Messages of Hope
March 18, 2020
Matt and I had planned some time back to use the Minor Prophets as our source for Lenten Devotionals in 2020. We followed that plan through 18 days of Lent (not counting Sundays). If you have been following along, you likely have noticed a theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel or Judah are constantly scolded by the prophet for neglecting and oppressing the poor; breaking covenant with God and idolatry. The penalty is always the same. Neighboring countries invade and conquer and enslave God’s people. While the prophets do offer hope, Israel and Judah are always on the brink of extinction.
Now that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Matt and I did not want to sound like those prophets of doom at a time when doom is all we hear from the news. We also did not want it to sound like we were saying that this pandemic was some kind of judgment from God. So, we decided to reboot the devotionals to offer messages of hope. We can offer messages of hope because that is what God has given us in Jesus Christ. A certain hope that God is with us and promises our souls an eternity in paradise.
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Most of the Psalms are called Psalms of Lament. Prayers for God’s help from an individual or community. They all have a similar structure. The Psalmist is afraid. The Psalmist cries out to God for help. The Psalmist acknowledges God can do something about the trouble and maybe cites some examples. The Psalmist then thanks God for helping … even before God does something about it. The Psalmist even praises God when God seems to do does nothing about it. How can the Psalmist do this? Because the Psalmist is confident that God is present, even when times are pretty bad. Even when we are sick or dying. This is an example of such a psalm.
Psalm 23 is the most well-known Bible passage. We use it a lot at funerals. We use it a lot during hard times. It is the one we recite when we want to be comforted. Why? Because it tells us that God is our shepherd. The one who leads and feeds. The one who takes us to water and a place where we can rest. The one who gives us peaceful restored souls. But this shepherd does not promise a risk-free and trouble-free life. We sometimes walk through the darkest valley. Or as some translate it – the valley of the shadow of death. What does the Psalmist say that comforts us?
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me …
When times are tough, we need not fear. Because God is with us. Even in the bad and scary times, God feeds us and loves us more than we need. Even then goodness and mercy follow us and we will be with God forever. That is our certain hope.