12 December 2019 — Thursday after the Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 26:1–6, Psalm 18:1–9, Nehemiah 6:15–16 (read online ⧉)

What is hope? Hope is knowing deeper than deep that God has got your back. The struggle for us is that having our back doesn’t always mean avoiding pain or consequences.

Isaiah’s vision of Jersualem is that of a city that can withstand whatever the world can throw at it. It will be occupied by a righteous nation. Characteristics of this nation are righteous, faithful, God-reliant, peaceful, trusting, humble. These are to be the universal attributes of those who call themselves God’s.

God is the rock of hope. This hope is not bound in the world’s hopes of money, things, power, or influence, but solely on God’s love, grace, and mercy. As God is everlasting, God-ly hope will not fade away. The world’s hopes, along with the world itself, will pass away.

God as rock (i.e., foundation) and walls, we can “stand on” God and are protected by God. Often the times we are truly aware of God is when it is only God’s foundation and protective walls keep us safe.

1) Why is foundation and wall so integral to hope?

2) What do you think of these characteristics of the nation in Isaiah’s vision?

3) How are ways you can explain God-ly hope versus worldly hope?

11 December 2019 – Wednesday after the Second Sunday of Advent

Genesis 22:15–18, Deuteronomy 1:10, Isaiah 54:1–10, Romans 4:13–25 (read online ⧉)

Twice God promised Abraham (and once for Jacob) that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Imagine all the stars without our modern lights drowning them out. For Abraham that was a promise beyond expectation, and certainly beyond anything that God needed to promise for Abraham’s obedience. God made this promise of God’s own free will.

As inheritor’s of God’s promise, Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s fulfilled promise prior to their entry into the Promised Land. The Israelites were the result of Abraham’s faithfulness. That God was faithful gave them hope as they entered the promised land, as long as they listened to God.

Often keeping the flame of hope going is a challenge while everyone else’s life seems to be a huge successful bonfire. The promise of uncountable descendants is extraordinarily painful when one is childless. Isaiah speaks of Israel that has no children. This symbolic Israel is God’s faithful bride. She has no children of faith, for they have all left the faith. The enemies of and in the world have drawn her offspring away from the Water of Life. God, however, promises the now barren Israel will have innumerable children.

This is what Paul is referring to as the Promise of Faith. Being the Father of Nations (Abraham) is no longer an issue of blood, but the fulfillment of the faith that Abraham showed to God and those that put their hope in Jesus. Through Jesus, we all become part of “the blood” of Abraham, and part of the “nations” that he fathered.

1) Why do you think Isaiah used barren as a sign of hope?

2) Why is important to recall the fulfilled promises of God? What does it do for us?

FD) Why do you think hope often symbolized by a flame?

10 December 2019 — Tuesday after the First Sunday of Advent

1 Samuel 1:12–20, 2 Kings 4:8–17, Hebrews 11:32–40 (read online ⧉)

For many people having a child is the deepest yearning that they have. Not everyone is able to have children. Some have gone through miscarriages. Many more have gone through stillbirths. Still more lose their children when they were young. When dreams of our deepest longings are destroyed, hope often soon follows.

Hannah was not able to conceive. This created a trial for her. Her fellow wife made her miserable and used her own children as emotional weapons against Hannah. Hannah’s husband probably felt as lost as Hannah did. While he did have children with his other wife, his heart hurt for Hannah. It would seem, on its surface, to not have been the best experience between Hannah and Eli. In fact, Eli did not seem to be much of a spiritual counselor, but more like a grumpy old man. Regardless, Hannah took something away from that encounter, and the weight in her heart was cast off. She had hope.

The Shunammite woman (oddly, never named), too, wish for a child. In an echo of Abraham and Sarah, apparently he (at least) was old. A child seemed out of reach. In the case of Hannah, age wasn’t mentioned, implying that she would be unable to explain the situation. The Shunammite woman, on the other hand, had a rationale for her lack of hope. She “knew” that things had passed a point of no return. Elisha was able to restore that hope with a promise. What she had experienced with Elisha is open for thought. Whatever her experience with him allowed her to trust his words, and to have hope.

The author of Hebrews is trying to instill this same kind of trusting hope into believers who are feeling under pressure and persecution. The writer, through the examples given, shows that God is worthy of having hope in. Not the weak hope of a wish, but the firm hope of knowing that God is there, and working in and through all things, even when we don’t understand, and especially when it is scary and it hurts.

1) Have you ever had a hard time you had to have hope in God to make it through? What was it like to have that hope?

2) What do you think the key to having hope and trust in the darkest parts of life?

3) Why do you think “death to life” is important concept in hope?

FD) What do you do to have hope when you are struggling?