READ: Psalm 68, Ezekiel 37-39, Mark 12, 1 Corinthians 3
THE SPIRIT OF HOPE
To live dead is to live in hope and to live very much alive. Those that die to self do so joyously for they believe that “captivity will [one day] be led captive” (Psalm 68:18). The second coming of Jesus is referred to as our “blessed hope,” for it is the culmination of all our lesser hopes, the fulfillment of all our longings. We should be under no delusion about the days between us and our ultimate redemption–they are going to get darker and darker, and evil will become stronger and stronger.
Hope is going to become rarer and more precious. Christians who hope in themselves or their efforts at justice are going to be the most disappointed for their hopes are going to be dashed. In these last days it is going to seem that evil is dominant, right up to the end. The familiar prophesy of Ezekiel to dry bones is a hope-themed proclamation. God explains the meaning of the dry bones and the reason for despair: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (Exe. 37:11). Lost hope is what leads to death, despair, and dry bones. Hopelessness kills us. To live we must retain hope, we must fight to hope, for when God opens our graves of hopelessness (v. 13) and puts His Spirit in us (v. 14), we then find life for God’s Spirit is a Spirit of hope!
The darker life gets, the gladder the Christian can become, for the follower of Jesus knows something that others cannot: “He is not the God of the dead, but the living” (Mark 12:27)! Twice Mark points out that man is greatly mistaken (and damaged) when he opts for hopelessness. When we don’t know the scriptures (the promise of hope) or the power of God (the provision of hope), death, disease, and disappointment are crippling. For the believer, impossible darkness and death are merely the foil for the bright promises of God, and hope is what links us from our horrible reality to our wonderful deliverance. Hope helps us say: “Death? Trouble? Anguish? Sickness? Trial? Pain? Suffering? We do not quake before them, for we have hope that they will be destroyed. We have hope that dry bones will live. We have hope that there is a final, ultimate, eternal deliverance.”
Hope does us one further service: Hope helps us see that trouble and anguish are not the dominant themes of life. Satan strives to dominate our attention and make us think that our lot is essentially difficult (he magnifies pain hoping to use it to dominate our thinking), but the clear reality of hope objects and declares: “Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). Hope confronts and defeats the lie that the preponderance of our life is unfortunate and reminds us that even now in Christ, we are incredibly favored. It is pain and trouble that is the anomaly; it is the goodness of God that is the norm. Hope reminds us that even as we wait for final freedom, life in Jesus now is incredibly sweet.