We are continuing our special series of bible studies on Advent, and this week we are going to study Hope.
I sort of felt like I made a mistake this week studying. I loved Chris’ lesson on Joy last week. Chris told us he relied heavily on Brad’s lesson, and he was teaching a lesson that was not his own. And it was a powerful, well-delivered lesson.
• December 2, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 1 – Joy
• December 9, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 2- Hope
• December 16, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 3 – Faith
• December 23, 2018 – Advent thru the Eras: Week 4 – Love
• December 30, 2018 – The Authority of Scripture
But I had already started studying Hope, and I realized after Chris’s lesson that I wasn’t on the same page. My lesson was supposed to be about Hope, but also to bridge the gap from the 3 Eras Christ taught in the Creation Era, Patriarch Era, and Exodus Era, and continue through the Conquest Era, Kingdom Era, and Judges Era.
By the time I figured out my error (not Era, but error), I was sort of stuck between several possibilities. I could throw away the half-lesson I had partially finished and teach what Brad had prepared. I could just try to blend the two of them together into a single 90-minute lessons, but then I was certain I’d have to bring lunch for everybody.
I took the 3rd option. I kept what I had studied, brought in the Conquest Era, ignored the Kingdom and Judges Era in the interest of finishing our bible study in under two hours, and then wrapped up with my original lesson.
Funny thing about trying to teach God’s word. They only way I know if it pleases the Lord is if the words pour out of me into the page easily. I pray I’m bringing Him glory and honor with my hodgepodge of blended lessons, but I honestly feel this was the lesson given to me this week, so I also pray you will find the lesson revealing and brings a message from God to you. And next time I teach, I promise to do a better job of sticking to the agenda.
So, now we know Michael went off the reservation. Next week, Theresa will be teaching about “Faith,” and I expect she and I will talk about many of the same things. Theresa, since I forgot to talk about the Kingdom and Judges Era, feel free to cover them for me.
So, my first question when I started studying while off the reservation is, “what is the difference between hope and faith?”
II. Faith vs Hope
That’s wasn’t easy for me to answer. I mean, try out these two phrases –
• I have hope the Texans will win this weekend.
• I have faith the Texans will win this weekend.
What will be difficult about today’s lesson is that, over the centuries, the English language has completely obliterated the difference between “hope” and “faith.” And what I’ve discovered is that in many bible translations, even the translations often exchange the words “hope,” “faith,” and even the word “trust.”
So today, we are going to take a closer look at the word “hope” and see if we can understand and apply it to our lives in the way meant in the original scripture. Let’s start with 1 Corinthians 13:13 –
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Clearly “faith” and “hope” are different things since both words are used here, but again, we’re trying to get away from the English connotations of these words and get back to the original meaning. Here’s the same verse in the original Greek,
νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις ἐλπίς ἀγάπη τὰ τρία ταῦτα μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη
The word “faith” is translated from the Greek, πίστις pístis, which means assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity. The word “hope” is translated from the Greek confidence, ἐλπίς elpís, to anticipate, usually with pleasure.
What I found interesting when I was researching “faith, ἐλπίς elpís” is that it’s not always a good thing. In James 2:19, scripture says,
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
The word for “believe” is πιστεύω pisteúō, the same root word translated as “faith” in 1 Corinthians 13. In this context we can see pisteúō faith is confidence, but not the kind of “pisteúō faith that brings joy.
So “faith,” “hope,” “trust,” and “belief” are all very closely related. And I’m going to stop with the study of “faith” now because that’s really next week’s lesson, and instead focus on hope, a confident and joyful expectation of things to come.
III. Hope is Not Wishful Thinking
Let me return to an earlier example –
• I hope the Texans will win this weekend.
• I hope you have a good day.
• I hope it doesn’t rain.
That may be good English, but it’s lousy Greek. Over the centuries, the English version of “hope” is just wishful thinking. To desire something. But no real assurance, just unfounded optimism. Compare that to –
• I hope my boss will pay me Friday.
• I hope the sun will come up tomorrow.
• I hope Christmas is coming.
Will I get paid Friday? Sure. Based on the fact Friday is payday and there is history that I get paid on Friday, I have a confident and joyful expectation the same will happen on Friday. I have a confident and joyful expectation the sun will rise tomorrow, I’ve seen it in the past and it’s never failed. My entire life, Christmas has come on December 25, and I have a confident and joyful expectation that it will happen again this December 25.
A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to the world’s definition of hope. Our hope is based on the promises of God and those promises will be fulfilled because they are a promise. God never lies. Hebrews 6:18 says in part –
…it is impossible for God to lie…
So if God says it, by definition it must be truth. We can trust in it, believe in it, have hope in it.
IV. Biblical Hope
The hope of Christians is found in a study of God’s Word to see a glimpse of God’s grand plan and how we fit into it. When we begin to understand God’s plan, we see promises He’s already fulfilled, giving us faith that He will fulfill all His promises, including all promises He’s already given to us. When we know God will fulfill His promises, we have confidence and joyful expectation for His plans for us. We have hope.
Let’s look at Romans 8 for a while to see how Paul taught us about this hope, beginning in verse 22 through 25 –
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Biblical hope is the joyful expectation of the future that we cannot yet see. It encourages us to look to the future instead of today, and to place our heart on heavenly things instead of earthly things that perish.
I think this describes hope and God’s purpose for hope very clear. Is there a tangible or material thing you’ve longed for? You saved for a car, some jewelry, a house or apartment? I discovered I like wanting things more than I like having things.
A few years back, I had worked a lot of overtime in single year and saved a nice little down payment for an SUV I wanted. I’m an engineer, so first I made a spreadsheet, listed all the pros and cons, and finally whittled it down to a specific model. One of the key features I wanted was a diesel engine.
You know why? A co-worker bought a diesel and told me something interesting I didn’t know: Diesel engines go 50% further than gasoline engines. If your car gets 300 miles on a tank of gas, the exact same car would get 450 miles on a tank of diesel.
That means instead of filling up at the gas station every 10 days, I’d only have to go every 15 days. Over a year, instead of 36 visits to the gas station, I’d only have to go 20. I had to have a diesel.
So armed with all this spreadsheet information, I went to the dealer to go buy a diesel SUV. And he said, “We don’t have any diesel SUVs. But we can order one for you. It’ll be 8 weeks.”
So I put my deposit down and waited and waited and waited. And waited. I was going to have the best diesel SUV on the planet. And when the day finally came, I excitedly went to the dealership and drove off in my shiny new diesel SUV. The thrill of having a new car lasted nearly 8 weeks until somebody ran a shopping cart into the passenger side door. And then I started wondering what kind of SUV I was going to get to replace it.
I realized I enjoyed the anticipation, the waiting, the hoping for the arrival of something new. And I realized that’s how God wants us to live. This verse says
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
I believe that every Christian goes through tough times. What sustains us? What keeps us from becoming mired down in depression and darkness because this world has dished up something cruel and cold to us today? Hope. Hope, joyful confidence and anticipation that God has something better for us in the works. Romans 8:28 and 8:31 says,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God has a plan, and He is invincible. If I am a child of God, He is with me, and no enemy shall ever prevail. God tells me in Jeremiah 29:11,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God gives me hope.
V. Hope of the Resurrection
Whatever this world throws at me, I have hope for a future because Jesus is not just my Lord, but my Savior. He rescued me from death and gave me eternal life. He proved He defeated death by His resurrection, and appeared to hundreds of people. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 –
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
The early church suffered some horrendous persecution, but Peter reminded us that Christ proved who He was by fulfilling scripture, His death and resurrection, and that Christ our Savior died to save us. Us! He is coming back for us to gives us that hope and a future we so eagerly desire. 1 Peter 1:3-5,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
That’s our hope. God has reserved a place in heaven for those who place their trust in Christ Jesus, and that reservation in heaven for us is protected by the very power of God.
VI. Hope in God
The world has a different definition of hope. “I hope you have a nice day.” But the world is without the hope Christians have.
Sometimes I wonder about people that have placed their hope elsewhere. I don’t know much about the eastern religions – I don’t know where Buddhists or Hindus et their hope. In the case of reincarnation, maybe they just have hope it’ll be better next time around. But we know we have one life to live and then we appear before our Maker to explain how we used this life.
There are atheists. I suppose they have hope in this life, but I’ve never met an atheist that expressed hope for the future. Their hope is in this life. And when health issues or money issues or relationship issues come into their lives, where is their hope? This life, at best, has temporary blessings, but eventually moths and rust destroy everything in this life. And eternity? In the future of the atheist, the best that they can hope for is… nothing. They hope nothing happens, there is no eternal judgement for sins.
And I know people who think they are Christians without hope. Yes, there are people who think they are Christians. Look at this survey –
Although it varies by age, only 2/3rds of Christians “who have made a personal commitment to Jesus”, believe they will go to heaven.
Their hope is somewhere other than the promises of God. Perhaps if they refrain from cussing, God will think they’re good enough to go to heaven. Or maybe if they refrain from road rage. Or they give to the Red Cross. Or they toss their spare change in the Salvation Army bucket. They are trusting in their own works instead of Jesus who did it all for us. And if we trust in own works, how can we ever be sure our works are enough? But if our hope, our joyful expectation is in God’s works and the fulfillment of His promises, well, God’s works are always enough. His grace is always sufficient.
VII. Hope Through the Ages
Through the Ages, God’s plan has always been our joyful expectation that we trust in the Lord. Last week Chris brought us the message of Joy, God bringing Light to a dark work, using stars to provide a promise to Abraham that would be passed on to Isaac which was passed on to Jacob and all generations to follow.
When times are tough, trusting in God’s promises yet to come bring us joy. At the end of the Exodus Era, God provided light to Moses in the form of a burning bush. Among many promises given to the people of Israel was hope in a new land. But as we enter the Conquest Era, the Israelites find that before they could enter the Promised Land, there were difficulties ahead. Moses had brought them so far, but when Moses died, a new leader arose to complete the Journey. The promises of God can be found in the story of this new leader, Joshua, in Joshua 1:1-4 –
Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.
Joshua’s people had joy, but not in their present circumstances. Their joy was in the confident expectation of God’s promises fulfilled. In the present they had difficulties – the land promised to the Israelites were occupied by people who did not believe in God and they didn’t like the people who did. But God gave them a promise for the future in Joshua 1:5-9 –
Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hope begins when we realize victory is in the Lord’s hands, not ours. Joshua realized he could not conquer the people occupying the land of promise based on his own skills and abilities. However, victory is in the Lord. To be in the Lord, Joshua realized meant he needed
- to be connected to God through scripture (vs. 8a, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…”)
- to be obedient to what scripture says (vs. 8b, “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it”)
- to live a life of hope which is exhibited by being strong and courageous (vs.6, 7, 9, “be strong and courageous”)
God used Joshua to sneak into the land to spy to see what they were up against. They met a prostitute named Rahab, who helped the spies and kept them safe by using a signal of a scarlet colored rope hanging from her window. When the spies returned to Joshua after receiving the help from Rahab they had news for him. Joshua 2:24,
They said to Joshua, “Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”
God’s promises were now a reality. The hope they placed in God led to joy, because God always fulfills His promises.
VIII. Christmas is Hope
We approach the Christmas season, and the celebration of the birth of our Savior gives us hope, joy in the promises we are certain will be fulfilled. The hope we have is confident, the hope we have is joyous, the hope we have strengthens our faith.
Over the Eras, God made numerous promises about sending a savior for us, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The savior would be a man, born of a virgin woman, who will crush Satan and his power. He would be a Jew, son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would be the son of David. He would be born in Bethlehem. And in Matthew 1:1-16 we see 14 generations leading up to the Messiah,
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
God’s delivery of our Savior was centuries in the making, but God is faithful and never forgets his promises. We can see in the lineage Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. We can even see Rahab, the prostitute from the Conquest Era, in the lineage, both showing us the magnitude of the sins that can be forgiven and the reminder that God’s plan has always been for us to have Hope in Him.
God keeps His promises and uses very flawed people like Rahab, like you, like me, to accomplish His purposes. He uses imperfect people because that’s all He has to work with. In the end, the only name in this genealogy that matters is Jesus.
And in the end, in the future, the only name that matter is Jesus. This world would be a very dark place without our future hope of our Redeemer. But one day Jesus will return, and sin will be eliminated, and Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer will be eliminated. Death itself will be destroyed, and Jesus Himself will wipe away every tear. Our present hope is in our future glory in Christ Jesus.
During my study, I came across a study of a painting called “Adoration of t by the Dutch artist Rembrandt. It was painted in 1646, and it’s a very dark painting, imagining a night scene inside a barn as the shepherds gather round to see the newborn king.
The dark tones encourage the viewer to slow down and study the images carefully. The savior is in the middle, in a manger. Mary is there, Joseph is there, and the shepherds are gazing with love at the birth of their savior, announced by the angelic choir and heavenly hosts. In the back is an old wooden ladder leaning a crossbeam, and it takes a moment to realize the ladder and crossbeam make the outline of a cross. Even in this joyous moment, the cross looms over the baby Jesus. The description I read about the painting then says,
“But the most significant feature is the light. Unlike other Renaissance artists, Rembrandt didn’t paint Jesus as an angel with a halo. He is a very normal, very human baby. All is dark in the painting except for the baby in the manger. The light isn’t shining on the baby; it’s shining out from him. This was Rembrandt’s way of saying that all hope and light shines from the manger, lighting up a darkened world.”
All of our hope, perfect grace and salvation for all of us, in a humble manger.
Hope conquered fear and hate 2000 years ago at Bethlehem. To receive that hope, like the shepherds did, we must come to Bethlehem and bow before the newborn King. Hope is freely given to those who humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.
Hope is Born.
To God be the Glory. Amen.