you find yourself in the slimy pit of sin. At first, compromise brought pleasure and adventure and fun. But sin has taken you farther than you intended to go—it has cost you far more than you intended to pay. It has cost you your dignity, your family, your friends—but more than that, it has placed division between you and God. You find yourself in the mud and mire of shame. Because of shame, you no longer pray—you no longer study God’s Word—you even have distanced yourself from the Body of Christ. And yet, the more you try to stop, the more you try to change, the power of sin squeezes you tighter and victory is nowhere to be found.
Maybe your slimy pit is a broken relationship, a personal disappointment, a financial struggle, a wayward child, an unfulfilled dream. Whatever the pit, whatever the mud and mire—the truth of the matter is that the pit is a lonely, fearful, depressing place.
But listen to this truth—God has not forgotten you. You maybe afraid, but God has not forgotten you. You feel you are a prisoner to doubt and sin, but God has not forgotten you. And, He has a word for you today—a word He spoke through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 41:10): So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
You may feel overwhelmed with life—overburdened with all the responsibilities and duties life pours on you. But there is a hope—an invitation that the Lord Jesus extends to you: (Matthew 11:28-30) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
David was able to understand this—to experience the grace and mercy of God for himself. He said in that well-known, often quoted Psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
So David looked up—grasped onto God’s Unchanging Hand—and God lifted him out of that place of despair, that place of loneliness, that place of defeat—and “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Not only did God hear my cry—not only did not lift my out of that slimy pit, but God…
III. He Placed Me – On the Rock
God does not just deliver you from something, he delivers you to something—from no footing to sure footing—from the mud and mire to the solid rock.
What is this “rock”, this “firm place to stand”? David writes in Psalm 27:5, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”
The rock, the firm place to stand—it is a place of rescue. It is a shelter from the storm. I am reminded of the disciples who were with Jesus in a boat. (Matthew 8:24-27) Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Not only is it a place of rescue, it is a place of restoration. It is a place where God restores the soul and the joy and peace in our lives. When David repented of his great sin against God, asked God: Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” It is a place of forgiveness; of healing; of rest; and of recovery.
But, most importantly, it is a place of relationship—of relationship with God. Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” It is the abiding presence of God that sustains us in life. Without Him we will remain in the pit. We will remain alienated from God. But, this is not what God intends for you. He intends to rescue you. He intends to restore you.
I like what the Apostle Paul says about this in Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV) Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. [He is our rock!] 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This is incredible. When we place our trust in God, he indwells within us. No longer alone, no longer in the pit, no longer in despair. With God, we can face the future with confidence, with courage, with assurance, with joy, with peace, with determination, with a purpose! As the world around us sinks in the quagmire of faithlessness and sin, we do not have to go down with them. We do not have to buckle under the pressure of intimidation or compromise. With God, all things are possible. As with the Apostle John in 1 John 4:4 (NIV) “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Yes, there is a roaring lion seeking those he can devour—but I know the Lion of Judah, the horn of Jesse, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace!” (Isaiah 9:6)
Something happens when you have been rescued from the pit—when you have been restored into right relationship with God. As David waited patiently; as God heard his cry; as God lifted him out of the slimy pit; as God placed him on the sure foundation—something happened to David. Something welled up within is soul. David declared: “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
IV. He Gave Me – A New Song
Is there a new song in the house today—a song of praise to our God? I know there is!
I know there is someone here that was in the slimy pit of a doctor’s report that gave you no hope. You were in despair—you were filled with discouragement and pain. But, as you sincerely sought the face of God—as you earnestly prayed, God reached down in your sickness, and pulled you out of the mud and mire. He set you feet firmly on the Rock of Healing—the healing paid for in full by the stripes of the whip laid across his back. And birthed within you was a song of praise and gratitude.
I know there is someone here that was in the slimy pit of a sin. You were sinking deep, going down fast. The sin so deceived you, and took everything away from you. But, somehow and in someway, God reached down in the depths of you transgression, and he lifted you up. As you repented and received Him by faith, God established you feet in His abiding presence—a place of forgiveness, of restoration, and of justification. No longer a sinner separated from God—but a child of the King. You have been set free, and now there is a song in your heart that cannot be silenced.
I know there is someone here that was in the slimy pit of loneliness and discouragement. You were in the mud and mire of depression. You were in the darkness—but the light of Christ began to shine. God lifted you out of that miry clay and placed you on the rock to stay. He (Isaiah 61:3) “provide for those who grieve…— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” And as that spirit of despair, that spirit of heaviness was lifted, a new song was established in your heart where you began to sing “the joy of the Lord is my strength!”
Oh my friends, throughout this congregation are living testimonies of God’s goodness and grace. And they are singing a song—a song that even the Angels of heaven can’t sing. It is the song of the redeemed—the song of salvation—the song of victory—the hymn of praise to our God!
There are those in this place where it has been a long while since you have had a song well up within your being—a genuine praise to our God. You are spiritually worn out, exhausted, and discouraged. You feel overwhelmed—pressure all around. God has not forgotten you! (Isaiah 40:29) He gives strength to the weary and increases the power to the weak.
At the beginning of this message I quoted from Psalm 42:5—a Psalm of the Sons of Korah. I said: Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? But, there is another sentence to verse 5: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
To soar on wings like eagles; [to] run and not grow weary; [to] walk and not be faint requires you to hope in the Lord. For if you hope in the Lord [you] will renew [your] strength. If you will learn to patiently wait with eager expectation of what will certainly come to pass, you will receive the promise of God—a promise that will sustain you; encourage you, and empower you to be all that God intends you to be. For God has not forgotten you!
Let this season of Christmas be a season of hope as you discover the joy and peace of placing your hope in God alone.