Hope for the New Year
By Brian V. Brown
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Well, here we are, at the beginning of a New Year – where has the last year gone? A New Year of promise, things to look forward to, places to visit, people to meet up with, more to learn in the University of Life! Our expectation for the New Year is high. Our outlook is for a year of hope.
In one of our Christmas Carols – and I'm sure you must have sung it – ‘Angels from the realms of glory', is the line Seek in Him the hope of nations. The coming of our Saviour meant many things and among them was this sense of hope.
In the above passage from Jeremiah, the writer takes up this same theme when he declares God's plans, plans to give you hope and a future.
Hope! What's your hope for the future? What's your hope for this coming year?
- A better financial situation – personal finances & our country's finances.
- Relationships restored – family & friends.
- Better health.
- Better employment – greater income.
- No more war.
- The needy catered for.
We could go on – what's your particular hope for next year?
The ancient Greeks understood the importance of having hope. You've probably heard of the Greek story of Pandora's Box or Pandora's Jar.
Pandora was told not to open the Box, if she were to live happily with her husband. Curiosity took the better of her and she opened it – releasing all the evils of mankind: greed, vanity, slander, envy, disease, despair, pain, etc., etc.
When all these evils were released, she closed the box, trapping the last bird, whose name was ‘Hope' – ‘Elpis' in the Greek.
It is ‘hope' that is needed to enable man to cope with all the evils which are afflicting mankind – to see a way through. There is nothing more devastating than the words, "There is no hope' – implying that the suffering is unable to be overcome. Without hope there is no reason to carry on.
Sometimes what we hope for is just a list of wishes . . .
- "I hope we get better weather tomorrow."
- "I hope you got the right present from Father Christmas."
- "I hope this operation puts me on the road to recovery."
But the Christian hope is more than ‘wishing'. The Bible uses the word ‘hope' to refer to things which God has promised – ‘hope' shifts from that which has a reasonable chance of coming to pass, to that which will absolutely come to pass. It is a certainty. Let me explain.
Isaiah 40:1-5 NIV Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: "In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." . . . . . Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The Book of Isaiah is an incredible book in many ways, but there is one aspect I would like to focus on. The whole book gives, in miniature, a glimpse of the whole Bible.
Now the Bible has 66 books – the first 39 we recognize as being the Old Testament and the last 27 as being the New Testament. The first 39 books are looking forward to the Messiah, the last 27 reveal the Messiah, as Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind. (Someone once said that Christ is in the Old Testament ‘concealed' and in the New Testament ‘revealed' – but that's another story.)
In the same way, Isaiah, has 66 chapters. In the first 39 Chapters, Isaiah points forward to the redeemer of Israel . . .
Isaiah 7:14 NIV Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:6 NIV For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The second part of Isaiah, starting at Chapter 40, begins with the voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord' Isaiah 40:3 NIV.
Link that with John the Baptist.
Isaiah goes on to prophesy concerning the servant of the Lord, who is anointed by the Holy Spirit, dies for the sins of the people, and is raised and exalted after his death. The end of this second section of Isaiah declares, ‘Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth' – Isaiah 65:17 NIV.
Link that with the Book of Revelation.
But, we read from the first chapter of the second part, which parallels the start of the New Testament, and saw a message of hope – ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength'. So, like the New Testament assurances, Isaiah brings this message of hope to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Those who believe in the promises of God will see them come to pass, on that you can rely.
Most of what we hope for depends on other people – family, friends, government (local and national), the company we work for, and so on. People are fallible human beings – they let us down, intentionally or unintentionally – so that our hopes are not realized. Promises may not be kept.
Sometimes we take the promises of others with a pinch of salt – we become skeptical, because we don't really believe their promises will be kept.
People are not always dependable – we HOPE they will be, but sometimes they aren't. Our hope may be misplaced. And we can sometimes be extremely hurt when we are let down – even more so when we are let down by our fellow Christians, whether deliberate or not.
But let me assure you that there is one whose promises never let us down, who is completely dependable and in whom we can completely trust.
Romans 4:18 NIV 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."
What offspring? Abraham was so old and his wife Sarah was well past the age of child-bearing, that with the natural eyes this would not happen. But God had said it, and God never reneges on His promises. So it came to pass, that Abraham and Sarah had their promised son – Isaac. Abraham's hope was well founded and he experienced the joy of that hope.
And, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever (Heb 13:8 NIV), He always fulfils His promises. We need never entertain the notion that God will .let us down – He cannot lie.
Paul, in writing to Titus (Titus 1:1-2 NIV), declares:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to Godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.
The hope, the promise, the certainty of eternal life!
Ephesians 1:18 NIV – I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
If we love Jesus, believe in the promises of God, then you and I have an inheritance – that is certain, that is sure, and that God will bring about.
Hebrews 11:1 NIV – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
We may not see how God will bring about His purpose. But we can be certain He will work His promises out.
John puts it like this:
1 John 3:3 NIV – We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself.
Do you have this hope? That when Jesus returns (and be in no doubt that He will), we shall see Him and be like Him. This should spur us on to live the life that He wants us to live, to be the people that He wants us to be. Are we purifying ourselves – disciplining our lives so that sin does not take a foothold?
At some future time, we will see Jesus and will stand before Him (and some commentators are saying that the time is not too far ahead). Whether we live or die in our bodies, we will all be resurrected at the second coming of Jesus.
I don't know about you, but I want to be ready – forgiven and clean – for that meeting. Because I have this hope, I must set about purifying myself – keeping short accounts with God, paying attention to my attitudes and the intentions of my heart.
Remember the parable of the ten virgins – waiting for the Bridegroom. Five foolish ones did not take any oil for their lamps, so that when the Bridegroom arrived at midnight, they were not ready. But the five wise ones were ready and went in to the banquet. Jesus says, Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Are we ready for the appearing of the Bridegroom – the fulfilment of that hope we have in us?
There is another aspect to the hope we have in God. Peter explains it like this:
1 Pet 3:15 NIV Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
If we have this hope, then it should be that we are ready to share with others why we can be so sure of our faith and trust in the One, whose love is the reason that holds us. Therefore,
- Let's study the Word – the Bible.
- Let's immerse ourselves in the truths of God.
- Let's be sure that we understand the inheritance to which we were called.
- Let's be ready at all times to share with others the hope, the certainty, which we have.
Where we live and work, it is full of people who do not yet see their need of a Saviour; indeed, many are without hope. We each have a responsibility to seek the moving of the Holy Spirit, as He presents us with opportunities for sharing the Good News of Jesus. Are we ready?
This season, with the reminder of the coming of the Messiah, brings with it a reminder of the hope to which those, who acknowledge the saving work of Jesus, are called. It is a season of hope.
The promise of a New Year also reminds us of
- the hope of our calling,
- the reason why we pay attention to working out our Christian faith
- the need to reach out to others.
I wish you a New Year full of the blessings of our Redeemer, full of opportunities to reach the lost and the peace that goes with our hope of eternal life.
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are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.
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