Advent: Hope Of All Hopes

The world is waiting breathless for salvation from the prison of hopelessness.

We long for an end to the tyranny of fear, physical destruction and the power of an enemy that is stalking, harming and killing those we love.

Rumors of imminent help pass from lips to lips but rescue is still a distant hope.

Israel was waiting too.

And that is when God gave Isaiah this message for His people:

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
    The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
    He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
    Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6 VOICE

This message is for us as well-so much truth, hope and promise packed into a single verse!

The Christmas story is all about beginnings and seeds of promise. But Jesus didn’t remain an infant and the prophet takes us from birth to Second Coming in a few sentences.

Yes, a Son was given but that Son grew into a Savior.

I’m oh, so thankful that the Baby in the manger is now the reigning Prince of Peace! I cling tightly to the truth that He is my “Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing, Master of Wholeness”!

The day Dominic died I wrote in my journal:

“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the Name of the LORD.  May my soul find rest in Thee alone.  May my eyes look only to Thy face.  May my heart’s peace be the Prince of Peace.  ‘Dominic’–belonging to God–You gave him to me and he is Yours again.  Marana Tha–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His death, He knew they would need a Counselor in their grief.  They would need a guide through the difficult and scary and confusing path they were about to walk.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit-the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” 

John 14:26 CSB

Because I believe with my whole heart in the sufficiency of Christ’s blood and the supremacy of His Lordship, I am filled with His Spirit.

What a gift!  To have the Living God in me–my ever present Guide even on this most treacherous journey.

This is what the Baby came to bring-restoration, redemption and ever-lasting life.

An end to the tyranny of destruction and fear.

A hope and an eternal future.

QUESTIONS:

  • I once heard a Bible teacher explain Isaiah’s visions like this: It’s as if he saw two mountain peaks clearly (the earthly beginning of Jesus’ life, ministry and sacrifice and the ultimate, powerful rule and reign of His Second Coming) but couldn’t see the valley in between. I think that idea is perfectly illustrated by these verses. Jesus has come but there is still much suffering. What promises do you cling to in this Valley?
  • Do the names of Jesus described in these verses bring you hope? Why or why not?
  • Which is your favorite? Consider using a concordance to look up other verses in which it is used. Does that flesh out the meaning in any way?
  • I have frequently copied this passage into my journal and illustrated it in various ways. If you’ve never done something like that, try it. Writing the words in my own hand has really made them come alive in my heart.
  • You will notice I use a variety of translations in these devotionals. There are a number of free online Bible resources that will allow you to compare multiple translations at the same time. Try it with these verses or others. How does that help you gain a greater and deeper understanding of God’s Word?

PRAYER:

Father God,

There are days when my candle has burned low and my heart is heavy with grief. There are moments when hope feels so far away I can’t even imagine it still exists. Just then, You whisper, “Courage, My child”, to my soul.

So many times I’m at a loss for words but the Counselor prays for me. Often I wonder if there will ever be justice for the cruelty I see around me but I’m reminded that You are the Mighty God and will not allow injustice to reign forever. When peace feels like a distant dream, You come with a lamp as the Prince of Peace and flood my heart with wholeness.

Thank You that I have a Savior. Thank You that He conquered death. Thank You for these words of truth.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: When Peace Is Only A Whisper

My heart is so broken over the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Dayton, El Paso and Chicago.

Senseless violence spurred by hate.

I’m equally broken over Syria, the opioid epidemic and human trafficking.

It seems the world is spiraling downward into chaotic violence and unbridled hatred.

Peace feels like a distant hope, a faint whisper, a ridiculous aspiration of those who aren’t willing to see things as they are.

Our generation is not the first to feel this way.

The disciples were definitely not feeling peaceful as Jesus revealed that He was going away. They were afraid and confused. They could not imagine how the life they had come to know with the Rabbi they had come to love could continue without Him.

Jesus didn’t dismiss their fears. Instead He spoke words of comfort:

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. 26 But the [a]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.27 Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] ~ Jesus, to His disciples

John 14: 25-27 AMP

There’s all kinds of good news in this passage!

Jesus promised that although He wouldn’t be with them, He wasn’t leaving them alone.

The Holy Spirit was coming to comfort, counsel, strengthen and help them.

I love this rendering of these verses precisely because it teases out the various roles of the third Person of the Godhead. (If you want to be encouraged, look up all these words used to describe Him.)

Jesus assured them (and us) that they didn’t have understand everything right now. The Spirit was going to be there to remind them.

And then He promises peace.

But not just any peace-the perfect peace of God that passes all understanding.

The peace that transcends circumstances because it is based on the settled assurance that God is in control, that every promise He made is sure and that I am neither forgotten nor forsaken.

Fear reigns in the hearts of many-even those who believe in Jesus.

And if I trust in the government, or the police, or myself to keep me safe, I have every reason to be fearful.

But when I rest completely in Jehovah-Shalom, the LORD Who is Himself my Peace, I can be assured that I am safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.

QUESTIONS:

  • What do you think about the Holy Spirit? Have you ever considered the many ways He ministers to believers? Why or why not?
  • Just a little while after Jesus spoke the words we’re considering today, He said ,”Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. ” (John 16:7) Does this shock you? Why or why not?
  • Sometimes people complain that it’s hard to understand Scripture. I usually reply with two suggestions: (1) get an easy to understand translation (not paraphrase) and; (2) ask the Holy Spirit to guide your heart and mind into truth. How do you approach Scripture study? Will today’s exploration change your approach?
  • Write your own definition of peace. Do you think peace is possible in the world or only possible in Heaven?
  • When have you felt a supernatural peace calm your soul?
  • How can we share the peace of Christ with others?

PRAYER:

Lord, You are Three in One. Too often I think about and am grateful for the Father and Son but neglect the Holy Spirit. And yet He is the One Who helps me in my weakness, Who prays for me when groans are all I can muster and Who leads me into all truth.

Thank You for not leaving me alone. Thank You for sending the Comforter.

Help me listen better to what He has to say to me. Help me lean into the truth He leads me into. Let that truth guide my heart to Your peace.

Amen

Sar Shalom

Sar Shalom.

Prince of Peace.

My favorite name of Jesus.

According to Strong’s Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

Peace is not a place or a promise–peace is a Person.

I made this paper weight in January 2014 to remind me that Jesus IS Shalom–He IS Peace.

Four months into that year, my confidence in this truth was shaken. What tranquility can dwell in the heart of a mama who has to bury her child?  Where is wholeness when the family circle is torn asunder?

And yet…

Even as I walk this hard path, I am strangely, inexplicably at peace in the core of my being.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 AMPC

Surrounded by violence and threats of violence, peace is hard to come by. Fear reigns in the hearts of many–even those who believe in Christ.

And if we trust in the government, or the police, or ourselves to keep us safe, we have every reason to be fearful.

But when we rest completely in Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace who is Himself our Peace, we can be assured that we are safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.