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The God of Hope

Date: Dec. 4, 2016

Author: Michael Mark

Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

Key Verse: Romans 15:13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hope is looking forward to something.  It is an anticipation of something you desire.  The Christmas season is a season of hope.  When I was a child, my family arranged a secret santa gift exchange.  When we met on Thanksgiving, everyone would write their name and a wishlist of 3 things on a piece of paper, and the adults would pick someone else’s wishlist from a bowl.  The benefit to being a child was that you didn’t have to get a gift for someone, but you would always get what you wanted for Christmas.  So growing up, Christmas was always a time of sweet anticipation.  I couldn’t wait until the next time we met to receive my gifts.  The excitement came from a hope and anticipation in something that was not seen, but real.  In much the same way, Christmas is a time of hope.  It is a time to remember the gift that God gave to the world, and also an anticipation of a better world to come.  And to the extent we believe and trust in these promises, to the extent they are real to us, so will our hope be.  And we have good reason to hope.  As our key verse says, God is a God of hope.  He is the God of hope.  He is the author and provider of hope.  He gives us hope.  Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  I pray that your hope and anticipation may fill to overflowing, as we look today at how God gives us hope.  Based on the key verse, we will look at the how God gives us hope by filling us with joy and peace.  We will see how we are filled with hope through trusting God.  And finally we will see how hope overflows by the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let’s look at how God gives us hope by filling us with joy and peace.  Because of God, Christmas is a time of joy and peace.  Let’s see how God brings peace to the world, as told to us by the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 11:1 says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”  This prophecy begins right after God has promised to destroy Assyria, which he was using to discipline Israel for their unfaithfulness.  You wonder where this peace is coming from right?  He compares Assyria to a mighty forest that he will lop off with a mighty blow.  Eventually Jerusalem is destroyed too, because of their idolatrous kings.  So here we have a picture of a stump, a mighty tree that was cut down.  It is the stump of Jesse, who was the father of King David.  Here we have a royal stump.  It looks dead, for how can a cut tree survive?  But look closely.  What does the prophet see?  He sees a shoot – a tiny, little green shoot coming out of the stump.  This is life!  It’s hope!  The little shoot looks weak, and small, but eventually it will grow to even bear fruit.  Isaiah here is prophesying about the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Here it is revealed, more than 700 years before the Savior is born, that he would be in the royal line of David.  But why does Isaiah say the stump of Jesse, and not the stump of David?  It is to indicate the Messiah’s humble birth.  King David is considered to be the most glorious king in Israel’s history, and while it is true that Jesus is also descended from King David, Jesse is mentioned here to show that the Messiah will be born in humble circumstances.  And he will be a branch – gentle, and meek, but eventually this shoot will surpass the stump it where it grew.  The Messiah would be born as a man, but as the lowliest of men.

The Messiah will be identified by the power of the Holy Spirit that is within him.  Isaiah continues, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord (Isa 11:2).”  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on this man.  Never in history has God’s Spirit rested so fully on any man.  Often, the hearts of men grieve away the Spirit of God.  Sometimes it’s even hard for husbands and wives, or roommates to live together, isn’t it?  How much more do our sins grieve a righteous God?  But the Spirit of the Lord rests on this Messiah, and look at the power the Spirit gives.  You can see it in 3 pairs.  The Spirit of God is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.  This Spirit will empower this man to have keen intellectual and moral insight.  The Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of counsel and might.  This man will be empowered to make judgments and execute them.  The Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  This is interesting.  The Spirit gives the knowledge and fear of the Lord.  According to one commentary, this is true religion founded on the love of God.  The Spirit enables one to love God, and therefore increases the knowledge of God, and the fear of God.  And fear here means a reverential awe of God.  The Messiah delights in the fear of the Lord.  Wisdom, understanding, counsel and might are great, but we learn from Isaiah how much more important it is to fear God.  Indeed the book of Proverbs opens up with “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov 1:7).

This shoot from the root of Jesse will not judge by mere appearances or on what people say, but he will judge with righteousness and justice the cases of the poor and needy (Isa 11:3-4).  This is a stark contrast with the kings of Israel and Judah whom Isaiah was addressing in his book.  These kings were called rebels, partners with thieves, lovers of bribes, chasers of gifts.  They did not defend the fatherless or widows (Isa 1:23).  There cannot be peace under rulers like these, yet rulers like these fill the whole earth.  There have been wars in every part of the world throughout all of history, even to this day.  World peace seems so elusive, because kings do not rule in righteousness.  But the king that God is raising up will have righteousness as his belt, and faithfulness around his waist.  God is raising up a Redeemer for his people to restore peace.  Verse 4 tells us how powerful he will be.  “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.”  His weapons are not earthly, but spiritual.  The power of his words are sharper than a two-edged sword, convicting the sinner of guilt.  And with his word he can consign the wicked to eternal punishment.  What Isaiah couldn’t see clearly, because these things had not happened yet, we see clearly today – that the Son of God made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Php 2:6-7), dependent on the Holy Spirit, in order to come into the world and restore peace.

This peace is not just in one country or one part of the world, but it will be universal.  It will not just be between man and man, but also between man and animal, even animal and animal, and more importantly there will be peace between man and God.  Look at Isaiah’s vision of peace in v.6-8, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  [notice here the dominion of man over the earth will also be restored].  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.”  It was because of sin the whole world came under the curse of death.  Animals may not have even been meat eaters, I have read more than one story of bears chasing and eating people, but in the restored kingdom nothing will harm or destroy, because the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.  Where does peace come from?  It comes from God.  This is a universal paradise, and I believe what Isaiah envisions here is literal.  There will be a new earth – heaven will no longer be separated but combined – God will live with his people in his kingdom.  Imagine that anywhere and everywhere you go, there will be safety and security, no harm will ever come to you.

This universal peace comes through Christ Jesus.  He is the Messiah, the Redeemer Isaiah prophesied about.  Look at v.10, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”  The Root of Jesse refers to Jesus, and he will stand as a banner.  Banners are flags, for example, the American Flag is called the Star-Spangled Banner.  In ancient times flags were placed on top of high places to signify places of safety that the people will run to in case of an attack.  See now, the little green shoot is now a banner lifted high for all the world to see.  Jesus is the flag, the symbol of peace between men and God, that we can run to for peace.  Indeed, Jesus was lifted up to draw all men to himself.  He was lifted up on a cross for you and me.  Jesus reconciled us with God, by taking our punishment upon himself.  By his death on the cross he put an end to sin, made atonement for our wickedness, and brought in everlasting righteousness.  Jesus Christ then rose from the dead, defeating the power of death, showing to us that all our debt has been paid, the transaction cleared and approved by God, and made a way for us to go to receive eternal life.  Jesus lives, and sits at the right hand of God the Father.  This is a seat of power, but it is also called his resting place.  His resting place is glorious.  Even when he rules, he is peaceful, tranquil and calm.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he gives us peace.  The world often gives us loads of anxiety – but here is your peace – you have been made right with God, and there is in store for you an everlasting paradise.  This world is temporal, and will pass away, but in Christ you will enter in to eternal life.

What wonderful promises God has in store for us!  Righteousness gives us reasons to rejoice.  No one ever rejoices when they are mistreated and cheated, but people rejoice when they are loved and enabled to live, when they are treated well and protected, and when justice is served.  A righteous king will protect and prosper his people, but a wicked king will oppress and abuse them.  Proverbs says, “When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive…When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan. (Prov 28:28, 29:2).”  We have reason to rejoice because God has given us a king who is perfectly righteous, and brings peace.  We see a picture of this king in Psalm 72.  This Psalm was authored by King Solomon, David’s son, and he ruled Israel during a time of great peace and prosperity, about 1000 years before Jesus came.  It seems like he wrote this Psalm as a prayer for himself, but as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is actually a song about the Messiah.

Look at v.1-2 of Psalm 72: “Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.  May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.”  Solomon was both the king and a royal son, and so is Jesus.  We see in his prayer, that justice and righteousness is given to a king by God.  And it’s not just general justice or righteousness, it’s God’s justice and God’s righteousness.  This is how we can pray for our leaders of our nations – that God may grant his justice and his righteousness to them, so that they may judge the people in righteousness.  This king would defend the afflicted, save the needy, and crush the oppressor (v.4).  He is a perfectly righteous king!  And the whole world will be under his rule, everyone will benefit!  He’s like a breath of fresh air, a refreshing drink – as it says in v.6, “May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.”  In his reign, the mountains will bring prosperity to the people, and the hills the fruit of righteousness.  The peaceful rule enables people to prosper, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.  The land will not be dangerous or destroyed by an enemy.  People can sow and harvest, from their homes and lands, all the way up into the mountains.  This king will rule forever, as Solomon writes – “May he endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations.”  This is another way of saying, may he endure forever.  And during his reign the righteous will flourish, and prosperity abound till the moon is no more, in the same way saying prosperity will never end.  You will flourish under the reign of Christ, and this is the reason to rejoice!  And when we rejoice we give God glory.  Psalm 72:18-19 ends in a doxology, a song of praise to God: “Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.  Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory.  Amen and Amen.”  From this we learn who it is that brings us joy and peace: it is God alone by his marvelous deeds.

Looking again now at the key verse Rom 15:13, in the second part, we can see when we are filled with joy and peace.  God fills us with all joy and peace as we trust him.  In trusting God, we are continually being filled with joy and peace.  What does it mean to trust him?  It means to believe him.  It means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is the way in which our sins are cleansed and that he is our Lord and King.  This is shown through repentance and turning to Christ.  If you look back at Isaiah 11:10, it says that the nations will rally to him.  That means the nations are seeking him in order to worship him, because they have believed that he is the way to salvation.  Romans 5:12 quotes Isaiah 11:10, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”  It looks a little different because Paul is quoting a Greek translation of that verse originally written in Hebrew, but the meaning is the same.  All nations is the same as saying the Gentiles, and because Jesus is their hope, they trust in him.  We don’t have to go to Jerusalem, or to any other location to find Jesus.  He can be found when we believe in him, and that is worshipping in Spirit and in truth.

You can see a group of people seeking after God in the passage in Matthew, during the ministry of John the Baptist.  Matt 3:5-6 says, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”  Believing what God says means to acknowledge that you are a sinner and repenting of your sins, and turning to God.  It is to acknowledge your inability to do right, and depend on him for the forgiveness of your sins and righteousness.  John gave some harsh words to a group of people who thought otherwise.  When John saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath!”  John was astonished that they came, and questioned their motives.  It sounds really strong, what he was saying, but we must understand that these were men who had rejected God’s truth.  Jesus himself, who knows men’s hearts, also called them a brood of vipers (Matt 23:33).  The Pharisees trusted in their own abilities to make themselves righteous.  They often held up their tradition over showing mercy or justice.  The Saducees were a worldly and wealthy elite who rejected the resurrection.  We can’t say what their motives were for being at the baptism – maybe because it the trendy thing to do, or they wanted some influence over it, but I doubt that they had confessed their sins or had a real desire to repent, which may have been the reason for John’s strong words.  John may have also been able to discern their motives by the fruit that they bore.  They may have come with some manner of pride, so John says, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”  In other words, he is saying, “Bear fruit that corresponds to repentance,” or “Bear fruit that is consistent with the evidence of true repentance.”  True repentance will produce good fruit.  By trusting and believing in God, you will be filled with good fruit, two of which are joy and peace.

This leads us to the third part of the key verse, overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  While God fills us with joy and peace, we overflow with hope.  That is, we have an abundance of hope which gives us a full assurance, and keeps us safe and secure in any circumstance.  This verse also tells us how we can overflow with hope, and that is by the power of the Holy Spirit.  John spoke to those who were baptized in Matt 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  John could only baptize for repentance.  He could only confirm the confession of faith, but John the Baptist could not make you holy, or righteous, or save you.  That required someone far greater, and far more powerful.  He pointed everyone to Jesus Christ, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Jesus was the first to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because he was the righteous, sinless Son of God.  But after he took away the sin of the world, he made it possible for sinners like us to receive the Holy Spirit.  He told his disciples that he had to leave them so that he could send them the Holy Spirit.  This is the same Holy Spirit we saw in Isaiah 11:2.  The same power that filled Jesus Christ fills us too.  This is the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord lives in us.  The Spirit of the Lord lives in us through Jesus Christ!  As John baptized with water, Jesus baptizes us with fire.  This fire is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit ignites in us a love and a passion for God.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and cleanses our souls.  The Holy Spirit gives us a new birth and makes us a new creation.  The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and understanding of the truth, he illuminates the word of God to us, and he gives us the knowledge and fear of God.  The Holy Spirit helps us and gives us strength to obey God and do his will, causing us to bear good fruit for his glory.

As we continue to bear good fruit consistent with true repentance, we grow more and more in the knowledge and the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This increases our faith and our hope, because the more we grow in the grace of God, the more we long for Christ to return and bring to fulfillment the universal paradise that Isaiah foresaw.  The latest presidential election seemed to produce a lot of anxiety, anger, fear, uncertainty, and division.  These may seem like uncertain times, and there are rulers all over the world that do not have the fear of God.  But one day the righteous king will return, he will separate the righteous from the wicked, and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.  Peace will return.  Until that time, God will give us endurance and encouragement and the same attitude of Christ towards one another.  Paul tells us in the meantime to accept one another, receive one another, Christians, as brothers and sisters, love one another to bring praise to God.  The Scriptures teach us endurance and provide encouragement so that we might have hope.  The giving and receiving of gifts is not the most important, but one of the joys of Christmas.  As a child, I trusted that my family would fulfil my Christmas wants, I had no doubt in their love.  My hope was excited in eager anticipation – it was a real hope in what I did not yet see.  In the same way, God the Father loves us, that he has lavished us with many gifts.  He wants to give us hope.  He has given us his Son, as he promised in the Scriptures.  He has given us his Holy Spirit.  If that were not enough, he has also given us an inheritance in his kingdom.  Real estate in paradise, the new earth.  This he will bring with him when he comes again.  You will get to live with God and see him with your own eyes.  May you eagerly look forward to the second coming of the Lord, every day and any day.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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