Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Where hope finds its source … "

Day #312:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 5th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 128 - 130 …

You cannot live long in this world without hope.  Hope is to your soul what air is to your lungs.   While the heart and the mind are essential for the body to function, neither of them will operate without the lungs functioning properly and getting oxygen into the blood.  God says in His Word that "life is in the blood," and the body works together to get blood to all the parts.  So is hope to the soul.  The spirit of man was not created to live without hope, yet those who do not know God are described as "without God and without hope in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).  Through Jesus God offers a sure and certain hope that is "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19).  Even before He came, the writers of the Psalms found this hope in the God who makes promises and keeps them, and Who promised to send a Savior.

Psalm 128 declares again what we have heard so often:  "BLESSED are all who fear the LORD, who walk in His ways … Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD" (128:1,4).  To be "blessed" is to have your eyes opened to see God, to know God and to "fear" God.  The "fear" that is often referred to in the Psalms is the reverence that comes from awe and respect.  No one can or should casually approach the God who shakes the earth (literally).  Solomon writes that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7), because the only way to have hope is to KNOW God, and to KNOW God is to "fear" Him, to understand that He is above all things and that He holds all things in His hands.  To know God is to realize that He is holy and that you and I have sinned against Him, that our sin separates us from Him, and that there is nothing we can do to bridge the gap.  It is to know that we deserve the just judgment of a holy God and so to confess our sin and to humble ourselves before Him.

The "blessing" of God begins with knowledge and truth, which then exposes the darkness within us and moves us to seek the light!  So the Psalmist reveals that true "blessing" has one source:  God Himself!  "May the LORD bless you …"  When James writes much later that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17), he is admitting that true blessing comes only from the God who created us and who must redeem us.  He prays for "peace" to be upon Israel (128:6), because true "peace" comes only from the God of peace, who Himself makes peace on the cross with all who believe as His Son pours out His blood, His life, in our place.  "Therefore, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).  There is no peace, no blessing, and therefore no hope, apart from God.

While "hope" will be fully realized when we leave this world and are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ and enter into the new heaven and the new earth, we who know God long for hope now, as we live in this world.  The false hope of a "better life" that is offered by government and others in positions of power and authority leave us empty and overcome by constant disappointments.  But those who know the source of hope can say, "They have greatly oppressed me from my youth … but they have not gained the victory over me!" (129:1-2).  John writes, "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).  And this is not just some generic faith, but faith in Jesus Christ and all that God has promised.  HE is the source of hope for those who know Him.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ know something the rest of the world cannot imagine:  that we have peace with God, that our sins are forgiven, that we HAVE eternal, everlasting life!!  "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (I Corinthians 4:6).  Still, we struggle, don't we, as we live in the weakness of the flesh and our sinful nature.  That's why we need the Spirit.  Paul goes on to write in verses 7-10:  "But we have this treasure (the Gospel and hope!) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

For us, believing in Jesus gives a hope that the world cannot take away because "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us … for … neither death nor life … nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).  The wicked have no power over us.  The wicked will not receive God's blessing.  They will be turned back in shame.  And were it not for the grace of God, that would be us.  So many people today do not understand God's grace.  God doesn't just throw His grace around and forgive anyone and everyone, whether they know Him or not, whether they believe in Jesus or not, whether they have been born again by His Spirit or not … God's blessing IS knowing Him, believing in Jesus and being born against by His Spirit, thereby receiving new and eternal LIFE!!

Living with hope in this world is a constant work of the Spirit within us.  We are easily weighed down and distracted by the temptation to doubt and to be discouraged.  Many do not see these as temptations, but they are!  Satan wants nothing more than to discourage those who believe by causing us to doubt God's Word, to doubt God's presence or His power that is at work within us.  It is so easy to do what the people of Israel did, to doubt God, to complain and murmur and to rebel against God at the precise moment when you realize how much you need Him.  People ask, "Why is God letting this happen to me?  Where is God when I need Him?"  … and on and on.  In I Corinthians 10 Paul uses Israel as an example of what NOT to do, and then he says, "So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (I Corinthians 10:12-13).

THERE is the source of HOPE!  So the Psalmist writes,  "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared (honored, loved, respected)" (130:4).  Our response to the knowledge of God:  "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope!" (130:5).  Hope comes from knowing the truth about God, about yourself, about sin and salvation, about judgment and grace … about a Savior whose name is Jesus toward whom the Psalmist points:  "O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.  He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins" (130:7-8).  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life, handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:18-19).

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  In His written Word and in the living Word, Jesus Christ, you can find hope … the hope that is "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19).  Are you living with that hope today?  Do you know the God before whom all flesh must bow down in worship?  He is the only true God and He offers hope to those who draw near to Him through faith in Jesus.  HE is the source of all true hope, for everything else and everyone else will disappoint you and me.  We even disappoint and frustrate ourselves!  But He never lets us down.

If you believe God has let you down, you need to know Him more.  His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), but in His Word there is hope (Isaiah 55:10-11).  He sends His Word and His Spirit that in Jesus Christ we may have hope, now and forever.  Come to Him, draw near to Him, BELIEVE, and live today with hope, for He IS the Lord and He blesses those who come to Him with what we need the most:  Himself!  HE is the blessing you seek and HE is the source of hope!!

"My gracious heavenly Father, I praise You for revealing Yourself and the way of redemption through Your Son Jesus Christ and by the work of Your Spirit within me.  I find in Your Word the pure spiritual milk and the solid food I need to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and therefore to have hope.  Because of Your grace to me I live with hope daily and rest in Your unfailing love.  Help me to share this hope with all I meet, that they, too, may find You faithful!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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