Go out with joy – Isaiah 55:12

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“Who are you, that you fear mortal man?”

This poem comes from Isaiah 51:12-16.

Who are you, that you fear mortal man?
That you lose sight of the Lord’s mighty hand,
That you get lost in the bland finances and advances
Disenchanted
Seeking canned, secondhand romances
With the things of the land.
You swim with the school, having forgot how to stand.
Though your days are as sand,
You ignore every chance,
Fearing to be looked at askance.
So focused on man
That you forget the Lord your Maker,
Creator,
Invader of the hearts of the clay-born,
Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth,
Who quenches every thirst
And deserves to be first
He’s a sunburst
You serve a God who reversed
Places, took the curse on himself,
Defeated the worst hell had to offer
And yet you live in constant fear because of the wrath of the oppressor,
Aggressor,
Assessor,
Fearing displeasure,
Impossible to measure up,
Despite your endeavors.
Feel compressed,
Under pressure
But where is the wrath of the oppressor?
I feel a tremor–
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free
Indeed.
No more fatigue or defeat;
His promise complete
Taste and see,
The sweet freedom for which he bleeds.
Triumphant,
They will not die in their dungeon,
Nor will they lack bread.
No fear or dread,
No longer dead or beset by impossible debt
But instead a seedbed, a witness of what he has said.
For I AM is the LORD your God,
Who churns up the sea so that the waves roar,
Who transforms and adorns,
Raises you to soar–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
Who covers us in grace and sets our souls aflame,
Who reigns awesome over an endless domain,
Whose faithfulness always remains,
Who lights the way,
Who’s never swayed,
Who rules the day
Yet knows my pain–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!
For, says the LORD,
“I have put my words in your mouth,”
To shout,
Arouse the silent houses,
Impossible to douse or to doubt,
Louder than thunderclouds,
The water in the drought.
He vows,
“I have covered you in the shadow of my hand,”
Able to withstand any demand or attempt to disband
For all the earth is under his command,
Establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth.
I no longer thirst
But headfirst am submersed
In the unreserved light of your glory that burst
From the sky, raining down on the earth.
He says unto Zion, “You are my people,”
My cathedrals,
I will lift you up on wings as eagles.
I will guard you from evil,
And my grace will sustain.
Through the joy and the pain,
Through the loss and the gain,
I will show you the way
If you only have faith.
My truth will remain;
It cannot be restrained.
I’ll give you a new name
In my arms you are safe.

He is King, and he reigns;
To the world I proclaim–
The LORD ALMIGHTY is his name!

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HOPE

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

 The God of hope. That’s a new one.

We don’t usually think of a God of hope. We think of a God of wrath, of power and holiness. A God of fire and thunder and wind and storm. A God who sends down lightning from above and shatters the walls of Jericho. A God of power and strength and rage and perfection. A God who demands, a God who judges, a God who is far, far away or a God who is all too close.

Or, we’re all too happy to ignore that part of God. We see a God of love. A God of love and grace and peace and mercy. A God who is gentle, who is near and undisturbing. A God who sends us a Baby, a God who died on a tree, a God who is the rescue from my sins and this world around me. A God who cares and who will take care of all my needs.

Both/all of those things are true of God. I think a lot of times we have trouble seeing both at once. I think a lot of us like to fit God in a box. We like a self-made, custom-fit God to neatly slip into our puzzle exactly as we want him to.

NEWSFLASH: that’s not how it works.

Something I’ve been learning over the years is that God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. Neither my pain nor my pride can change his character. I could go on and on about this, maybe I will someday. But for now I want to talk about this verse I found yesterday, in Romans 15:13, because God is a God of hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Hope. We don’t give a lot of thought to hope, a lot of times, do we? 1 Corinthians 13;13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” We hear a lot about faith and love, and for good reason. But hope? Hope doesn’t seem to fit.

Hope is wishy-washy. Hope doesn’t seem to require grand, sweeping gestures to prove our devotion to God. Hope doesn’t come down and bleed and rise again for me. Hope doesn’t have an application for me. Hope is only for the desperate. The needy.

WRONG. On all counts.

Hope is a challenge. A dare. Hope is what Christ died for. And hope is life-changing–because we are all desperate and needy. Hope is security in something bigger than yourself.

God is a God of hope.

Is it making sense now?

Hope is not a quality. It is a promise. The Bible is full of them. The one that most particularly struck me this week is found in Isaiah 33.

Verses 1-14 declare God’s power and greatness:

You who are far away, hear what I have done;
    you who are near, acknowledge my power!
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
(verses 13-14)

But then in verse 17, there is a shift.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
    and view a land that stretches afar.
In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
    “Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
    Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
You will see those arrogant people no more,
    people whose speech is obscure,
    whose language is strange and incomprehensible.
Look on Zion, the city of our festivals;
    your eyes will see Jerusalem,
    a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up,
    nor any of its ropes broken.
There the Lord will be our Mighty One.
    It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
    no mighty ship will sail them.
For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.
(verses 17-22)

There! Did you catch it? God’s promise: you will SEE.

Because here’s the thing: not only are you desperate and needy, but you are blind.

I know all too well how easy it is to lose my sight. You can probably relate.  In this world, it’s not too hard. I don’t do it on purpose. I just sort of, slip into everyday life, and boom! Lost.

Things start to become a lot more important. Things like status. Like friends. Like reputation. Like possessions. Like achievements. Like goals. Like plans. Like success. Like comfort. Like fun. Like business and busyness.

These are things that are important. Or that would be, if this world was all there is.

You see, because I can’t see it, I struggle to remember sometimes that there is a world beyond this one.

That’s amazing to me. The hope of this place called heaven, where he will wipe every tear, every weary, frustrated, angry tear from my eye, and all these burdens that I feel but don’t quite know how to name, my shoulders release and I fall into your arms…

I cry out to God, why can’t I live like it’s heaven on earth now? What would that look like? For you to be all I need, now? For me to never look back, now? For you to always be there for me, now? Why do I have to be here? Why can’t I go to heaven now and have all of this then come true?

Oh, wait…

God does not depend upon how I feel. Neither does he depend on where I am.

Here’s the thing. Right now, it can be really, really hard to see. Really hard. And I’m about ready to give up. But God is a God of hope. And hope does not give up. And hope promises, that you. Will. See.

You will see.

You will see something beautiful, something glorious. Something unlike anything this world has ever encountered. You will watch the fireworks as heaven and earth collide, and observe the awesomeness as his glory breaks the skies. You will see a city where there are no tears, no heartache, no sorrows, no weariness, no burdens, no depression or desperation or need for anything but more and more of this glorious light, filling our eyes and being drunk by our souls. You will see God for who he really is, and in that moment everything else will have faded to dust.

I crave it. I crave hope. I crave security in something bigger than myself. Because it reminds me, that all this stuff that does create these tears and these burdens and this weariness–it’s all going to go away. It reminds me that he does meet all my needs, now, and he is so, so close to me, now, and why should I be looking back, now?

It reminds me that he promises something beautiful. God is a God of hope. And hope, is how I see.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Bre

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