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A Tidal Wave of Hope

There is much hope to be found in the Bible. It is a life-giving and life-changing book. It tells the story of a God who deeply cares for his people (Ps. 23) and his creation (Ps. 24.1). His ways are higher than our ways (Is. 55.9) and his mind is complex (1 Cor. 2.16). The Bible tells the story of how God is rescuing and redeeming a world broken by sin (Rom. 8.20-22). And because of sin, we don’t always see or hear or feel God’s presence everywhere around us. It is in those seasons of life when it seems like he is not there, that we need these waves of hope from his Word to crash in on us and remind us of his promises.

Hebrews 13.5 is one of those great promises, “be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” This verse has been at the bottom of much comfort to God’s people when they can’t see his hand in action. And there is much comfort - even joy - to be had in knowing and believing that God will never leave us. But what drives God to make such a promise? What’s behind this promise ensuring that God will come through? As fickle and emotionally unstable (we all are on some level) people so susceptible to doubt and suspicion, how can we be sure that God will not change his mind? After all, he’s God - he can do whatever he wants! Couple that with our American, independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to question or doubt whether God will keep his promise.

The answer is found in 1 Samuel 12.22 - perhaps one of the tidal waves of hope we can have in the grounds of our salvation. It doesn’t simply make the same promise as Hebrews 13.5, but goes one step further and tells us why. “For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” (1 Sam. 12.22)

Why will God keep his promise and never leave us or forsake us? Because of himself. Because of his faithfulness. And because of his own pleasure. Deuteronomy 7.6 tells us that God chose his people to be his “treasured possession” - in other words, he has pleasure in his people. He treasures us and saves us! But not because of anything that depends on us. Not because we’re good or keep all the rules or have earned anything. He will not forsake his people “for his great name’s sake.” At the risk of his own name and fame, he will not forsake his people. Why? “Because it pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”

And this is the wave of hope for our salvation! That God will keep his promise because it pleased him to make us a people for himself. He will never leave us because he has pleasure in keeping his promise, and God does whatever he pleases (Ps. 115.3135.6).

The Importance. The Benefit. The Goal.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15.4

Memorizing a verse like Romans 15.4 can be immensely helpful. Simple and fairly self-explanatory, this verse reinforces the importance, the benefits, and the goal of the Scriptures. Paul is referring back to the whole of the Old Testament. The Torah. The books of wisdom. The prophets. And he says it was all written for the same purpose - and produces the same result.

Paul's assertion implies that whatever was written down (though actually written by men), was given by God. Only He can instruct. Only He can offer hope. Then Paul says it was written "for our instruction." Not only their instruction. Paul's present tense indicates that the Scriptures were written down not only for the ones who directly received them, but for us also! Whatever was written, though written hundreds or thousands of years before, was written for Paul...

And for us today.

Because we are familiar with the Scriptures and treasure them in our heart, we can have hope.

So if it was written for them (and for us!), why is it so important? What is it for? What does it do? The answers are found in three short parts to this verse.

1. The Scriptures were written for our instruction (the Importance). By studying the Scriptures, we are "instructed" in the ways of holiness, we learn who Jesus is and how to be more like Him, we learn about God's purposes and we are instructed in properly responding to Him. Granted,  not everyone can be a scholar - or study their Bible all day, every day. However, every Christian should see the Word as the best instruction, and honor God by using their time and talent wisely to study it. John Piper says it like this*: "We [all] need a systematic diet of instruction, not just a few crumbs a day, if we are going to fight successfully to maintain the full assurance of hope to the end."

2. The Scriptures were written to encourage (the Benefit). When the instruction of the Word makes its way from the head to the heart, it encourages us. The closer we get to Jesus and the more we let His words shape our lives, the easier it is to find peace and encouragement. Instruction says, "Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works" (Ps. 119.27). Encouragement understands and applies that, and says, "The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (Ps. 119.72).

3. The Scriptures were written to give hope (the Goal). Once instruction renews our mind (Rom. 12.2), and encouragement gives peace to our heart (John 16.33), then we can say with the psalmist, "My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word (Ps. 119.81). Because we are familiar with the Scriptures and treasure them in our heart, we can have hope. We can hold on. We can suffer in many situations where the world would say "give up." The Scriptures give hope. Hope for an escape from this fallen world - hope for an eternity spent with Jesus. That hope sustained three Turkish missionaries through brutal torture before finally being killed. You can read their story and see how hope sustained them here. But that kind of hope doesn't come without the instruction or the encouragement of the Word first.

*Taken from the sermon "How Can I Keep On Hoping? The Scriptures!"  preached by John Piper on Romans 15.4, on May 4, 1986.