We know from the Bible stories that we read around Christmas time, that when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem and it was time for Jesus to be born, there was no room for him in the inn. Last week, on the first Sunday of Advent, we asked the question, “Do we have room for Jesus and His peace in our lives?”
On this Second Sunday of Advent, we ask ourselves the similar question “Do we have room for Jesus and the hope that He brings?” Now, I’ve confessed to you before that I’m not a big poetry guy but in preparing this week, I came across an Emily Dickenson poem that someone else used as an illustration of hope. It goes this way.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops--at all.
There is something joyful and beautiful and hopeful about bird song. The writer that used this poem went on to say this: “For too many people today the bird of hope has ceased to sing its song. Too many crises of life have robbed us of our song and of our hope.”
We’re looking, this morning at the passage from Isaiah 2: 1-5. The historical backdrop for the book of Isaiah was one of war, fear and unrest. For many people in Isaiah’s day, the same thing had happened. They had lost their hope at a critical time in history when war and conflict abounded. People’s hearts had turned away from God, and idol worship, superstitions and rebelliousness had taken over. People were indifferent to spiritual truth.
Isaiah came on the scene during war times with a message of hope and the promise of salvation, ultimately through the Messiah. Let’s see how today’s scripture speaks to us about hope. Speaking during these critical times, Isaiah pointed out several things that helped the people to see that all was not lost. He’s saying to them, “things will not always be this way because
1. The mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established.
That was meaningful to them because the term “mountain” referred to the site on which the temple in Jerusalem was built. The significance is that Jerusalem was the center of spiritual worship--the place where God’s presence dwelt. The people in that time could relate to this image of going up to Jerusalem to worship God. Throughout scripture reference is made to mountains.
Psalm 68:16 says, “Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the Lord himself will dwell forever.” Even in the New Testament, reference is made to a city on a hill--it cannot be hidden.
2. Jerusalem--the center where God’s presence dwells cannot be hidden.
It will be there for all to see. Isaiah is telling them this spiritual center will be established and people will see it and recognize the presence of God so much that people from all nations will come to it--the Jews and the Gentiles alike. This is a prophecy that stretches out over many hundreds of years. He is saying, “You don’t see it now, things look very dark and desolate--but don’t give up hope.
A day is coming when the Messiah will come--salvation will be available to all people--Gentiles included. This mountain of the Lord will be so prominent that people will stream to it--they won’t feel coerced or pressured--they will just WANT to come.
3. The reason is to LEARN of God’s ways and then to WALK in them--to make God’s ways their lifestyle.
The next thing he said to them was, “and wars and disputes will be settled for many people will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” He is saying their weapons are not going to be used for destruction but things are going to be turned around for good. Things will be used for productiveness--not concentrating on war and hate.”
“Nations will not take up swords against nation nor will they train for war anymore.” That is the message of hope that God gave to His people through Isaiah. I wonder how the people received this message of hope from the prophet Isaiah?
Many would not have even been open to the message and may never have heard it. But I imagine that some of those who were open must have said “That’s a nice idea but it will never happen. There has always been war and conflict and fighting. Things will never change...”
What about you and I? What do we do with the message of hope through Jesus? Sometimes we refuse to believe any message of hope. We say, “Things will never get better for me. This is the way it has been for a long time. My health will never improve, my job situation will never change, my family will never change. Sometimes when the pressures of life close in on us, “the bird of hope has just about lost his song.”
At this Advent Season, God’s message to us is about hope just as it was for the people in Isaiah’s time. Salvation has come, the presence of God is in our world in spite of war and conflict, His Holy Spirit leads us and guides us day by day even when things seem dark and hopeless--even when we can’t feel His presence in our lives.
Sometimes people try to manufacture hope during the holidays through the many traditions of the season--loading our houses with lights and decorations and packing our schedules to overflowing with events.
We try to recapture memories of our childhood--to days that were less stressful, when we remembered happier, simpler times, where our families got along better or seemed closer knit. Sometimes all that we do to manufacture hope fails because it is a false hope.
How do we apply this to our lives here and now?
1. Where Does Our Hope Come From?
Too often we look in all the wrong places for hope. But God’s Word tells us where to look for it. The Bible is filled with the persistent belief that despite the trauma and tragedies of life, God is still present and still working. The message of the Bible is that no situation is without hope.
Isaiah brought this hope to his people. A day will come when:
1. God’s presence will be established
2. People from all nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord
3. People will not only hear but will also do what he says to do
4. conflict and wars will cease
5. Destructive weapons will be turned into peaceful instruments.
That’s the message that they needed to hear. The message to us is that God has the ABILITY to transform any situation, no matter how hopeless, into one of hope. In the midst of our circumstances, one thing to remember is that we don’t have to manufacture our own hope. Scripture tells us in Psalm 62:5 “My hope comes from God.”
We are told in Psalm 42:5, “put your hope in God.” The subject of that sentence is YOU--YOU put your hope in God. Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Isaiah’s word ESTABLISHED sounds similar to ANCHOR. It is secure, unshakable. It is there in spite of not knowing all the details. If you are out of a job, you know that God knows the details. Your part is to trust Him and wait for the answer. If your health is not the best in the world, trust God for healing even with the pain persists. Your children or grandchildren may seem far from God, but remember that God works many times behind the scenes.
Hope does not necessarily indicate that changes will occur overnight. Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful.” We may go through periods of tough times--but hope will get us through them to keep us from giving up. God does not always promise us smooth sailing throughout our lifetime, but He does promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. He promises us His guidance and direction for all the days of our journey.
Hope does not stand alone. It is combined with
the record of His past performance
the reality of His promise
the power of His love
the certainty of our future
If you have lost hope, you might ask God to give you renewed hope in the areas of your life that you are losing hope. When the pressures of life move in on you, present your requests to God--ask Him to fill you with new hope at this Advent Season.
Then, receive it by faith. Even before any change comes to your life or circumstances, thank God for it. Remind yourself that God is big enough. And use your imagination to begin to visualize God changing things for you. Look to a new day--it may be in the future. But hope will get you there.
2. Begin to speak positively
Words are powerful. Just like Isaiah did in this early scripture, declare and proclaim God’s truth. Don’t let yourself say “Oh, it will never happen.”
Instead choose to speak positively:
The day will come when I will be restored to health....
The day will come when I will have a better job...
The day will come with my family will come to know the Lord...
The day will come when I won’t be so stressed out...
That is not wishful thinking. It is putting your faith in God and His goodness rather you’re your circumstances.
Ask God to give you the renewed hope you need.