Hope

Sunday December 8th  2019

Pastor Galen Zook

Isaiah 11:10; Matthew 3:1-12

Second Sunday of Advent

Hope

Today we continue our journey of Advent as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the future return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today we focus on the word “Hope.”

Merriam Webster’s dictionary informs us that the word “hope” means “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” Hope conjures up images in our minds of longing, wanting, and waiting. 

At various points in our lives, all of us have probably hoped for something that did not come to fruition.

Perhaps as a child there was a specific toy or gift you hoped you would get for Christmas, but alas it did not come. Perhaps you hoped to one day marry the person of your dreams, or to win the lottery or become inherently wealthy, to live in a mansion, or to travel the world, but perhaps those hopes have not been fulfilled.

Hope and Wait on the Lord

In the Bible, the word “hope” has the connotation of waiting and looking forward to something that we know will happen, we just may not know when it’s going to happen.

Psalm 33:18-21 tells us that “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.”

In Isaiah 40:31 we read the words: “those who hope in the Lord [or wait on 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.”

To hope in something that you know is going to happen is to wait. And so we can hope, or wait on the Lord.

In the Bible, the strength of our hope is not in how much we wish for something to be true, or how much we want it to happen. Instead, the strength of our hope is in what we are placing our hope in, or more correctly in whom we are placing our hope.

The Soon Coming King

When we read the beautiful poetic imagery in the book of Isaiah of the wolf living with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the baby goat, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child leading all of them, we know that although this imagery is symbolic, this is not just some pie-in-the-sky fantasy that will never come to pass, but it is instead a picture of what will take place. It is a prophecy of the world that is to come — the world of peace, love, and joy that will ultimately become a reality when Christ returns to judge the world with fairness and equity (Isaiah 11:3-4), when all wrongs are made right, and when the whole world acknowledges Jesus as King (see Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23b). 

The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before the birth of Christ, predicted that “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).

Like a tree that had been prematurely cut down, the dynasty of the son of Jesse — King David — would come to an untimely end around 586 BC when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, captured the king, and carried away the best and brightest of the Jewish people into captivity in Babylon. And all of this despite the fact that the Lord had told King David that his “house and …kingdom and throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).

And yet, just as a shoot can grow out of the stump that has been chopped down, regrowing once again to become a flourishing and fruitful tree, Isaiah foretells that this “shoot” that grows out of Jesse and King David’s lineage will be filled with the spirit of God, and with all wisdom and with all understanding. This King that is to come will have the spirit of counsel and might, and will be filled with the knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 

This King who is to come will delight in the Lord, and will judge not by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear, but will instead judge the earth with righteousness, justice, and equality. He will speak God’s truth, he will wear righteousness and faithfulness as a belt around his waist.

When this King comes, even the wild animals will get along! Isaiah foretells that “they will not hurt or destroy on all [God’s] holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). And Isaiah goes on to say that “on that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

What a beautiful and hopeful picture this is.

It Shall Come to Pass

And if we wonder whether or not this is actually going to happen, whether the events that this prophecy predicts will ever come to pass, Isaiah assures us that “a shoot shall come…A branch shall grow…the spirit of the Lord shall rest on him…His delight shall be in the Lord…he shall judge…righteousness shall be the belt around his waist.

“Shall” — “it should” and “it will.” This is not just what is supposed to happen, not just what would be nice if it happened, not just something that would be a beautiful fantasy if it were to take place. It is what shall come to pass! It shall happen! We can rest assured that it can, it should, and indeed it will take place.

Get Ready!

And so we must get ready! 

John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness desert shortly before Jesus began his earthly ministry, called people to repent — to prepare themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven by turning around and facing the right way.

John told even the most seemingly religious of leaders that they were not yet ready for the Kingdom, that they needed to be baptized and to confess their sins, and that they needed to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

John said that while he baptized with water, the Messiah, who is even more powerful than he — was coming and he would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

In other words, all of the good things that they had been doing were not good enough. They needed to be cleansed from the inside out. They needed to be made over anew. They needed to be reborn. They needed a whole new perspective, a mindset shift, a worldview change. Only then could they be ready, only then could they recognize the King when he arrived.

John called the people of his day– and his words ring throughout the ages to all of us — to turn around. To look to the Lord for our hope and our strength. To wait on the Lord. To prepare room in our hearts for God to come in and do a mighty work. To make us completely over anew. We need a complete change of heart, we need our minds turned right-side up and our hearts turned inside out, so that we can indeed recognize the Kingdom of Heaven when it is here in its fullness. We do not want to miss it, we don’t want to let it pass us by. We want to be ready when Christ returns

So let’s get ready! Let us put our hope and our trust in the Lord. Let’s allow him to cleanse us from the inside-out. Let us turn away from anything that might distract us from serving the Lord. Let’s bear fruit that is worthy of repentance. And let us make room in our hearts and in our lives for the King who is to come. 

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,

There is room in my heart for Thee!