We live in two words – blessing and curse. They are real and they have real effects. With them or behind them is the character of God – first came the blessing and only then followed by the curse. God is slow to anger, swift to show mercy, delighted to bless. It is better for us to be drawn into Him and His blessing by a child-like hope in His favour. That blessing is promised as we listen, trust and follow in obedience the word of God.
When this first appeared to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy, their hope totally depended on and was completely placed in the faithfulness of God and His promise.
So when we look at the law of God’s Word that produces blessings when we follow in obedience – which commandment is the first of them all? That question asked by a lawyer to Jesus is still what lies at the very heart of what we believe. Hard to believe for some of us that Bishop David Jenkins could quote such an orthodox statement, but it is quite the contemporary statement of our time —
There is God; He is as He is in Jesus; there is hope
The feasts established in the Old Testament took moments out of the lives of the people and turned the concept of time being busy towards repentance and to one of hope.
God is trying to get His voice into our hearts to say to us that He will meet our needs – He is our source. How many times do we see hope almost disappearing – feeling our source was running out – and God would rain from heaven, if you will, blessing us, restoring us.
If you will only heed his every commandment that I am commanding you today—loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul— then he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil; and he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you will eat your fill. – Deuteronomy 11:13-15
God fills our lips with laughter, so that we can face every obstacle and challenge with hope and excitement or is it that we have hope in God and therefore we can face our obstacles and challenges with laughter?
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ – Acts 2:25-28
“See, God will not reject a blameless person, nor take the hand of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. – Job 8:20-21
The redemptive acts of God were Israel’s great hope as they were a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. They were the inauguration of the national covenant.
That covenant is also the same hope we have too. It is not because we are special, or more wonderful or more deserving than anyone else – God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us so that we may receive the gift of eternal life with Him. It was a promise He made to us in Genesis, even before the covenant made with Abraham.
How deep and wide is that love that He has. It is a love I can place my hope in.
It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations – Deuteronomy 7:7-9
Following God is not something we do just once, or at certain times, it is a lifestyle that continually embeds all of our activities. It has faith and love as principles with the idea that our lives and all that we do will bring glory to God. Our strength to live such a life comes from Jesus. The underlying move of the Holy Spirit is to make sure that we never lose that fear of God, to have reverence for His name, and to regard His word for where there is no reverence for God will we really find faith, hope, and love? For if the Holy Spirit enables us to walk a walk that follows God, then we know that walk will be one that comes out of the sense of His incredible love and desire to bless us and keep us.
God is pleased when we come to Him with reverence for and fear in His divine majesty. He would like that to be in our lives always knowing that this is the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives that enables us to stay steadfast in our walk with Him. It is here that He can bless us as promised. God can transform us easily enough, but He is looking for that desire that comes from our will to follow Him even in the midst of our own nature. He is looking at us as His creation, designed to be rational and intelligent beings knowing that we are influenced by moral motives, reason and argument, persuasion and conviction and especially as seen in the life of Job that I have been reading lately, hopes and fears.
So out of the Old Testament we found ourselves in a New Testament world that proclaims good news. God has called us to walk with Him in a New Covenant through Jesus. It is now in Him that we have hope for eternal life and intimacy with God.
If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever!
Eliphaz reminds Job, that no affliction comes by chance, nor is to be placed to second causes. The difference between prosperity and adversity is not so exactly observed, as that between day and night, summer and winter; but it is according to the will and counsel of God. We must not attribute our afflictions to fortune, for they are from God; nor our sins to fate, for they are from ourselves. Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own, but sin and trouble. Actual transgressions are sparks that fly out of the furnace of original corruption. Such is the frailty of our bodies, and the vanity of all our enjoyments, that our troubles arise thence as the sparks fly upward; so many are they, and so fast does one follow another. Eliphaz reproves Job for not seeking God, instead of quarrelling with him. Is any afflicted? let him pray. It is heart’s ease, a salve for every sore. Eliphaz speaks of rain, which we are apt to look upon as a little thing; but if we consider how it is produced, and what is produced by it, we shall see it to be a great work of power and goodness. Too often the great Author of all our comforts, and the manner in which they are conveyed to us, are not noticed, because they are received as things of course. In the ways of Providence, the experiences of some are encouragements to others, to hope the best in the worst of times; for it is the glory of God to send help to the helpless, and hope to the hopeless. And daring sinners are confounded, and forced to acknowledge the justice of God’s proceedings. – Matthew Henry
But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth, from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. “How happy is the one whom God reproves; therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he strikes, but his hands heal. – Job 5:15-18
So what is the foundation of our hope?
From the book of Job it would seem to indicate that either a fear of God or a personal walk in holiness would be the confidence factor. From the other perspective, is it safe to say that if adversity came our way and we failed to stand, would then all of the fear, holiness, and hope be worthless?
Hope is a grace that is worked in the heart – in the process of regeneration. It is still focused on the unseen future and it still will be enjoyed here but especially in the hereafter. Hope’s foundation is in Christ and He is the only one who can keep up our spirit’s in times of affliction. Eliphaz is the one who comes up with the question of Job’s integrity. He judges Job’s impatience with God, his hope – so much so that he calls Job out as a hypocrite – which means he has nothing. From Eliphaz’s perspective, hope that is true cannot be lost.
Personal integrity can help walk anyone through adversity. In our own relationship with God there is an understanding that God knows us best and in appealing to Him, in fact, just the act of appealing to Him, brings satisfaction and hope. Job acknowledges this.
Integrity is not perfection – so seeking God should be a place in our spiritual walk that should encourage us. We should have hope. We tap into a strength that is bigger than who we are. The integrity of that relationship comforts us knowing the God is a part of our lives and His presence means we are not alone.
Job’s life was definitely in disarray – nothing he believed in made sense. Eliphaz’ only encouraging note was to say that the innocent are only punished for a moment and that God would restore him. If he was truly being punished, he would have already been destroyed. Unfortunately, Eliphaz missed the point by taking too lightly the severity of Job’s losses. Job’s integrity mattered very much.
Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
These cities set apart as a sort of asylum gave people a recourse to safety when their lives were in danger. The Greek translation speak well when describing them as “cities of flight.” Even the New Testament speaks about our hope that comes from our place of refuge.
So that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. – Hebrews 6:18
Here the city of refuge, as a place for us to put our hope, is Jesus. He is our hope that will anchor us and will draw us into safety.
Lord, You are our refuge in times of trouble and You will never abandon those who seek You. You are merciful when we seek Your forgiveness and become our place of hope and restoration. We come with humble and contrite hearts. When we are surrounded by the wickedness of the world, we can endure because You are our fortress and our shield. Thank you for Your faithfulness. May Your Holy Spirit guide us in understanding how the cities of refuge that you established in the Old Testament with guide us in understanding You.
As these appointed cities were the only hope for those who had found themselves in the wrong, whether justly or not, Jesus has become the same for those who find themselves separated from God because of their sin, and the condemnation and punishment that comes with continuing in sin.
Even Zechariah made reference to cities of refuge by calling them prisons of hope. In the gospel there is no respect of persons. The soul who rejects Christ rejects God’s favour and the soul who decides to live their lives in the hope for salvation and eternal life in Jesus, finds refuge.
The towns that you give to the Levites shall include the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit a slayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two towns. – Number 35:6
Good is only what happens when God’s glory is manifested. Good includes blessing, God’s promises recorded in the Bible and His purposes as we live out our lives in light of those promised blessings. It is in fact the very reason we can turn away from the world’s definition of blessing because we know our hope is not found in a world that is fading but in the light of the glory of God awaiting us.
Job was such a person of example – Job’s rock of refuge and hope when everything else seemed to be crumbling was the absolute sovereignty of God
It’s one thing to believe intellectually in the nearness of God to us; it’s quite another to experience that nearness. How can you learn to draw close to God and to derive hope and comfort from this relationship?
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. – Job 2:1-13
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Nothing could be truer said than the story of the young ladies who were waiting for the coming of the bridegroom and in essence, relating to the coming of Jesus. They were ready because they had not bought into an earthly utopia but one not built by human hands. They are hoping for and hopeful that Jesus’ coming will be soon and they are prepared to wait and prepared to be ready when that day comes.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. – Matthew 25:1-13
In the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began – Titus 1:2
While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!” His men replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘He may come today.'” One day, Jesus Christ will return to take all believers with Him to Heaven. We do not know when He will come. It could be today or it could be in 100 years. Either way, we must be ready. Only those that have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior will be raptured on that day. Many people don’t see the importance of trusting Christ. They feel as though their whole life lies before them. They’ll do it later. But, Christ may come at any moment. Sadly, those people who have put off salvation will be left behind. Are you ready for the coming of Jesus Christ? Have you put off salvation? Don’t wait. Christ may come today!- Robert Neighbour
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away – Matthew 24:35