Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hope Even When Despair's Tear Fall

To look into the eyes of the displaced people from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, what has God got to offer them? Does the Bible speak to their situation? Do all we have to say merely sounds like pious but hollow words?

There is a book in the Old Testament written especially for people caught up in war. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the destruction of his beloved city, Jerusalem. The book is called Lamentations. In any conflict the innocent suffer. The causes of the conflict will vary from that of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. You read of his anguish, his identification with its destruction and even his questioning of God. However in the midst of this book of tears the radiance of Hope bursts through. This isn’t a whistling in the dark, fingers crossed type of hope. It is founded on the rock solid faithfulness of God to His promises.

Jeremiah was distraught by the apparent hopelessness which the burning rubble of city and temple presented. He believed God had promised through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a Messiah and King would come through the tribe of Judah. Was all that now abandoned by God because of human faithlessness, failure and folly? The nation was in captivity in Babylon. The city destroyed. God’s promise seemed null and void. Had the ungodly won the battle?

Even today this scenario is being played out, especially in Islamic countries. Rival Islamic militants are intent on destroying each other. All of those Islamic groups also have the desire to eliminate Jews and Christians. Where is the Lord Jesus Christ in all of this? The United Nations relief agencies are in the camps supplying food and shelter but where can hope be found? Where will the heart find comfort that truth, righteousness and justice will ultimately one day come? When the Christian suffering refugees bury their dead what will sustain their faith? What can they offer to the children who are hungry, naked and confused?

There can only be the promises of God spelt out in the Bible. These are not wishful thinking words. The promises of God are verifiable and tested by time and fulfilment in a number of areas. Jeremiah wrestled in his pain, poverty and loneliness with wondering if God would succeed in doing what He promised. The prophet wrote down his convictions in Lamentations 3. (see below). He also declared that God would bring back the nation to the Land after seventy (70) years. It happened! We also know that God kept His word in the sending of His son Jesus to be the Messiah. Christmas and Easter are testament to that.

Therefore, what hope can we offer to those who sit in the rubble of their world? What can we say when injustice, cruelty and corruption flaunt themselves and defile the Name and Word of God? ‘(God) has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead’. (Acts 17:31 speaking of course about Jesus Christ) Compare also Jude 15-25 Revelation 20.

The Bible is actually a book written to refugees assailed, expelled or threatened for their faith in Jesus as God’s Son, our Saviour. Those of us in the more stable countries at this moment need to pray for those who are suffering and dying for their faith, now. We may well be next. Therefore each of us needs to reconnect and take to heart the wonderful words of faith which held Jeremiah together even as his tears of despair flowed.

‘My soul … is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’ (Lamentations 3:20-26)

Hope is founded on God’s character, integrity and track record in fulfilling what He promised. Now is the time to be strengthened in it through reading, believing and obeying His word. Now is also the time to make His promise of forgiveness and a new destiny by putting your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. He is the One who will one day come to judge the world in righteousness. That’s hope sustained by God’s faithfulness!

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