Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hope in Hopelessness

There are seasons of life when we feel hopeless.  Loss of health, home, income, or family can come in pounding waves or together in a tsunami leaving our lives in desolation.  When these times come a natural reaction is to lay blame on the doctor, teacher, employer, family member, friend, and especially God.  While there are circumstances working beyond our control that work against us, sometimes we are to blame and must bear the consequences of our own sin.  During those low points, we also seek for antidotes to relieve the stress and pain.  Any glimmer of hope will do.  Some even seek out God, who providentially guides it all, to ask
Why, O Lᴏʀᴅ, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?  (Psa 10:1)

How long, O Lᴏʀᴅ?  Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?  (Psa 13:1)
Or to cry out
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
    forsake me not when my strength is spent.  (Psa 71:9)
As difficult as this is on an individual level, what happens when calamity strikes a nation or people group?  And worse yet, what if they willingly brought it on themselves?  A review of history shows that the fall of a nation usually comes from within.  Policies and practices necessary to maintain good order are neglected or abandoned for the sake of pragmatism, preference, or expediency.

Judah and Israel were both in a state of spiritual decay when Isaiah exercised his prophetic ministry, delivering a torrent of divine condemnation beginning with Jerusalem.  His earliest assignment after receiving the call to preach was of a forthcoming Assyrian invasion resulting in the destruction of Israel, though Judah would be preserved.  To the reader after the fact, this would not appear to be a hopeless situation, but in the denouncement to King Ahaz, the Lord had already made clear that they were on an identical path as their northern brethren and the surrounding nations that would receive due judgment.  Though the present brought uncertain conditions, the future discipline of a holy God was fixed.  They were in a hopeless position as much as a frog in gradually heated water.

In the face of doom, a ray of hope shines however.  As a promise of the Lord’s covenant with King David, Isaiah foretells of a king who would reign seemingly forever (Isa 9:6-7)—the ultimate golden age—describing it in terms of utter justice, righteousness, and peace as no other has accomplished or could better (Isa 11:3-10).  This could only be because of who this person is and of what stuff he is derived.  The prophet gives that:
And the Spirit of the Lᴏʀᴅ shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ.  (Isa 11:2)
Here we see a complete package in this seven-fold description of the Spirit, and only God is sufficient as the source and enabling.  In this prophetic section, then, we see the fullness of the Godhead in action as Eusebius of Caesarea wrote:
For in these things the whole fullness of deity of the only-begotten God is signified, concerning whom the Evangelists say: “from His fullness we have all received,” and the apostle: “For in Him all the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell bodily.” … In Him the Spirit of God dwelt, and it is concerning Him that that the apostle said: “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” … One is not to understand these many spirits as entities separate from one another.  Rather just as we understand the same word of God to be “light” and “life and resurrection” and a myriad of other things according to one’s reflection on Him, so also we should understand … all these titles as referring to the one and the same Word who proceeds from God and rested on Him who descended from the root of Jesse and from David according to the flesh.  (Commentary on Isaiah 11)
What then is our hope in times of hopelessness?  It is better to ask who—our Lord Jesus.  We do not yet see the consummation of Isaiah’s vision.  The world, the flesh, and the devil still are at work.  The outward man still is dying.  Sin still works in our members.  Yet in spite of this, Messiah reigns in justice and righteousness.  He hears our cause and will judge rightly.  He binds up the broken-hearted, brings peace, and gives rest.

Hold fast to the promise: Surely, I am coming quickly (Rev 22:20).  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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