God’s Name is Hope
This is Day 11 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“O Hope of Israel, Her Savior in time of distress and trouble, Why should You be like a sojourner (temporary resident) in the land Or like a traveler who turns aside and spreads his tent to linger [only] for a night? … Yet You, O Lord, are among us, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us!”-Jeremiah 14:8,9 (Amp)
When God feels like a stranger, remember that His name is Hope
Our hope verse today is authored by a prophet named Jeremiah, whom some have called “The Weeping Prophet” because his messages contain a lot of bad news and warnings of suffering and exile, and also because he wrote Lamentations, which is an entire book of lamenting. When Jeremiah writes a verse about hope it’s like a single smile in an ocean of tears.
As someone who writes historical fiction about the period before and during the Exile of Israel to Babylon, I must say that I don’t hear as many pastors or Bible teachers teach about it as I’d wish. So, in case you’ve never heard the set up for this period of Bible history, let me paint up some contextual canvass for you, based on WAY too much research that I do for writing my books.
For hundreds of years (since Moses, actually) God had been warning His kids against idol worship, and had repeatedly and specifically told them that if they didn’t knock it off, He’d send an army from the north to invade and carry them off in chains to slavery. And you’d think that would be enough of a deterrent, but actually, no—idolatry was the besetting sin so tempting that they repeated it, generation after generation, from peasants to kings. One particular king named Manasseh was especially egregious in his practice of false religion, and God said, “That’s it, you’ve had enough chances. Bring on the invaders.”
His grandson, Josiah was the last good king Judah had, and he desperately clung to hope and enforced reforms, removing all of the idols in the nation and burning them to a crisp. (You can read his story in my first novel, Consuming Fire.) But even that wasn’t enough. The people were too far gone, had taken God’s grace in vain for too long, and God was downright fed up. To continue leaving his disobedient kids unpunished made Him look like a fool—like someone who wasn’t faithful to His word. So, after Josiah’s untimely death at the hands of the king of Egypt, God began sending invaders to siege the country—first from Egypt and then from Babylon. And though three of Josiah’s sons and one of his grandsons ruled the nation for another 22 years, it was only as puppet kings of their invaders. Finally, in 586 BC, all but a handful of people that included the prophet Jeremiah, were led off to Babylon in chains as the city gates were torn down and the precious Holy Temple went up in flames. It was the most tragic season in Israel’s history. It was also exactly what God said would happen.
In the midst of all of this tragedy, Jeremiah speaks this hopeful word, with God’s Spirit to inspire him:
“You are the hope of Israel, its savior in times of trouble. Why are you like a stranger in the land, like a tourist spending only the night? Why are you like one taken by surprise, like a warrior unable to act. Yet you are in our midst, Lord; we are called by your name. Don’t give up on us.”-Jeremiah 14:8-9 (CEV)
When I read passages like this that refer to Israel as God’s people, it helps me to remember that God has since expanded the definition of His people to include Jesus’s Bride, or the global Church. God’s name, His identity, is “Our Hope,” and we are called “People of the Hope-God.”
This verse is yet another example in the Bible where the author is confessing that his feelings don’t match the truth of his faith. Not that his emotions don’t matter. If they didn’t he wouldn’t speak them for the scribe to record and read aloud to the people. But Jeremiah, like David, Paul, and many others who wrote the Bible, fully acknowledge that their feelings about God don’t always line up with what they know to be true about His nature; about His character. He knew that God would bring them all back to their Promised Land one day. God would bring them home.
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”― Oswald Chambers
I can remember a few seasons during this past couple of years when God has felt like a stranger. The world turned upside down with a pandemic, I was feeling isolated from my friends and family and church. Trying to adapt every other week to some new change, precaution, or regulation. I think some of Covid’s most difficult effects for many of us have been loneliness and grief. Though I knew He was present―I could see His love and I was hearing His voice in His Word―it felt like I didn’t know Him like I thought I did. He was like a visitor passing through, and I was afraid to lose my grip of Him. Regardless of these feelings, my faith in Him held strong and carried me through the pain because He kept filling me with hope. He would send me little reminders in a friend’s laugh or the embrace of my husband: “This won’t last forever. I will get you through this. I promise.” I knew Him as my Hope. That was His Name.
And how about you, Dear One? Have you ever needed, like Jeremiah, to remind your heart of who God is? Do you need to remember that His name is Hope again today? If God feels like a stranger to you, take this reminder that you’re in good company: The faithful prophet Jeremiah felt the same way, surrounded by death, destruction, and suffering. And God reminded Him of His love, filling him with hope once again. God’s name is Hope of Israel, Hope of Christ’s Bride, My Hope. Whether you’re facing some difficult circumstances today of your own doing, like the exiled Israelites, or even something as far out of your control as a pandemic, remind your soul that He will bring you back to your home in peace and comfort. You will not live in a strange land, feeling like God is a stranger forever. He knows your name and you know His. His name is Hope.
Hope How-to: If you are able, take a walk today and use all of your senses to feel what God is saying all around you. He is in our midst. Breathe deeply of the fresh air and inhale His love. Watch the spider spin an intricate web and marvel at the order He can make in you from the disorder and chaos. Listen to the birds chattering and hear God’s whisper of adoration in your ear. Smell the flowers if you see them, and smell the trees if you don’t have flowers around you. Know the aroma He gives in order to put a smile on your face. Become reacquainted with this Savior who is with you, closer than a breath. Remember that this Holy One in your midst, walking beside you on the path, He is the very One who formed the stars and set them in orbit. And remember that He loves you enough to die for you. He literally loves you to death.
Prayer: Sweet Jesus You know us, even when our feelings feel strange about You. Please be with my Reader today and reveal Your presence as she seeks You. When we focus on our pain and difficulty, sometimes You become blurry. Give my Reader hope today that You can help her through this pain or trouble, and comfort her with Your promises of home. Let her know you today as her Hope, for that is who you are. May she be known as one who follows Hope, one who walks with Hope, one who whispers with Hope. Thank You, Jesus for being our Hope, and for reminding us that Your goodness will prevail. We want to trust that, even when we can’t see it, and we want to be a part of bringing You to others so they can know Hope too. Amen
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P.S. These roses are blooming in all of their gorgeous fragrant-ness at the Rose Garden at Balboa Park. If you come to visit me, remind me to take you there. You’ll really love it.