Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22 NIV
Hope – such an important concept in our Christian walk. Abraham was given an incredible promise to be made into a nation, while he and Sarah were both childless and way beyond the normal age for conceiving and carrying a child. I am sure this first promise given by God in Genesis 12:2-3 gave this childless couple hope, but it also had to be quite a shock because Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65 at that time.
It is important to keep in mind that within the culture Abraham and Sarah lived, a woman who was unable to have children was scorned, ridiculed, and mistreated. She would have endured this sort of treatment her entire adult life.
My husband and I were not able to conceive when we wanted to either; it took us four years to have our first child, so I know a little of the hopelessness that Sarah and Abraham must have felt. But I was not childless for very long. Sarah was 90 when she became pregnant with Isaac. It can be extremely overwhelming to think about wishing for a child, being promised a child, then waiting another 25 years for that child to be born.
God reaffirmed His promise to Abraham several times: in Genesis 12:7; He made a covenant with him in Genesis 15:5-21, God confirmed the covenant in Genesis 17:4-8 and changed their names to foreshadow it. He made the promise again in Genesis 18:18-19, and in Genesis 22:17-18. God confirmed the promise of becoming a great nation to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-4, to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15, 35:11-12, 46:3, and to Moses in Exodus 3:6-8.
Hope – what it is: Hebrews 11:1-2 says,
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
In Romans 4:18 Paul says that Abraham had this kind of hope. He believed God would do what He said He would do. He had hope in the promise of God. Hope means to trust, believe, have faith in what God said that He would do, He will do. What about you? Do you have hope in God’s promises? Has God made a promise to you that has not yet been fulfilled? Do you need God to remind you of a promise He already made to you? If you want to do a deeper study on hope I found this article on hope to be helpful: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/hope/ I find this hymn a good reminder of where our hope lies: https://youtu.be/QvBlrooUszQ
Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron
There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast at 11 am, on Thursdays – it is also recorded for later, online viewing.
What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.
Ask Questions about the Sermon, “Imagery from Jeremiah” – A Lenten Sermon Series,
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.
One of the most beautiful sights in nature, in my opinion, is sun streaming through an opening in an overcast sky. The transforming power of light is striking and surprising. A landscape without bright light is flat and monotonous, but streaks of sunshine reveal all the color and depth that had been hidden. In chapter 31 of Jeremiah, we see how God plans to transform the repentant Judah — and all of Israel — in ways that no one living at the time could have possibly imagined. Eventually, the prophet says, God’s promise will stretch far beyond these nations to embrace all people, through the redemptive power of Jesus’s death and resurrection.
The transformation foreseen by Jeremiah is surprising because Israel itself, though repentance, holds the key to unlocking the power of God’s redemption:
“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Jeremiah 31:18-19 NIV
God’s forgiveness will be complete:
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:34b
God’s forgiveness comes from His heart as a loving father:
They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. Jeremiah 31:9 NIV
God’s forgiveness is expansive, covering not only Judah but all of the nations of Israel:
“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:1 NIV
Throughout waywardness and repentance, God respects the agency of Israel and is ready to forgive. How could it be that the God of the universe has so much respect for His creation? Who could imagine this could be?
Jeremiah’s dreary and monotonous warnings are replaced with an unimaginably beautiful picture of the “Shalom” that God has in mind for Israel:
They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord —
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:12-14 NIV
I would love to be able to step into this image.
The transformation Jeremiah envisions for Israel foreshadows the promise of Christ’s ultimate forgiveness and redemption for all people everywhere:
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord. … Jeremiah 31:33-34 NIV
Jeremiah foreshadows the words of Jesus when he says:
“…. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:2b
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….” Matthew 11:28-29 NIV
This promised redemption will completely erase any wearying and incomplete self salvation plans people can devise. God will replace them with the freedom and peace of His salvation that is offered to all in Christ.
Take a moment to soak in the amazing transformation that God makes available to us in Christ. Do you have plans for self salvation that are getting in the way of this transformation? Prepare for the hope of Easter. Take a moment to ask God to reveal how you might need to repent and turn back toward Him. Remember that He is a loving father waiting to forgive.
Have you known someone who repeatedly makes poor, harmful, or irresponsible choices? Those choices often have consequences for themselves and for their family and friends. Jeremiah and many of the other Old Testament prophets were prophesying to a nation that were making these types of choices daily. Not everyone worshiped and made sacrifices to idols, but the majority of the people in Judah in the year 587 BC were guilty of that or even worse – sacrificing their children to foreign gods.
The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done–they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin. Jeremiah 32:32-35 NIV
For hundreds of years prophets like Isaiah, Elijah, Amos, and Hosea had been telling both Israel and Judah to stop worshiping idols, to repent, and to return to worshiping the Lord Almighty with their whole heart and soul. There were periods of time when both the king and the people would return to God, but for the most part, the people refused to listen to God’s prophets and continued to “turn their backs to me [God] and not their faces” (Jeremiah 32:33a). The time is now imminent – God will judge Judah, God will discipline them for their disobedience.
“You are saying about this city, `By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon’;…” Jeremiah 32:36a NIV
This is what would happen within the year. But God does not judge us, discipline us, and correct us simply to be mean, or it to Lord over us – no he has something else in mind. Let’s look at chapters 31 and 32 of Jeremiah – to see God’s end game vision.
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Jeremiah 31:31 NIV
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
…but this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Jeremiah 32:36b-38 NIV
The Babylonian captivity was how God disciplined Judah for their repeated sinfulness, unrepentant hearts and disobedience to His laws. But God also knew the captivity would come to an end, Jewish people would return to the land of Israel, and fields would be bought and sold again. God’s goal was to bring about their restoration, to bring them into a new covenant, to provide a way for the Jewish people and, in fact, to bring all people into relationship with God.
Have you ever gone through discipline or correction from God? Each of us is responsible to confess our sin and repent and return to God anew. Just as a father and mother discipline their children to correct their faulty thinking or behavior, our God does the same. Take a look at Hebrews 12:1-12 this week. Look for God’s heart and desire for us in His correction and discipline. Pray, confess, and thank God that He is faithful to both correct us and to fulfill his promises, in His timing.