A Faithful Hope

The Bible is full of individuals who stand up and declare the word of the Lord in the face of public and political opposition. People like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and more – these face threats, persecutions, and ridicule for delivering a message that the people do not necessarily wish to hear. Among these great messengers is a man named Jeremiah, commonly known as the weeping prophet for the bitterness of his message to the prophet.

In Lamentation 1, we see Jeremiah writing a song of mourning, told from the perspective of the city as it is being besieged. He calls the city a widow. He writes of Jerusalem’s enemies mocking the city and taking joy in her demise. Jerusalem mourns her lost children. Then, in chapter 3, the prophet begins to insert his own voice, bemoaning the tragedies he is forced to witness. It is a book of sorrow and pain over the destruction of God’s holy city.

A Glimmer of Hope

In the midst of this, in Jeremiah 3:21-25, the prophet remembers hope:

But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

In the middle of sorrow and despair, Jeremiah remembers God’s mercy and the renewal available in Him. He remembers hope in God’s faithfulness. All of us face failure in our lives. We face difficulties, sorrow, and ridicule. Like Jeremiah, we can remember the portion we have in Jehovah.

Hope in God’s Faithfulness, Mercy, and Renewal

Jeremiah calls God’s mercies unending. Psalm 136 repeats again and again that God’s steadfast love endures forever. His mercies, His compassion, His love is faithful and enduring. In Luke 1:76-79, Zechariah praises God for the endurance of His tender mercies, and Romans 15:1-9 exults God for His mercy and calls the Lord a God of hope, of endurance, and of comfort. Ephesians 1:1-7 says God makes us alive in Christ because of His mercy and love. We know the God’s mercy does not fail, and we can trust in those mercies to deliver us.

Jeremiah also speaks of having hope in his God. In Psalm 130 calls on God’s people to hope in Him, in His love and His mercies. Psalm 31:24 and Psalm 38:15 both express hope in God’s deliverance and His mercy. I Thessalonians 5, Paul contrasts hope with hopelessness, and he writes that we should wear hope of salvation like a helmet in verse 8. Romans 8:24 simply states that our salvation is based upon hope, and Paul goes on to make the case that hope sustains us in the face of every trial this world can throw at us. Finally, Hebrews 6:17-20 speaks of our hope anchoring our souls. In the middle of this world’s tragedies and difficulties, this is the hope we can have.

We hope for renewal in God, and II Corinthians 5:17 calls those who live in Christ new creatures. Chapter 4:16-18 of the same book tells us we look away from our former physical concerns to spiritual hopes. We are renewed in the image of our Creator and Savior, and Romans 6 tells us we raise to walk in newness of life after our conversion to Christ. Ephesians 4:17-24 calls on us to clothe ourselves in newness and renewal, discarding our former selves and replacing that with a new creation. We all want a fresh start, and God promises we can be renewed in Christ when we sacrifice self and allow Him to transform our lives.

We can hope these things because God is faithful, and, if He is faithful to us, we should be as faithful to Him. I Corinthians 1:9 begins a very difficult letter with the assurance that God is indeed faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23 calls on us to hold onto our hope in a faithful God, and I John 1:9 assures us God’s forgiveness is faithful. If we place our hope in Him, if we trust His mercy, if we are faithful – then we can trust His faithfulness to us.

Conclusion

Jeremiah 3:21-25 stands as a testament of faith in a faithful God. God is good to the soul that seeks Him and waits on Him. Our renewal is found in Him alone, and our responsibility then is to seek Him and come to Him on His terms. He is available to us. The Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s time never turns to embrace God’s mercy and deliverance. They fall into captivity because of their slavery to sin. We, however, do not have to share that fate. We can take hold of the hope we have in God. We can trust His mercies and find renewal in Him. He can be our hope if we faithfully trust in Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Faith and Risk

In Children of Dune by Frank Herbert, a character merely known as The Preachers asks this question of the multitudes looking for some form of religious satisfaction: “Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk?” In this question, he challenges his listeners to examine what they are investing in their religion versus what they expect to get out of it.

We live in a world where ideas of service, self-sacrifice, and personal risk are avoided. It is easier to sit passively in a “moving” worship experience safe and secure than to puts one’s self at risk in God’s service. Whether we are talking about missionary work in an unfamiliar country or taking the risk of inviting a neighbor to services, we suffer from serious risk aversion. Unless we are certain the path is absolutely safe, we refuse to take it, therefore making our faith superficial and unreal.

In this lesson, we’re going to look at three examples of people whose faith cost them. They gave up security, safety, wealth, and influence to follow God and do His will. In doing so, though, they demonstrated real faith and had a positive impact on others around them. These individuals experienced true risk in their service to God.

Three Spiritual Risk Takers

Much can be said about Daniel and his companions in the early chapters of his book, but let’s focus of the most famous event in Daniel’s life: that of the lion’s den. By Daniel 6, the namesake figure has already served Babylon for many years, has survived two kings, and is now in service of Darius the Mede. Daniel oversees a third of the king’s regional governors, and chapter 6:3 describes him a distinguished above all his political peers due to his excellent spirit. This leads, predictably, to some political contrivances to bring Daniel down.

Daniel 6:6 records the other officials coming to King Darius, persuading him to sign an edict prohibiting any form of petition (including prayer) directed toward anyone but the king himself for thirty days. Daniel knows of this edict, and his initial reaction, in verse 10, is to pray to God. He did this, knowing it could cost him his career. It could cost him his possessions. It could cost him his income. It could cost him his life. Still, Daniel prays to God, resulting in his attempted execution in the lion’s den. Daniel risks all for God, and God delivers Him, resulting even King Darius being awed by God’s power. Daniel’s faith could have cost him everything, but he held fast.

Jeremiah suffers much in his service to God. He dedicates his life to the mission of reforming God’s people as the destruction of Jerusalem at the hand of Babylon looms ever closer. Other prophets, such as Hananiah in Jeremiah 28, oppose Jeremiah’s message, luring the people away with more attractive prophecies. We see Jeremiah’s life threatened for the first time in chapter 11:18-23 and again in chapter 18:18. King Jehoiakim seeks Jeremiah’s death in 26:21, and he is imprisoned for treason in 37:11 because of the content of his message. After this, Jeremiah is thrown into a dank dungeon in chapter 38:6, but he is saved only to witness the destruction of the city he worked so hard to save.

Wouldn’t it have just been easier for Jeremiah to write Jerusalem off and just go with popular opinion? Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to settle down with a wife and family and try to eek out a measure of happiness in the time he had left? Instead, he dedicates all to God, and few listen. A few are moved by his words, and those words still exist, showing God’s path to ultimate salvation and a new covenant with all nations. Jeremiah’s costly message speaks of eternal rewards.

Finally, we have Paul. Philippians 3:3-6 recounts a brief overview of Paul’s history before his conversion. He is a respected Pharisee. He is of the faithful tribe of Benjamin. Paul claims to have been blameless in the ways of the Levitical Law, and he pours his heart into defending his true faith from the heretic Christians. Philippians 4:8, though says he counts those past accomplishments as worthless when compared to his service for Christ.

Paul gives up a life of esteem and honor to be beaten, stoned, imprisoned, harassed, shipwrecked, plotted against, imprisoned again, and – quite possibly – eventually executed. In the midst of all these tribulations, however, Paul writes that he knows his Savior and trusts Him to keep His promises in II Timothy 1:12. Through this confidence, Paul sets up numerous congregation, turns countless souls to Christ, shares the gospel with government officials, and leaves us a legacy upon which we build much of our faith.

Willing to Face the Cost

In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus gives two examples of the need to count the cost of something. He cites building a tower and going into battle, how a failure to account for the cost of such projects will adversely affect the one undertaking said project. We can relate to this pretty easily. How many of us have made big purchases or started home projects that ended up overwhelming us monetarily or size-wise? Sacrifices are needed to see such projects to completion, but, in the end, we hope the sacrifices are worth it.

Jesus precedes these illustrations with the admonishment that those who are unwilling to take up their crosses cannot follow Him in verse 27. Too often, we speak of a “cross to bear” as some kind of inconvenience or physical malady, but, in the context of Jesus’ audience, a cross means death. Jesus is calling us to sacrifice self – self-interests, self-service, self-satisfaction, perhaps even self-preservation – in service to Him.

What am I willing to give up for Christ? What risks am I willing to take? Have I counted the cost in perspective of a priceless heavenly reward? Daniel, Jeremiah, and Paul serve as only three examples of faithful men who were willing to risk all and face terrible costs for the cause of Christ. Can we do any different in our service?

Comfort In God

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish tune by Robert Burns. The title literally means “times long past.” It is a song about reflection on the past – moving on but not forgetting. It is traditionally sung at New Year’s in our culture. Others sing the song at commencements and funerals. It recalls “the best of times” and “the worst of times,” so to speak.

In a similar fashion, the book of Lamentations is a good-bye to an era of faithfulness. It is a funeral song for God’s people as they are taken into captivity. Lamentations 1:12, 1:16, 2:16, 3:2-6 are all passages that illustrate the prophet’s despair at the loss of the city and the people he has worked with for his whole life. However, Lamentations 3:21-26 stands out as a beacon of hope amidst the doom. Though they endured much, and we may feel the same at times, God is the source of hope.

Comfort in God

  • Mercy. In Psalm 136, the phrase is continually repeated, “For His mercy endures forever.” Through praising God as Creator and Deliverer, the idea of His mercy is visited time and again. In Luke 1:75-79, Zechariahs speaks of forgiveness and remission in the context of God’s mercy. Romans 15:8-9 glorifies God for His mercy in the sacrifice of His Son. Finally, Ephesians 2:4-5 reassures us of God’s rich mercy and great love despite ourselves.
  • Hope. Hope is expressed numerous times in Psalms. Psalm 130:7 calls God’s people to hope in Jehovah because of His mercy. Psalm 31:24, Psalm 38:15, and many others return to the theme of hope. One sees and cares about our needs, and that is God. In I Thessalonians 5:8, we are told to wear hope as a helmet, Romans 8:24 says we are saved in hope. Hebrews 6:18 tells us we have a hope set before us in that we reach for something better than this life.
  • Renewal. Jeremiah spoke of renewal in that God’s mercies are “new every morning.” We appreciate things that are “new.” II Corinthians 5:17 and 4:16 both speak of becoming new in Christ, our spiritual selves being renewed daily. In Colossians 3:10, we are told to put on a new self, not of the world but of Christ, and, in Ephesians 4:23-24, we are invited to be mentally renewed in putting on a new man that is fashioned after God.
  • Faithfulness. The faithfulness in Lamentation speaks to God keeping His promises. In I Corinthians 1:4-9, Paul confirms that God is faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23 assures us that we can be confidant in God’s word because of His faithfulness. Finally, I John 1:9 reminds us that God’s forgiveness is something we can rely on.

Conclusion

It’s hard to imagine just how difficult things were for Jeremiah. His nation fell despite his best efforts, and we run into situations where we feel like failures despite our best efforts. However, like Jeremiah, we can be continually renewed in God’s hope and mercy, trusting in His faithfulness as we seek God and His salvation.

lesson by Tim Smelser