“Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?”
These words of Psalm 77 are like those of a personal journal. The Psalmist’s ink quail puts to paper the truth of his thoughts. They may be private thoughts; embarrassment would come if anyone else knew how he felt. However, they are relatable thoughts. Many ask the same questions amid life’s troubles. In fact, you may have noticed the questions and wondered how I knew what you were thinking.
It seems we ask these questions in hard times, feeling the answer may be yes, but Scripture reminds us the Lord is always faithful, always keeping his promises. As Hebrews 4 says, the Lord will never leave us, and Isaiah 64 states the Lord works for those who wait for him. The Psalmist said he asked these questions, but found hope in remembering the Lord.
He says in verse 11, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord.” As he remembered the Lord, the Psalmist hope was restored.
We too can find hope in remembering the Lord.
We can find hope in remembering his deeds.
In verses 11-12, the Psalmist says, “I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”
Remember all the deeds of the Lord: how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, how he helped Israel with the overwhelming task of conquering Canaan, and how he come walking out of the tomb. The Lord has always provided an answer to his people. Our hope can be restored by remembering his deeds.
We can find hope in remembering his character.
The Lord is holy. The Lord is merciful, gracious, loving, compassionate, faithful, and more! Remembering his character can bring us great hope.
We can find hope in remembering his power
The Psalmist proclaims in verse 14, “You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.”
God’s power has been on display throughout history. It was visible when he brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, toppled the walls of Jericho, and calmed the storm with a single word. The Lord’s power is awesome, and he works for those who wait for him. Remembering the Lord’s power restores our hope.
The Lord’s deeds, character, and power can provide us with much hope. The next time you feel rejected, failed, or as if the Lord has turned his back on you, restore your hope by remembering his deeds, character, and power.
All the Gospel writers tell us of a resurrection. They each approach it from a different angle, but come to the same climax: the tomb is empty. Jesus coming out of the tomb and leaving it empty gives us much hope. Our hope rests on the foundation of Jesus being alive. So, how can, we be sure? How can we be sure the tomb is empty and our hope is resting in the right place?
Paul helps shed some light on these questions. In 1 Corinthians 15, as if he were presenting a case in court, Paul lays out 4 reasons our hope is on a firm foundation.
First, the Scriptures said Jesus would rise.
1 Corinthians 15 says Christ’s tomb was emptied just as the Scriptures declared. There are many Old Testament prophecies that point to Jesus coming out of the grave; Psalm 16 among them. Peter eloquently explains this fact. In Acts 2, he says:
“King David said this about him:
‘I see that the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad,
and my tongue shouts his praises!
My body rests in hope.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
You have shown me the way of life,
and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.”
The Scriptures pointed to Jesus vacating the tomb.
Second, Jesus made several appearances.
To continue his case, Paul brings eyewitness accounts into the courtroom. In 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”
Jesus not only appeared to individuals, he appeared to a large group. Over 500 people have the same account: Jesus appeared to them. If this were false, a few individuals’ stories may align, but getting 500 people to tell the same story is virtually impossible. Playing the game Telephone illustrates how difficult it is to keep a story straight in a large group. Each time the story is passed from person to person in the circle, it changes a little. It’s often not even the same story when it makes it around the circle. Keeping stories straight is hard, unless they are true.
500 eyewitnesses taking the stand to declare the same thing is undeniable. The risen Lord appeared to them.
Third, since Christ lives, we live.
Paul’s third point reminds us the way to life is Christ. It was Jesus’ work on the cross and death which paid the penalty for the world’s sins. His corpse was placed in the tomb after his death.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So, you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”
We can sum it up this way: Jesus started a long legacy of folks leaving the cemetery. If he lives, we too can live. Jesus declares in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
Fourth, death has been struck a death blow.
In his fourth point, Paul helps us understand when Jesus walked out of the grave, he destroyed death’s power. It was in this moment Jesus stripped death of its grip. The Psalmist writes, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not be afraid,” because death does not have the power to hold onto us. Christ took it away.
1 Corinthians 15 proclaims:
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These 4 points help us see the empty tomb is a solid foundation for our hope. It is because of an empty tomb we have hope, and our hope is more than wishful thinking. Our hope is the truth of knowing victory is ours in Christ. Our hope is knowing, though we may have troubles now, we will overcome them because of an empty tomb.
It was about a seven-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. A journey of this length gives you some time to talk, so the two disciples were discussing, and maybe at times debating, the events of the past few days. They had been in Jerusalem following Jesus, and a lot had taken place. A week earlier these disciples were filled with joy and great anticipation as Jesus entered Jerusalem, but those feelings quickly faded as the week unfolded. Today, these two men are down-and-out, and they are not sure what to make of everything that has happened.
“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him,” says Luke 24. “He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still; their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
Notice they hoped, which is past tense. They have given up at this point. Their desire was to be free from the Roman government, and they thought Jesus was going to be the one who overthrew the Romans. They had longed for this day, but it didn’t happen the way the disciples had it pictured. And confusion was added to their disappointment this morning, they found out Jesus’ body is missing from the tomb.
Continuing their conversation with Jesus, they said,
“And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” Not sure what to make of things, the two disciples decide to return to Emmaus.
I can relate to these guys, and perhaps you can as well. We have an idea of what life is going to look like; the picture we have in our mind is exactly what we desire, and it seems everything is moving in that direction. But suddenly, it changes. Suddenly, it shatters. It shattered by a phone call from a doctor saying we have cancer. It is tattered after months of financial struggle has left us nearly bankrupt. It is violently torn by a devastating heartbreak. Our hope for life to unfold as it is pictured in our mind is gone. The picture seems to be only a distant memory. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we simply don’t know what to make of things, and we are perplexed by life’s shattered pieces lying around us.
It is in moments like this we can be grateful for what Jesus showed the disciples. As they traveled, he helped them understand the promises of the Lord are trustworthy.
Jesus says in Luke 24, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Suddenly, these two guys connect the dots and realize every word of Scripture is true. It turned out their picture of life was not a reality, but there was something even better happening. There was something even better coming. They realized they could fully hope in the promises of the Lord. His promises are trustworthy.
Because of an empty tomb, you and I know we can fully hope in the promises of the Lord. Psalm 145:13 says, “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.”
Our mind’s picture of life may have been shattered, but we have hope of something better coming. “Trust in God; trust also in me,” Jesus encourages. We can fully hope in the trustworthy promise of something better coming. We have the faithful promise of eternal life in Heaven.
As for the disciples traveling to Emmaus, Luke says they returned to Jerusalem the same day. This means they walked 14 miles in one day, and I’ve often wondered if they had to buy a new pair of sandals the next day.
There is an old song which says, “I never promised you a rose garden.” And, even if life would be a rose garden, roses have thorns. It is not a well-kept secret life is filled with difficulties. There are the headline grabbing challenges such as a pandemic, and the challenges which rock only our own little world. Pink slips and financial burdens can stun us while the rest of the world breezes by. We do not have to search for the difficulties of life; they find us, but we can find hope during these challenging times.
It was certainly no rose garden for the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah spoke of famine and drought; he spoke of harsh and hard times. But he also spoke of hope and where to find it amid life’s difficulties. Jeremiah’s words provided a way for the Israelites to find hope.
Jeremiah can lead us to hope just as he did the Israelites. Notice Jeremiah’s words in 17:5-8.
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.
7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
A gardener bought two identical plants. She planted one in the middle of the desert and the other in fertile soil. Both plants look good for a couple days, but it did not take long for the plant in the desert to wither and die. Meanwhile, the plant in the fertile soil thrived, staying healthy even though conditions became harsh. Jeremiah’s prophecy helps us apply this principle to ourselves.
The person who puts his trust in man will be disappointed and let down. Hoping only in man will place us in the Valley of Broken Promises. Man is fallible and easily makes mistakes. Leaving the Lord out and completely trusting man leaves us in the desert.
But putting our trust in the Lord will always give us hope. The Lord is faithful to always keep his promises. Notice again the words of Jeremiah 17:7-8. Blessed is the person who trusts in the Lord. He or she can survive the challenging times in life.
The Psalmist puts it this way. Psalm 1:3 says:
“They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.”
Trusting in the Lord is what pulls us through those challenging times. It is what gives us the strength to push through and the hope of a better season coming. Where is your trust being placed today?
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Their lives were hard. Day after day, they endured harsh labor as they made bricks. Their bosses overlooking every step, and their quota seeming unrealistic and never ending. They cried out for relief and hoped that one day it would come. Their hope fueled by a forefather, who by faith, requested his remains be carried with them to the promised land. Generation after generation heard this request and cherished the idea it would come true someday. Hope continued through the generations.
Hope, in many ways, is fuel for our soul. It is what drives us forward. Hope of something better coming pushes us through the rough and challenging times. When our bank account is empty or we’re being slaughtered in the gossip circles, it is our hope which propels us forward.
For the nation of Israel, their hope was in Joseph’s request to carry his remains with them as they left Egypt for the promised land. Hebrews 11:22 says it was Joseph’s faith which gave him this hope.
- 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
Because of his faith, Joseph knew the Lord would bring Israel out of Egypt. He understood he would not see Israel’s deliverance, but he knew it would come when the time was right. So, Joseph gave instructions for his burial. It was Joseph’s instructions which gave the Israelites hope for generations. Basically, they were placing their hope in a dead man’s faithful instructions.
We, as Christ followers, have something better. Our hope is not in a forefather’s faith, but in a living Savior. 1 Peter 1:3-9 encourages:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Max Lucado writes:
Others offer life, but no one offers to do what Jesus does—to reconnect us to his power. But how can we know? How do we know that Jesus knows what he’s talking about? The ultimate answer, according to his flagship followers, is the vacated tomb. Did you note the words you just read? “A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” In the final sum, it was the disrupted grave that convinced the maiden Christians to cast their lots with Christ. “He appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (1Co 15:5–6).
Can Jesus actually replace death with life? He did a convincing job with his own. We can trust him because he has been there.
He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rags and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudden change turn to Christ. Why?
Because he’s been there.
He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills. To Galilee, where he recruited direct reports and separated fighters. To Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics.
We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates.
Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with your challenges? Because he’s been there. To Nazareth, to Galilee, to Jerusalem.
But most of all, he’s been to the grave. Not as a visitor, but as a corpse. Buried amidst the cadavers. Numbered among the dead.
Heart silent and lungs vacant. Body wrapped and grave sealed.
The cemetery. He’s been buried there.
You haven’t yet. But you will be. And since you will, don’t you need someone who knows the way out?
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A promise was made for many years. The promise was made through such people as Nathan, Isaiah, and David. God himself made the promise in the Garden of Eden, and when its fulfillment was close, the angel Gabriel was given the task of announcing its arrival. The promise is a Savior. Someone to help us in our time of need. We can celebrate because the long-awaited promise was delivered on Christmas.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways through our ancestors the prophets, and now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son, he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in Heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Jesus is the one for whom many generations waited. He is the one they knew would be coming, and for us, we can say he has come. Jesus is God with us to save us. In his coming, Jesus brings life, help, peace, forgiveness, and hope to us.
- “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” Jesus says in John 10:10.
- Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Because God’s children are human beings, made of flesh and blood, the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”
- Hebrews 2:16 says, “We also know that the Son did not come to help angels. He came to help the descendants of Abraham.”
- Hebrews 2:18 says, “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing he is able to help us when we are being tested.”
- Philippians 4 encourages us to allow the peace of God, which goes beyond our understanding, to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
- Hebrews 2:17-18 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.
- 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that God made him with no sin to be our sin so that we could be made new in him.
- Jesus reminds us in John 14 he is going to prepare a place for us. When it is ready, he will come back to take us with him.
- 2 Corinthians 4 says our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh them all.
The long-awaited promise has been fulfilled. God gave us Jesus for Christmas. Take a moment to thank God for his gift today. Take a moment to thank him for his goodness.
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A father and son enjoyed collecting art. They enjoyed attending art auctions together, and the two had amassed a stunning collection. Paintings by famous artists lined the walls of their living room, and the two spent much time pursuing their hobby.
One day the son received word he had been drafted, and he was to report to basic training before heading overseas. A few months later, early December to be exact, the father received news his son had been killed.
Still absorbing the shock, the father decided to spend Christmas day alone, but as he was sitting in his easy chair, there was a knock at the door.
The man opened the door to find a tall, young man standing there with a package under his arm. “Good morning sir,” the young man said, “may I come in?”
The father invited the young man into the house, and the young man began to explain, “I knew your son. I’m actually the one he was saving when he was shot. I know you like art as I do, so I wanted to give this to you.”
He unwrapped the package to reveal a portrait of the father’s son. “It is not the fanciest painting. I did it myself, and I thought you would enjoy having it.”
The father quickly jumped up to rearrange his collection giving the portrait of his son a prominent place. He placed it above his fireplace directly across from his easy chair. The father could gaze upon his son every time he sat in the chair. The father and soldier spent Christmas day together talking and laughing before parting ways.
Years later, the father passed away, and he left instructions in his will to have his art collection auctioned on Christmas day. Many collectors from around the country arrived to bid on the collection.
The crowd was upset when they realized the first painting on the block was the portrait of the father’s son. The auctioneer tried to move the painting for several minutes before a neighbor finally bid $10.
“I knew the boy, so I’d like to have the painting,” the woman said.
“Going once. Going twice. Sold,” came the auctioneer’s voice as the crowd cheered wildly.
“Now we can get on with the good stuff,” they snorted, but they were shocked when the auctioneer slammed his gavel declaring the auction over.
“How is it over,” the crowd demanded. “We didn’t even have a chance to bid on the good paintings.”
The auctioneer explained the father’s instructions were to give the whole collection to the person who bought the portrait of his son.
God’s Christmas Gift
Romans 8:32 says, “Since he did not spare even his own son, but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Don’t miss the true gift of Christmas.
People search for peace and hope in many places. Shiny packages of all kinds contain promises of peace and hope, but they are empty or fall short. True peace and hope are found in God’s Christmas gift. “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you,” the angel told the shepherds. He is Jesus.
As you hustle and bustle this year, take a moment to find and reflect on the true gift of Christmas. Whoever gets the son, according to God, gets everything else.
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