15 Dec Hope (Advent Week 3)
All is not as it should be. Some of you reading this know this well. You are living in this tension and you’re wondering when things are going to get better.
On the other hand, some of you feel you’re absolutely winning. You may have been lulled into thinking that this is all there is to life, and this is as good as it gets.
Scripture gives us a picture of perfection in the garden (Gen 1), before we chose to disobey God, which describes man and God walking together, talking together, perfect communion, perfect peace, perfect harmony, perfect climate, transparency, nothing to hide, no pain, no sickness, and no sadness. Scripture gives us another picture, the new heavens, the new earth (Rev 21), again, we see a picture of perfect communion with God, wonder upon wonder, in His presence, unhindered, no pain, no sickness, no sadness, and no tears. So what happens in the in-between years?
How do we live in the season of waiting? How do we position ourselves in this in-between? How do we get out of the funk, the sadness, and the muck of life?
Zephaniah 3:14-17 (NLT) “14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. 16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! 17 For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah was an old testament prophet. During this time, Israel had walked away from the will and ways of God and forgotten the true God. Nations were about to overtake them, exile and enslavement coming if they don’t turn from their ways. God gives them warning and calls them back. Notice what His instruction is at the end. He calls them to rejoice in anticipation of their salvation.
He calls them to sing, to shout aloud, to be glad and rejoice that there is hope and hope is coming!
One important thing to not skip over in those verses is the fact that the Lord himself lives among us. Isaiah prophecies something similar about this “coming Lord” in Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 says “his name … Immanuel”, which means GOD WITH US.
Isaiah carries on with this picture of what happens to those who find salvation. Look at their response, and look at God’s response.
Isaiah 12:2 “See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” 3 With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4 In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. 6 Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”
“With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation.” With joy, sing and shout and you will experience a God who lives among you.
Thankfully, these prophecies came true and God sent his son Jesus. In Matthew 1:23 they quote Isaiah 7:14 saying, “They shall call his name Immanuel (God with us).” Jesus came, Jesus lived, Jesus died, and Jesus rose again. Today, we rejoice every time someone gives their life to follow Jesus. We join with Angels, who rejoice every time someone says YES to Jesus’ call. There is a joy that comes with Salvation, as was prophesied and although things aren’t yet as they should be, although not all have heard the good news, and although the evil one still prowls to kill, steal and destroy, WE HAVE A HOPE. We have put our HOPE IN JESUS, the Savior of the Word.
Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
Isaiah says “Sing to the Lord … make known His praises … let all the people should His praises with Joy.”
David says “my soul WILL Praise the Lord.”
Zephaniah says “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart.”
Here’s the important part to note. They all did this BEFORE their salvation, before they saw their dreams come true, before they got the raise or the job, before the government solved their problems, and before they worked out their relationship conflict.
Sing. Shout aloud. Be glad. Rejoice.
Too often Christians choose to live in a place of discouragement when we have a hope. Hebrews 6:19 “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”
When we choose to stay in despair, we are choosing to believe the devil’s plan over God’s promise. We are choosing to do this. If we stay in that state too long, we stop applying the promises of God to our lives.
Choose joy. Practically speaking it can look like arms in the air, dancing and declaring the truth of scripture, or on your knees in surrender. Become more aware of the Immanuel, God with us, God around us. So choose joy today because your salvation is at hand, your savior is here, and His Spirit is around us.