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Friday, 26 September 2008

Hope!

Any one who has watched a commercial channel on British television over the past year will be familiar with the advert for foodstuffs from a certain well-known retailer: “This is not just food; this is M & S food”.

One of the things that I will miss now that I no longer have to travel regularly to Jordanhill to work on my dissertation, is passing Balshagray Parish Church’s building. They regularly have the most interesting posters outside. The one that was displayed this morning as I went to collect the copies of the dissertation (that has been accepted!!) was a play on that advertisement. It read “This is not just hope; it’s Christian Hope!”

So what is special about Christian Hope? Well, I would suggest that it’s a hope that liberates – that sets free; it’s a door. Through the mouth of the prophet Hosea, YHWH said, concerning His people Israel: “I will … make the valley of Achor a door of hope.” (2:15). The Valley of Achor was the place where Achan took some of the wealth of the destroyed city of Jericho, against the Divine command. He, and his family, and his property were destroyed in that valley. Yet, this very place, that was the scene of Achan’s sin and shame, and of Israel’s defeat, was the very place that YHWH gave to His people as a door of hope.
How often God points us back to our own ‘Valley of Achor’ – to the place where we have already failed and fallen. And He says, “There’s your door of hope. Go back, and try again.” And those who go back, in His strength, are enabled to write a new memory upon the old shame. As someone has said: “Our God is the God of the second chance”!

But Christian hope also protects – it’s a helmet. It’s part of the armour of the Christian (see I Thess.5:8; Eph.6:17), preventing him from being struck down. One of the social reformers of an earlier age, John Howard, said, “There is a hope set before me. In the Lord Jesus Christ I put my trust. In many instances God has disappointed my fears, and exceeded my hopes.” And the hymn-writer, Edward Mote, expressed himself in these words: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

When the shallow hopes of the world – currently demonstrated by the financial, social, and political chaos in which so many of us find ourselves – are all dead, we may hope in God. And the pledge of that is on a hill outside a city wall where, in the Person of the Son, Almighty God died the death that man deserved, and deserves.

And Christian hope holds – it’s an anchor. And that anchor is the unchangeable character of God. As long as we have that hope in our hearts, life cannot destroy us; it may hurt us, but it won’t be able to break us; as long as it holds out, we may weather the roughest storm.

That hope is an anchor, sure and steadfast, and immoveable; it is the attitude of the one who has gazed upon the face of God the Father, as He has revealed Himself in Jesus “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb.13:8).

So what sort of hope do you have? The worldly sort: uncertain, vague, desire with only a slight possibility of fulfilment? Or do you have Christian Hope – that God-given hope inspired by the Father, founded on the Son, sustained by the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit? You see, it’s only where there’s Christian hope that there’s real life!

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