Acknowledge our guilt

When people start complaining more about their sin in their life as opposed to what ails them, there is the beginning of hope for them, for they will start to seek God.  As they seek God in earnest and with sincerity, they will find Him and He will be a refuge.  With God, there is redemption for everyone who calls on His name – these is peace only where God is.

Hosea tries to lay that out for us in verse fifteen of chapter five reminding us of the hope made available for us but it is conditional. There has to be an acknowledging of guilt and there has to be a seeking of God.

Even in the very middle of a promise of impending judgment there is a note of hope. The hope of mercy for those who will turn from their “idols” to the Lord. It is the same God who made the promise of judgment as the one who offers hope through His mercy and grace.  There is a cost for this all and Jesus Himself would offer Himself in our place to be judged for our sin.

I will return again to my place
    until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face.
    In their distress they will beg my favor – Hosea 5:15

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A little child

When we look at how Jesus loved the little children that parents brought to Him for a blessing, how do we get our own priority rightly aligned with Him – our only hope is in Jesus.

This episode with the children teaches us to hope – He graciously received these children and He has not forgotten us.  As we commit ourselves to being followers of Jesus, let us be disposed to become as little children. 

With the amiable simplicity of children, let’s put ourselves into the hands of Jesus and refer ourselves to His pastoral and parental care.  May we be born again by His Spirit and formed anew by His grace.  Only then can we participate in the inheritance and become children of God through the resurrection.

When we become helpless we become hopeful.  Jesus sees those coming as children as those who belong to the kingdom of God.  They come to Jesus with the help of others.  There is hope and expectation when we talk about being part of the family of God.  We do not know all that we need, but we know we need the help of others.  We may bring nothing ourselves but empty hands – actually, empty hands can be filled.

If our attitude in this world is to – expect the worst, hope for the best – we need this message today.  The more we trust and believe by faith, the more we will begin to live in the freedom that God is in control.

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-16

This Little Child – Scott Wesley Brown

A door of hope

… taken from MacLaren’s Exposition of Hosea 2:15

The Prophet Hosea is remarkable for the frequent use which he makes of events in the former history of his people. Their past seems to him a mirror in which they may read their future. He believes that ‘which is to be hath already been,’ the great principles of the divine government living on through all the ages, and issuing in similar acts when the circumstances are similar. So he foretells that there will yet be once more a captivity and a bondage, that the old story of the wilderness will be repeated once more. In that wilderness God will speak to the heart of Israel. Its barrenness shall be changed into the fruitfulness of vineyards, where the purpling clusters hang ripe for the thirsty travellers. And not only will the sorrows that He sends thus become sources of refreshment, but the gloomy gorge through which they journey-the valley of Achor-will be a door of hope.

One word is enough to explain the allusion. You remember that after the capture of Jericho by Joshua, the people were baffled in their first attempt to press up through the narrow defile that led from the plain of Jordan to the highlands of Canaan. Their defeat was caused by the covetousness of Achan, who for the sake of some miserable spoil which he found in a tent, broke God’s laws, and drew down shame on Israel’s ranks When the swift, terrible punishment on him had purged the camp, victory again followed their assault, and Achan lying stiff and stark below his cairn, they pressed on up the glen to their task of conquest. The rugged valley, where that defeat and that sharp act of justice took place, was named in memory thereof, the valley of Achor, that is, trouble; and our Prophet’s promise is that as then, so for all future ages, the complicity of God’s people with an evil world will work weakness and defeat, but that, if they will be taught by their trouble and will purge themselves of the accursed thing, then the disasters will make a way for hope to come to them again. The figure which conveys this is very expressive. The narrow gorge stretches before us, with its dark overhanging cliffs that almost shut out the sky; the path is rough and set with sharp pebbles; it is narrow, winding, steep; often it seems to be barred by some huge rock that juts across it, and there is barely room for the broken ledge yielding slippery footing between the beetling crag above and the steep slope beneath that dips so quickly to the black torrent below. All is gloomy, damp, hard; and if we look upwards the glen becomes more savage as it rises, and armed foes hold the very throat of the pass. But, however long, however barren, however rugged, however black, however trackless, we may see if we will, a bright form descending the rocky way with radiant eyes and calm lips, God’s messenger, Hope; and the rough rocks are like the doorway through which she comes near to us in our weary struggle. For us all, dear friends, it is true. In all our difficulties and sorrows, be they great or small; in our business perplexities; in the losses that rob our homes of their light; in the petty annoyances that diffuse their irritation through so much of our days; it is within our power to turn them all into occasions for a firmer grasp of God, and so to make them openings by which a happier hope may flow into our souls.

But the promise, like all God’s promises, has its well-defined conditions. Achan has to be killed and put safe out of the way first, or no shining Hope will stand out against the black walls of the defile. The tastes which knit us to the perishable world, the yearnings for Babylonish garments and wedges of gold, must be coerced and subdued. Swift, sharp, unrelenting justice must be done on the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, if our trials are ever to become doors of hope. There is no natural tendency in the mere fact of sorrow and pain to make God’s love more discernible, or to make our hope any firmer. All depends on how we use the trial, or as I say-first stone Achan, and then hope!

So, the trouble which detaches us from earth gives us new hope. Sometimes the effect of our sorrows and annoyances and difficulties is to rivet us more firmly to earth. The eye has a curious power, which they call persistence of vision, of retaining the impression made upon it, and therefore of seeming to see the object for a definite time after it has really been withdrawn. If you whirl a bit of blazing stick round, you will see a circle of fire though there is only a point moving rapidly in the circle. The eye has its memory like the soul. And the soul has its power of persistence like the eye, and that power is sometimes kindled into activity by the fact of loss. We often see our departed joys, and gaze upon them all the more eagerly for their departure. The loss of dear ones should stamp their image on our hearts, and set it as in a golden glory. But it sometimes does more than that; it sometimes makes us put the present with its duties impatiently away from us. Vain regret, absorbed brooding over what is gone, a sorrow kept gaping long after it should have been healed, like a grave-mound off which desperate love has pulled turf and flowers, in the vain attempt to clasp the cold hand below-in a word, the trouble that does not withdraw us from the present will never be a door of hope, but rather a grim gate for despair to come in at.

The trouble which knits us to God gives us new hope. That bright form which comes down the narrow valley is His messenger and herald-sent before His face. All the light of hope is the reflection on our hearts of the light of God. Her silver beams, which shed quietness over the darkness of earth, come only from that great Sun. If our hope is to grow out of our sorrow, it must be because our sorrow drives us to God. It is only when we by faith stand in His grace, and live in the conscious fellowship of peace with Him, that we rejoice in hope. If we would see Hope drawing near to us, we must fix our eyes not on Jericho that lies behind among its palm-trees, though it has memories of conquests, and attractions of fertility and repose, nor on the corpse that lies below that pile of stones, nor on the narrow way and the strong enemy in front there; but higher up, on the blue sky that spreads peaceful above the highest summits of the pass, and from the heavens we shall see the angel coming to us. Sorrow forsakes its own nature, and leads in its own opposite, when sorrow helps us to see God. It clears away the thick trees, and lets the sunlight into the forest shades, and then in time corn will grow. Hope is but the brightness that goes before God’s face, and if we would see it we must look at Him.

The trouble which we bear rightly with God’s help, gives new hope. If we have made our sorrow an occasion for learning, by living experience, somewhat more of His exquisitely varied and ever ready power to aid and bless, then it will teach us firmer confidence in these inexhaustible resources which we have thus once more proved, ‘Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.’ That is the order. You cannot put patience and experience into a parenthesis, and omitting them, bring hope out of tribulation. But if, in my sorrow, I have been able to keep quiet because I have had hold of God’s hand, and if in that unstruggling submission I have found that from His hand I have been upheld, and had strength above mine own infused into me, then my memory will give the threads with which Hope weaves her bright web. I build upon two things-God’s unchangeableness, and His help already received; and upon these strong foundations I may wisely and safely rear a palace of Hope, which shall never prove a castle in the air. The past, when it is God’s past, is the surest pledge for the future. Because He has been with us in six troubles, therefore we may be sure that in seven He will not forsake us. I said that the light of hope was the brightness from the face of God. I may say again, that the light of hope which fills our sky is like that which, on happy summer nights, lives till morning in the calm west, and with its colourless, tranquil beauty, tells of a yesterday of unclouded splendour, and prophesies a to-morrow yet more abundant. The glow from a sun that is set, the experience of past deliverances, is the truest light of hope to light our way through the night of life.

One of the psalms gives us, in different form, a metaphor and a promise substantially the same as that of this text. ‘Blessed are the men who, passing through the valley of weeping, make it a well.’ They gather their tears, as it were, into the cisterns by the wayside, and draw refreshment and strength from their very sorrows, and then, when thus we in our wise husbandry have irrigated the soil with the gathered results of our sorrows, the heavens bend over us, and weep their gracious tears, and ‘the rain also covereth it with blessings.’ No chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.’

Then, dear friends, let us set ourselves with our loins girt to the road. Never mind how hard it may be to climb. The slope of the valley of trouble is ever upwards. Never mind how dark is the shadow of death which stretches athwart it. If there were no sun there would be no shadow; presently the sun will be right overhead, and there will be no shadow then. Never mind how black it may look ahead, or how frowning the rocks. From between their narrowest gorge you may see, if you will, the guide whom God has sent you, and that Angel of Hope will light up all the darkness, and will only fade away when she is lost in the sevenfold brightness of that upper land, whereof our ‘God Himself is Sun and Moon’-the true Canaan, to whose everlasting mountains the steep way of life has climbed at last through valleys of trouble, and of weeping, and of the shadow of death.

 

Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.  From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.  On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.”  For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.  I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.  I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.  On that day I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel;  and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people”; and he shall say, “You are my God.” Hosea 2:14-23

Justin Rizzo – Ever Present Help

Eating the children’s crumbs

“Is there hope for me here?” “Filled FIRST?” “Then my turn, it seems, is coming!—but then, ‘The CHILDREN first?’ Ah! when, on that rule, shall my turn ever come!” But ere she has time for these ponderings of His word, another word comes to supplement it. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

The infamous story of a woman who heard the words from Jesus as an invitation to hope.

Jesus looking for something deep inside this mother asking for her daughter to be healed suggested that the domestic nature of the home required the dogs to wait until the meal is over before they receive their portion.  But her need for Jesus to heal her daughter gave her a keen wit where she filled in a blank that He left on purpose – reminding Him that dogs are permitted to eat the crumbs even while the meal is in progress.  She knew there was more.

Just in case this story is new to some, it may seem that Jesus was being prejudicial against Gentiles.  No, this woman saw Jesus drawing her into His parable and her hope was in the word, first. The blessings of the kingdom of God did not exclusively belong to the people of Israel.

Jesus saw a woman before Him and saw that she looked to Him as her only hope.  He saw that she would not be deterred. She pushed through knowing that only Jesus could give her what she needed. Jesus loved her for this and gave her all that she asked for and desired.

For me, Jesus first sentence would have been a rejection and the death of any of my hopes – but for her it was life from the dead.  If Jesus had kept silent, only then would she leave unblessed, but He spoke and that turn of respect meant that she had the open door to hope for more.

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” – Mark 7:26-29

 

Touch the fringe

J. Dudley Weaver, Jr.   writes a great piece in his post – The Face of Hope. He captures well the essence of hope and how it gives us hope in our pursuit of Christ.

Ever wonder why we cannot fake desperate – it may be because we have never been in a situation where we have tried everything possible and nothing works.  Maybe that is why we see more miracles in our southern hemisphere these days – they have no hope but Jesus – there are no other options.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, we are not told the teachings that Jesus shared but the healing was emphasized and it was a massive event filled with hope.  The crowds around Jesus are a testament to the message of hope He was proclaiming. 

May we be not just a comfortable community, but a community that
strives to bring the comfort and hope of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.

And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. – Mark 6:56

Heard about Jesus

The woman who was seriously ill, heard reports about Jesus – they were enough for hope to rise within her.

Hope is a fundamental ingredient for faith – without hope, faith does not work.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

Mark introduces this woman to us as someone who was lonely, isolated, impoverished, anemic and possibly dying – hopeless and desperate.  Most would have written her off.

Bless Mark for not taking too much time to interject hope – this woman heard stories of Jesus.  Maybe she heard of the  evil spirit leaving a man.  Maybe she heard of Simon’s mother-in-law taking Jesus hand, or the leper whom Jesus extended his hand to.  Maybe even the paralytic laid down through the roof of a home and Jesus forgiving his sins and told to pick up his mat and go home.  Most likely she did hear the story of the man with a legion of spirits and who lived in a cemetery, set free by Jesus. Somehow she is convinced that if she touches Jesus’ clothes, she will be healed.

Encouraged, she dared to hope for the same for herself.  Her new-found faith made her bold, determined. Since she was legally unclean and also shamed by her illness, she had to slip through the crowd to touch His robe without drawing attention to herself. She only had to touch the fringe of His garment.

She started a different thought pattern that day – this Jesus can cure me, this Jesus
can release me, and set me free. This Jesus can rescue and deliver me. This Jesus can put my life back together, can repair me, and make me whole”

She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  Mark 5:27

Hope for Humanity – Darlene Zschech – You are Love

Able to deliver

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a favourite for so many reasons. Three men who had well grounded hope and persuasion of deliverance because of the former testimonies of God’s power and goodness in their lives and in the lives of the other captives in Babylon.  There was more though – they considered the glory of God and they put that up against the king’s defiance of God and his blasphemy against Him.  Hard to believe that God would not take notice.

This story found in Daniel 3 gives us warnings, but most of all it gives us hope in the One who will ultimately save us from the presence and power of sin.

Main principle – God’s power is released through faith. There is little hope of enjoying God’s power in full display if we do not expect Him to release it.

Shame that we look at our trials of life as something we dream or wish God will deliver us from – because it is something we can definitely hope on.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord rescues them from them all. – Psalm 34:19

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a big God – a God who could do anything – they offer us strong optimism at a time when hope might seem gone.

The clash between the power of God and the forces of the world; deliverance from an unjust death at the hands of the empire; a miraculous “son of god” not bound even by death; hope for physical restoration and resurrection — these are some of the thematic links connecting Daniel 3 and Easter.

God is in control even when His people are suffering and in their faithfulness God’s power moves.  It gives us the ability to thrive now, and a bright hope for the future.  It gives us meaning today and a role of promise tomorrow. 

Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter.  If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”– Daniel 3:15-18

Rejoice in hope

Finally came to the theme verse for this blog.  It’s a pretty big deal as the whole point for this year was to see if there was anyway that hope could pull it off.  Is there someting in hope I have been missing most of my life?  Big on faith, big on love, not sure I had time for hope. I have been finding that hope is what has been keeping me going.  I am a big on hope.

The twelfth chapter of Romans is a great description of the Christian life.  It includes the rejoicing in hope, the paticence in tribulation and the constant need for prayer.  Romans is not shy in describing that this joy is in Jesus, this hope is for Jesus, this patience is from Jesus, this tribulation is with Jesus and this constan prayer is through Jesus to God the Father. An early Christmas present to those who cannot wait to celebrate with community the coming of Jesus so that He could die and set us free.

The Christian life now works like this – affliction is normal, Christ has come and carried our sin and sorrows to the cross and into the grave, and left them there, and He rose so that now we have unshakable hope in (not instead of) suffering, and this hope gives rise to joy.   This joy sustains patient endurance,  endurance sustains us in the sacrifices of love, since the cross was the most loving act that was ever done. 

  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Rejoice, Rejoice – Graham Kendrick

Who hopes for what is seen?

Hope in the future is of the very essence of the Christian’s life.  Hope, at the time when I first believed, made me realise my salvation. This is, indeed, implied in the very nature of hope. Its proper object is that which is future and unseen.

“Hope” signifies the grace itself, but here the object of it; which is represented as unseen, not yet fully enjoyed, something future, and to be hoped for; as the resurrection of the dead, which is the object of hope, and is unseen, and even incredible to carnal reason, and is to come, and good foundation there is in divine revelation, to hope for it; and the hope of it is of great use to the saints, whilst in this world of trouble: eternal glory and happiness is also the object of the hope of believers; it is said to be the hope of their calling, which they are called by grace to; the hope of righteousness, which the righteousness of Christ is the ground and foundation of; and that blessed hope, the sum of their happiness; and hope laid up for them in heaven, where it is safe and secure; all which is unseen, and yet to come; but good reason there is to hope for it, since the Scriptures of truth so clearly express it; and the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, lay such a solid foundation for hope of it: the Alexandrian copy reads, “why doth he yet wait for?” and so the Ethiopic version, with which agrees the Syriac version, reading the whole, “for [if] we see it, why should we wait for it?” – John Gill

So simply I am kept, preserved, sustained in all my trials, by hope. There are trials so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience.

In essence, we are cheered on and sustained from sinking by the hope of certain deliverance and a complete redemption.  It is in the hope of eternal life, a promise of God. 

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is   seen?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25

Hope’s Song: Rebecca St.James

Character produces hope

“Character that has been shaped by God through suffering has amazing abilities that non-character simply doesn’t. It’s capable of seeing beyond circumstances. It knows that God is faithful. It embraces the truth of the Gospel that if God sent His Son, He spares nothing for the good of His children. All this produces hope, that is, the confidence that God delivers on His promises. The stronger the character, the greater the hope…” Suffering, Endurance and Character; The Christian Worldview Journal.

We can joy in the midst of any circumstance because of where our hope is placed. Hope is the highway that keeps us moving and rejoicing through whatever circumstances life throws our way.

We have hope when our faith is resting firmly in Jesus. When suffering or persecution comes our way, hope lets us rejoice in the midst of it.

Most of us have questioned our salvation quite a few times in our journey of following Jesus – are we really a Christian? When your faith has been tried and you have persevered – does that not prove genuinely and authentically that you are? Does that not give you hope that you will inherit His glory?

In other words, one of the great obstacles to a full and strong hope in the glory of God is the fear that we are hypocrites – that our faith is not real and that we just inherited it from our parents and have been motivated by things that are not honoring to God. One of the purposes of afflictions in our lives is to give us victory over those fears and make us full of hope and confidence as the children of God. – John Piper

So God takes us through hard times to temper the steel of our faith and show us that we are real, authentic, genuine, proven, and in that way give us hope that we really will inherit the glory of God and not come into judgment.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.          Romans 5:1-6

Tenth Avenue North – I Have This Hope