Hope. This English word carries a wide range of nuances of meaning that give it huge variety of thought connections. It can be either a noun or a verb (i.e. “I hope so,” or “this my only hope”). Much like love and faith, in English the meaning of hope ranges widely. In our usage, hope ranges from an unfounded hope, i.e. to win the lottery, to a well founded hope, i.e. that the sun will come up in the morning. One is a of a wild, unsure bet and the other is like a secure waiting until it occurs. The Bible uses a variety of words that are translated “hope.” In the Old Testament there are at least 10 Hebrew constructions that are translated into the English word “hope”. In the New Testament, which we will look at more next week, there is a singular word group that is translated “hope” and over 75% of the time it has to do with spiritual, religious content.
Today, we will survey some of what the Old Testament says about hope, focusing on how God’s people put their hope in Him and how that hope brought blessings into their lives.
One could argue that hope in God is central the theme of the entire Bible. It is certainly one of the major themes, as is faith and love.
What do you think Adam and Eve hoped for during their time in Eden before the Fall? God created all things very good and they were given the blessing of God to procreate and rule over the world and subdue it. God gave them amazing benefits and supplied them with everything they needed. Their hope was in God, fully and completely. He created them, He provided for them, He guided them, He enjoyed them, as they enjoyed Him. His love and faithfulness to them was evident in everything around them. The question arrises: will they love God and be faithful to God? Will their hope in God remain secure? How could they even know the value of these things?
It seems that a test of hope, faith and love was in order. Sadly, Adam and Eve failed the test.
God had given them instructions and a clear command. You may eat from every tree of the garden, but from the tree that is in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat. In the day that you eat of it you will surely die.
Pretty clear, huh?
As soon as we hear those verses we know where this is headed. Sometimes we wish God would never have given them this opportunity. Some people, like Satan himself, accuse God of wrong for putting such a tree there in the first place. On the other hand, most people today don’t believe in this story anyway. To most people who have tasted the fruit of the tree of today’s knowledge, this is just a myth or meta story to explain how sin got here. It is just religious theology, not real history. Oh, really? That only begs the question, “If this isn’t true, how DID sin get here?” Or is there really no evil in the world, just chemicals, atoms, time, space and chance? In that case self awareness is the big myth and hope for purpose in life is hypocritical and false. In other words, we are here as a parable without a point. It takes a hopeful faith in God, and belief in the Bible as God’s word to accept Genesis as history. Those without this faith are left without the hope it ultimately inspires. Just as Satan called God a liar in Genesis 3, those who do not believe in the Genesis story, actually see it as a lie, (or myth, for also popularly, a meta story). When this happens, hope is redirected from God’s word to whatever else ones hopes can attach to. Where is your hope?
Hope in God requires faith in His word, just as Adam and Eve discovered, as we listen to this with faith, we learn about hope through their story.
One reason I belabor this is that the New Testament theology rests on this: as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Just as one man’s sin brought death, even so one man’s righteousness brings life. If Adam is not real, neither is Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, and you trust that Jesus speaks the truth, you are pressed back into believing in Adam’s story as the true story of how sin got here.
Adam and Eve’s fall is foundational to understanding our hope in Jesus Christ. I know this message is becoming less popular in our day. I realize that fewer and fewer who claim to be Christians hold to this today. But if you want a biblical hope, don’t let anyone take scissors and cut out scriptures that are considered foolish, archaic and mythical. What you will end up with is not hope in Christ, but lost in space. Your hope will shift from God and His word as true, and you will trust in deceptive, clever and even popular false hopes.
Biblical hope starts in Genesis 1:1 and continues through Revelation 22:21.
What are you putting your hope in? Where ever your faith is, that’s where your hope will be also. Some put their hope in the ever drifting sand, some on their fame or there treasure or their land, mine’s on the Rock that forever shall stand: Jesus the Rock of Ages.
The history of our Christian hope is tied to the promise of God that He will redeem us and give us an eternal inheritance.
Adam and Eve’s hope was a waiting hope in God. When God came to them in the garden the Bible says they heard Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Genesis 3:8. What is striking about that verse is that they were so familiar with this sound, they knew their creator’s footsteps. This must have been a common occurrence for them. Before their sin, it would surely have been a welcome sound. Did they run to meet with God? Was this a theophany of God’s presence in Jesus, taking on human form before His ultimate coming into the world through Mary? We don’t know. But this is clear: once they turned their hope and faith away from God and listened to the deceptive lies of the tempter, things changed. God’s presence was no longer met with faith, hope and love, but fear, hiding, and leaves. God’s curse upon the Serpent is that one day the seed of woman will bruise the head of the serpent. That seed was a promise of hope. The seed would come, but not before many generations of waiting in hope. There would be many dark days, but the promise of hope would keep those who held on to it.
Another thing that runs along with the theme of hope is how hope brings joy. There is no joy in hopelessness. How can their be? There are false hopes. These may replace true, lasting joy in the Lord for a season, but they fail in the end.
Now, after the fall, sin would spread and grow and work its destructive work bringing death and ruin into the creation that God had made. By Genesis 6:5-6 we read that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that ever intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Then the saddest words in the Bible about our relationship with God occur). Verse 6 says: God was sorry He had made man upon the earth.
Those are hopeless words. These are the words that lead us to the great flood. Noah and his family alone found favor in the eyes of God. Through Noah, God preserved the seed of hope.
After the flood men turned their hopes inward and decided to build a name for themselves. They settled in the plains of Shinar, built a city and planned a tower that would reach into the heavens. God responded and scattered them by confusing their languages. As they scattered they invented their own gods and ways of worship, placing their hopes in idols or nature. Some worshipped the sun, moon and stars. Others built images in the likeness of men or animals and fell down before them. Their hopes were not in the Lord God, creator of all things, but in their own inventions. When you create the god you serve, you get to write the rules.
At this time in the Bible we meet a man from Ur of the Chaldeans named Abram. God called Abram, telling him to leave his father’s house and go to a land he would show Abram.
God said, I will make you a great nation, I will bless you and make your name great; you shall be a blessing and I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you. In you all nations of the earth shall be blessed.
Would you call those hopeful promises?
Notice all the promises God gives to Abram here. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you. In you all nations of the earth shall be blessed.
These promises of hope from God inspired faith in the heart of Abram. Faith that grew into a love for God. This hope was tested and tried. Abram’s faith actually flourished under the trials that came. His relationship with God grew so strong in hope, faith and love that one day when God handed Abraham the ultimate test, Abraham passed with flying colors.
Abraham had waited 25 years for the promise of a child. He and Sarah had tried to help God along with Hagar, but God told Abraham that Sarah would be the one to bring the fulfillment of this promise. She would bear a son. Abraham believed God. God credited that faith with His own righteousness. Waiting on Isaac to be born was a big test, but the ultimate test of faith was later. Hagar and Ishmael had already been dismissed from Abraham’s family. Isaac was a growing young man. Abraham’s dream come true. Isaac would be the one God would make into a great nation! Isaac would be the one through whom God would bless all nations of the earth in Abraham’s name.
Abraham loved Isaac. Seeing in Isaac all the fulfillments of the promises of God. All Abraham’s hopes were embodied in this miracle child of promise.
That’s when God did it. He gave Abraham the ultimate test. Genesis 22 tells the story. Is this just a meta narrative? Is it just a mythical tale of religious significance without historical basis? What do you believe? Where is your hope?
I believe this story is a historic event just as much as I believe we are gathered here in this place today. Genesis 22:1-2. Read it with me.
What would a command like that do to your hope, faith and love for God?
You know this story already. You know what happened here. What kind of hope did Abraham demonstrate here? Hebrews 11:17-19 says that Abraham believed God could raise the dead.
Abraham’s hope in God’s promises inspired a faith and love that grew so strong they stood the greatest test I can imagine.