Oh holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Although one rarely “pines” anymore, when I read this line, I feel hopelessness and helplessness pressing in. In Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he said: And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin…(Romans 7:18-19, 24-25) Sounds pretty hopeless. But then comes Romans 8:1 – So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
That’s where the hope comes in, and the thrill of it, allowing us to rejoice, because we belong to Jesus.
God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you, and he is your hope of sharing in God’s glory. (Colossians 1:27)
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. (1 Peter 1:3)
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones. (Psalm 116:10)
I believe this is the Old Testament precursor of a passage from Revelation:
And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
I first ran across this latter verse when I performed the Brahms Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now don’t get all impressed with me. I was just a Bass in a choir of about 150 singers. There are seven movements in the great work, and the one based on the above verse is the final movement, which makes sense. And at the end of this post, you’ll hear this movement. Now back to the Psalm.
From a contextual point of view, verse 10 is rather interesting, because it is the only one dealing with someone actually dying. The remainder of the other 18 verses speak of one that has been delivered from the grasp of death.
The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!” Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. (v. 3-8)
So why insert this verse about death, when all the others are about escaping from it (and being thankful)? I think the key is in verse 8: For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. You see, for those who have lost a loved one, their eyes have shed many tears, and they have stumbled. But the Psalmist gives them a glimmer of hope when he tells them that their loved one is one of the Lord’s godly ones, and their death is precious in His sight.
Some of the meanings of the Hebrew word for precious are: prized, rare, highly valued and influential. And all those describe my friend Mark. For those who knew him, and many much better than I, you can see those words describing Mark. But the most important aspect of Mark is that he was and is one of the Lord’s godly ones. And since his death is precious to God, I have no doubt that it grieved our Heavenly Father—or rather—our Heavenly Father grieves for Mark’s wife Lorri, and their families; because Mark is now with Him, probably shooting videos—and the resolution is out of this world.
So for those who have grieved, cried and stumbled, know two things (at least):
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.. (Philippians 4:12-14)
Because Mark is one of His godly ones, we DO have hope. And despite our tears and stumbling, we need to continue to press on. For like him, we too will one day rest from our labors.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)
I had a chat with a friend at work and we were talking about the word hope. And as is often the case, our culture has diluted the meaning of the word. It now has to do with wishes, wants, and desires—things which may or may not happen. And I suppose that makes sense. If your hope is based upon the character and nature of someone (or something) other than God, then hope is little more than a crap shoot.
But when you put your hope in God, hope is much greater than a wish. Consider:
God is not like people, who lie; He is not a human who changes his mind. Whatever He promises, He does; He speaks, and it is done. (Numbers 23:19)
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:11)
Whatever He promises, speaks and purposes, it is done. And when you have that kind of consistence and trustworthiness, you then have a sure hope; a hope that does not disappoint.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Did you see what we must hope in? Not in our circumstances, but in Him. Because we exult in Him which is eternal, we can then exult through our tribulations. Our hope is not driven by wishful thinking or possibility, for it would fail in the midst of trouble. Rather, it is driven by the love of God through the Holy Spirit, which allows us to push past the tribulation and into His glory.
God’s character ensures our hope, empowers our hope, enlivens our hope and enflames our hope. But hope is much more personal than an attribute, or trait, or motivation.
To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope. (1 Timothy 1:1)
Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. (Titus 2:13)
So back to David’s question: And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My hope is not only in Christ alone, but Christ Himself is my hope.