Advental Hope

PrintIn the book of Hosea, God called his people “Not My People.” (this sounds similar what my friend calls people he doesn’t like: “Not Like Me.”) Ouch. That was our name. Those are the rejected enemies of God, the people who God hated.

But follow the logic. We know that God doesn’t hate everyone. He could. So whom does he love, and how do they get there? In a real sense, they are chosen by him (look at Ephesians 1). They’re not chosen by any thing in and of themselves, but by his own choice, his loving choice. We know it’s not because he only chooses the good people. The people he chose aren’t even good. Jacob wasn’t good. The Israelites weren’t good. The church now isn’t good, and it never has been. Christians aren’t good. You aren’t good.

Yet he has a people called “My People.” He loves the outcast, the marginalized, the widow, the orphan, the children, the abused, the hurt, the refugee. His people are people that people don’t like.

He has a bride whom he loves, but no one else does. He has people who serve him and worship him and love him and whom he loves so dearly as children, as friends.

In Minor Prophet Obadiah 17 we read, But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. And in 21: Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

There is a message of hope in there. Amidst the judgment, there is hope. There will be salvation somehow on the holy mountain. There will be saviors, A Savior!, and the kingdom of God shall come.

How is this possible?

It’s possible because of God’s only son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the one who took the judgment due God’s enemies so we could be loved as God’s friends.

Jesus showed us true humility. He displayed no pride at all. God himself took on human flesh, which might have been cool in some ways but had to be pretty humbling. Jesus was born in Nazareth. He came as a baby.

Imagine what it must have been like for God himself to enter into humanity this way. It’s incredibly humbling for God to do that, and it’s incredibly honoring for humans that God would become one. He entered humanity. He took on a body. He had to learn how to talk and walk and go through potty training and deal with parents, aunts and uncles, teachers and bosses. He had to eat and sleep. He experienced losses and gains. He had to learn how to fit in. He cried. He dealt with rejection. He got lonely.

Jesus lived a life of poverty and suffering. Although he was the King of the Universe, he didn’t have a home or a place to sleep or regular meals. People really didn’t care about him that much. At the end of his life, he washed the feet of his followers, which was the place of servants. Then he went to death on a cross between two criminals. That is not the proudest moment of someone who is trying to change the world. At least not normally.

But God says that those who are humbled will be exalted. And those who are exalted will be humbled. The kingdom of God is not business as usual. It is a topsy turvy world that is upside down. The least are the greatest and the greatest are the least. Jesus said blessed are the humbled, the poor in spirit, the brokenhearted, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Jesus humbled himself and took on flesh in order to die for people who hated him. That is loving your enemies. He was cast out so that you could be brought in. He was taken down and out so that you could be lifted up. Do you see the great exchange that happens there in the gospel? Do you see how salvation works there?

God makes his friends out of his enemies by loving them and changing them. What can you do with that?

The first thing is to humble yourself. Stop living in your pride. Stop living with you as the center. Realize and recognize your pride and your idolatry for what they are. See your pride of control. See your pride of image. See your pride of safety. See your pride of uniqueness. See your pride of love and marriage and family. Put God instead in that place. You are not the center of life.

Humble yourself in this way to stop trusting in your lofty positions and instead put yourself in the hands of Christ. Hear his words. Stop resisting them. Your pride of intellectualism is in the way. Trust in Christ. Trust in him and his ways. Put your life in his life. He is the one who conquered death after all. He is the one who rose from the grave.

Then consider what it might mean to walk the life of humility with Jesus. It is the way of the cross. God still hates the proud. We hear it in the way we talk, the way we speak to people, our judging words. We hear it in our cynicism. We see it as we trust in other things for comfort, security, safety, image that aren’t God himself and Christ alone.

As we walk with Jesus in humility, the fruit of the Spirit come out of us. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the characteristics of someone who is lovingly and humbly following Jesus. This person will love his or her enemies, because that is how Christ treated us.

There will be trials and sufferings. We’re being very real and honest about that. Obadiah speaks of those things. The church was robbed. The church was beat up. The church was used and abused. But there is hope. There is resurrection life in here. There is a savior.

Jesus talks about trials coming. He likens that to rain. Rain hits our lives. It not a matter of if but of when. Some of you have had tremendous trials already. Others of you have much bigger trials yet to come.

When those rains come, will your house be built on sand or rock? The house built on the sand is a house that looks good on the outside and works pretty well a lot of the time, but that is ultimately build on the personal pride of life. It is on really shaky ground. It doesn’t view what is real. It leaves out God as the center, as the foundation.

Instead, build your house on the rocks. This is the place of trust and humility. It’s the rock-solid bedrock place of friendship with God, of relationship with him as your anchor, as your fortress – in him you will not be shaken. Anything else will be brought down.

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

  1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
  1. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
  1. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
  1. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Doug in library