Hope for Tomorrow 12-27

  • I’m not sure about you, but I am desperately ready for 2020 to come to a close.
    • However, 2021 isn’t looking as hopeful as I think many of us expected.  Throughout the past year I have kept thinking “normal” would be just around the corner.  But now, “normal” seems farther and farther out of reach.
    • My emotions, my mental state, my ability to cope has been a crazy rollercoaster ride over the past months.  Good at times, a few hilltop moments, but other moments deep down in the valleys being jostled left and right and unsure of which way is up…
  • During one of my lower moments, earlier this year, I was reading through the book of Micah.  When Pastor Kenny asked me to preach, the Lord kept bringing me back to the hope I had found in this passage:
  • Micah 7:8-9 (AMP) – “Do not rejoice over me [amid my tragedies], O my enemy! Though I fall, I will rise; Though I sit in the darkness [of distress], the Lord is a light for me.  I will bear the indignation and wrath of the Lord because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will behold His [amazing] righteousness and His remarkable deliverance.
  • My hope does not lie in a vaccine or the disappearance of a pandemic.  My hope does not lie in the government or who is president.  My hope lies in the Lord.
    • Though I sit in darkness and distress – He is my light!
    • Though I have messed up and must face the consequences, He will bring about my restoration!
  • If you are anything like me, when Christmas rolls around, you have your favorite albums.  I have about 4 or 5 CDs that I listen to on repeat in the car.  One of them includes a beautiful and heart-wrenching rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  These are the 3 verses we are most familiar with:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,

Our spirits by thine advent here/ by drawing near;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

  • The verses I read in Micah earlier were written during Israel’s exile and captivity.  It was a difficult time for God’s chosen people.  They felt abandoned, forgotten, and hopeless.
    • But God was speaking HOPE into their lives! 
    • First of all – let’s take a trip through history for a moment.  When King Solomon died – the country of Israel, the 12 tribes, split into two kingdoms – the Southern region of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, became the kingdom of Judah, and the remaining 10 tribes to the north, became the kingdom of Israel.
    • We are entering this story in the midst of the reign of Assyria and Micah is a prophet, primarily sent to speak to the people of the Kingdom of Judah.
  • Micah 5:2-5 – “Bethlehem Ephratha, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me.  His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.  Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of the ruler’s brothers will return to the people of Israel.  He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord his God.  They will live securely for then his greatness will extend to the ends of the earth.  He will be their peace…”
  • Meanwhile, it is during this same era that Isaiah has been prophesying to the people of Israel
    • Isaiah 7:14 – “the Lord Himself will give you a sign: See, a virgin will conceive, have a son, and name Him Immanuel
    • Isaiah 9:6-7 – For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be upon his shoulders.  He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.  He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever….”
  • While these prophecies gave Israel a glimpse of what was to come, first, it wasn’t in their timing (not for years to come), and it wasn’t what they expected.
    • These words gave the Israelites hope that their bloodline would continue, that some day they would no longer be exiled.  But it didn’t rescue them from their current situation.  They still had to face the consequences of their idolatry!
    • While the words of Isaiah and Micah both mention a baby, Israel expected a Mighty Warrior who would overthrow their captors (Rome at the time of Christ’s birth).  Instead, they received a humble servant whose death, for many, crushed any hope they had (despite what they had been told)
  • Today, we face a scenario quite unlike anything the world has seen before.  And, no matter which side of the aisle you stand politically, hope in the government is, most likely, long gone.  I hear so often that this must be the end of days.  And there is a part of me that hopes that it is.  But it may not be.  Like the Israelites, Christ may not come and rescue us from our current situation.  BUT, He has promised that He will return!  He is coming back for those that accept the gift of His life, for those that seek after Him.
    • Coming back to Micah 7 – though I am in darkness, though I have sinned against Him, He is still pleading my case and bringing me into the light!
      • No matter what we are going through or what we have done, so long as we have accepted the gift of salvation and repented of our wrong doings, we are His children.  And we WILL behold His amazing righteousness and receive His remarkable deliverance.
  • Pastor Kenny noted Christmas Eve that, though Israel had been told when, where, and how the Messiah would come, they still were not prepared.  In turn, Pastor asked if YOU were ready for the second advent, or coming, of Christ.
    • I think part of Israel’s issue with not being ready is that they had a picture in their head of what the Messiah should look like.  They envisioned a mighty warrior, someone to overthrow the current Kingdom, to become a King here on Earth and bring peace in their time.  While Christ is and will be King and will ultimately establish peace on earth – His first coming was just chapter 1.  He is still writing!  The story isn’t over.  Some prophecies have yet to be fulfilled.
    • Maybe we are in the same boat.  Maybe we are expecting Christ in a way that He isn’t planning.  I know so many expect Christ to save our country through the working of the government.  But I can almost guarantee that will NOT be the case.  What expectations do I have that are getting in the way of what God is doing now?  What am I missing because I’m waiting for something else?  SO many people missed out on the Messiah when He was on earth because they were waiting for something different!
  • Ultimately, our hope, like the Israelites, is in what is to come.
    • If 2021 looks much the same, or even worse, than 2020 – we still have hope.
    • No matter who holds the office of President or Governor or [insert political office here] – we still have hope!
    • If this country collapses, we still have hope.
    • If the pandemic wipes out half of the world – we still have hope!
    • If Christ does not rescue us from the current situation – there is still hope!
  • Our hope lies in the knowledge and promise that He IS coming back, that we ARE forgiven, and that we WILL, one day, be with Him for eternity (so long as we are ready).
  • O come, O come Emmanuel was first published as a hymn sometime in the 1800s.  However, it’s roots are actually found in a Benedictine Gregorian chant from the 8th or 9th century.  Beginning the week before Christmas, the monks would sing a verse a day to prepare their hearts and minds….
    • O Sapentia (Wisdom)
    • O Adonai (God)
    • O Radix Jesse (Rod of Jesse)
    • O Clavis David (Key of David)
    • O Oriens (Dayspring)
    • O Rex Genitium (King of the Gentiles)
    • O Emmanuel (God with us)
  • Those 7 verses are what led to the original 7 verses of the hymn
  • When we sing these verses we are not only celebrating the birth of Christ, but also longing for, hoping for His second coming as well
  • But here is the neat part about that early Gregorian chant.  The first letter of each verse, in Latin, creates the acronym, SARCORE
  • When read backwards, it becomes Ero Cras, or in Latin, “I shall be with you tomorrow.”
  • Emmanuel, He is God WITH us.  He WILL be with us today, tomorrow, and the next day.  He is coming back again.  Because of that there is ALWAYS hope!
  • I want to read the last verse from the original hymn as it speaks my heart, what so many of us long for:

O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind

Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;

Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Rejoice, God is with us!  Rejoice, He is coming again!

  • If you do not have that hope, I invite you….
  • If you need help relying on that hope….

Digging Deeper

– What expectations are you holding onto that are keeping you from missing what God is doing now?

– Where do you find your hope?

– What gloomy clouds do you find yourself in today?

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