gods hope

The Birth and Re-birth of God’s hope

Scripture Readings:

  • Isaiah 35:1–10
  • Matthew 11:2-11

Today’s text is about the restoration of God’s people. God reveals his plan to redeem his holy people and his world and to heal all human weaknesses. Isaiah 35 bridges the gap between the dark days and the hope for a new day after the return from captivity. In accordance with God’s promised words, thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers. Deserts will sing joyful songs. Everyone will see the wonderful splendour of the Lord our God. God’s splendour will be seen. If God could change the dry wasteland so radically, how much more he could do so for humanity!

The prophet was called to encourage the weak. Their reason for fear would vanish, and the divine appearance would destroy the enemy but bring salvation to the people of God. Such salvation is not limited to a spiritual aspect and includes whole areas. It is also open to all people who would find Jesus and His words.

As in verse 8 to10, the best was yet to come, and God’s purified people would pass over his highway, the Way of Holiness, and enter Zion. God would provide total safety for the joyous journey. People whom God had redeemed from captivity would be allowed on the road. May we all enter God’s holy way. In Christ, life would become a festival of singing to God. I hope that gladness and joy will be everlasting in your life on earth and eternal life.

In our present life, we could claim that life is unfair, and the world is ruled by injustice. However, God provides a longer perspective rather than short-term look. He promises that he has a timetable to restore justice and fairness to the world. The wicked will receive all the punishment they deserve, but the righteous will have reason to sing and dance and celebrate with joy and gladness. God will heal all human hurts and restore justice to his world on his time schedule and in his ways. 

From time to time, we are so impatient. We want to see the world changed right now. We want justice and recovery done today, and we want to be able to define what justice is. It is difficult for us to patiently wait for God to restore justice and fairness to the world on our timetables. We trust and love Jesus, but it is still hard to wait for His will done with patience. Some of us may desire to see results now. It is hard to wait for something in uncertainty. However, may we look back together to see if our lives are dominated by the joy of the Lord or by complaints of the world. Waiting in these difficult circumstances is well shown in the Gospel of Matthew.

In 11:1, Jesus departed to minister from city to city after completing his disciples’ training.  In 10, the Twelve also departed to spread the gospel in pairs, same as with the seventy-two in Luke 10. Jesus did not send out such inexperienced disciples alone but let them serve together.

Matthew is not saying that John knew Jesus was the promised one. In the context of his imprisonment, John sent his disciples to ask of Jesus revealed his doubts. Perhaps John, in the hopelessness of his imprisonment, was shaken by the popular expectations of the promised Messiah-King that he would come to rescue Israel from political oppression. John may have been asking, “If you are the king and I am your messenger how is it that I am in prison and opposition to you is growing?” John asked if Jesus was “the coming Messiah,” referring to the Old Testament prophecies. Even the king’s forerunner had his doubts about the king’s identity.

In verses 4 to 6, Jesus told John’s disciples to report what they hear and see. Then he outlined his ministry to refer to messianic signs that are prominent in the Old Testament. References to the blind, lame, and deaf remind us of Isaiah 35. Jesus had already used the healing of the leper as a testimony of his identity to the priests in 8. Jesus’ preaching brought hope to the spiritually poor and those who recognized their need for salvation.

In many ways Jesus was a contradiction to the people. They expected a Messiah who would overthrow Rome with political power, but Jesus was a humble teacher and a quiet healer to them. Jesus challenged the presuppositions of people about him through his words and deeds and ministries. Most were confused, and many refused to accept Jesus as Messiah. They stumbled over those words and actions that did not fit with their preconceptions. Only those who had ears to hear and eyes of faith to see would find the resolution to the paradox in the true Messiah-King. They can be the truly blessed ones. May the Lord give us ears to hear and eyes to see the truth about Jesus as the Messiah King.

In Matthew, the rejection of both John and Jesus and the growing opposition are revealed. Despite much evidence regarding Jesus’ amazing ministries and his miracles, the religious leaders remained in denial of Jesus’ identity. They actively opposed Jesus, and their opposition would lead them to crucify the Son of God. Today’s text indicates that Christ’s kingdom would be forcibly opposed by violent and hostile people. As Christ’s kingdom enlarges, the power of opposition would increase.

John the Baptizer was the prophet, the forerunner of the promised Messiah-King. Jesus identified John as the messenger of Malachi 3:1. (v.10) He was the greatest because of his role as the Messiah’s forerunner. However, even John the Baptizer had doubts. Doubts are natural, and the Lord understands them, but our response to doubts should be to “check it out,” accepting the answers when we find them. May we believe the Father’s will, demonstrate the characteristic of a kingdom family member, and bear the fruit of a faith relationship with the King.

The blessing of living in the right relationship with Jesus is to rest from the burden of selfish living and prideful efforts. It does not mean a burden-free life but carrying a burden which is meaningful. The blessing of living in a deep relationship with Jesus is joy from the suffering of unexpected living and tough times. It does not mean a sadness-free life, but rebirth of God’s hope even from the darkness. 

In God’s kingdom, love and compassion are higher priorities than keeping the rules. The King is a humble and gentle and life-giving Messiah. He gives hope and victory and joy to all who will trust him in waiting for the birth of Jesus and the rebirth of God’s hope. May we also exercise humility towards others with love and never allow pride to take root in our life. In everything, may we acknowledge and trust Jesus, our King. May we follow Jesus in faith and loving obedience.

God is on schedule to carry out his plan for the world. He saves his people to reveal his glory and expects his people to be holy. His plan is to bring everlasting joy to his people. May we give our fears to God and quit complaining about our weaknesses. We all have different kinds of weaknesses, but may we praise God for every sign of his saving work in our lives. God’s glory and joy are revealed through Jesus. Real joy comes from knowing that God loves us no matter what. May we Join God’s joy and make a straight path for the coming Jesus. God’s coming brings both judgement and redemption. When we celebrate Advent and the birth of Jesus, may we experience God’s joy and the rebirth of God’s hope in our lives. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)