Tag Archives: hope

Hope Springs Eternal

Proverbs 14:32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.

The word ‘hope’ leaps out at me from the above verse, and I have had to stop and consider where my hope lies. At the time of writing I am on the opposite side of the Atlantic to home, but hoping to be back home in about thirty-six hours time. I hope that I can find some time to spend with my family this Christmas despite the intense pressure of my workload.

As Christmas approaches many people will be hoping they receive gifts they desire. In our consumer driven western society advertisements shout loudly about the things we can have. We easily forget those who have little hope. Equally, it is easy to ignore the wickedness we see plastered across our television screens be it wrong lifestyles, victims of conflict, big business acting fraudulently, dishonest politicians, etc.

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who chose to ignore the wickedness of society that left a starving diseased beggar outside his house. The beggar possessed one thing the rich man did not have. The beggar had hope. It was probably his only possession. You can read the story in Luke 16:19-31.

My worry is that we can become blind like the rich man to the extent that our possessions become more important than our hope, and the promise of eternal life in exchange for a life surrendered to our Father in Heaven. The danger increases at Christmas to the extent that we may not even notice the starving diseased beggar, whoever or whatever he or she may be.

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man


I Know Who to Trust

Proverbs 14:26

In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

My Refuge

As a child I knew where to run and hide when the sound of thunder came. Actually, to be honest, thunder never really bothered me that much, because I had an early belief that if it was God’s will for me to be hurt in the storm, it would happen. Otherwise, regardless of the booming in the sky, I was going to be OK.

I trusted in God even in my youth, much like David…

For thou [art] my hope, O Lord GOD: [thou art] my trust from my youth. – Psalm 71:5

But when there was the perception of a monster outside, or under my bed, or threatening to harm me after going out with his girlfriend, my “confidence” was in my father, my dad, who wasn’t afraid of anybody.

In all honesty, my “place of refuge” was more often my earthly father, not my heavenly One.

Refuge Shattered

But then, on the 11th of June, 1991, my “place of refuge” from the bad guys, monsters, heartaches, disappointments, etc., came tumbling down. My dad died.

It never crossed my mind…I’m only thinking about it right now as I write this post…but I should have known my dad’s strength was much more limited than I gave it credit.

Job spoke of people who’s confidence, whose hope, would wind up as worthless as those who fell into a spider’s web, hoping its strength would keep them from falling.

Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust [the same word translated as confidence in Prov. 14:26] shall be a spider’s web. – Job 8:14

Too often, and it’s this way with most everyone, we put our confidence in things that will never be able to catch us when we fall, support us when we doubt, or protect us when we hide. But…

Blessed [is] the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. – Jeremiah 17:7

Our Strong Confidence

So, what can we count on? Where do we go when we don’t have the answers? Where do we run to hide when thunderous doubt rumbles the foundations of our soul?

The fear of the LORD is our STRONG CONFIDENCE!

Just today I was reading from Proverbs 30. There, in the first few verses, Agur, in a self-deprecating fashion, proclaims that he is not wise, nor does he claim to have any special understanding of the ways of God. However

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. – Proverbs 30:5

I fear God. Meaning, I know better than to question His wisdom and power and might! He never lies, His promises are sure, and HE will never leave me nor forsake me! My “strong confidence” is in the same hand that can crush nations and fling stars – I fear Him!

But I also trust Him.

Because He said he loves me.

And I believe Him.


Rejoicing Light

Proverbs 13:9

“The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.” 

What a Storm!

Hurricane Sandy (AP Photo/Weather Underground)

“Superstorm” Sandy was a monster storm that stretched over the entire eastern coast of North America, bringing hurricane winds, torrential rain, 13 ft. storm surges, and even two feet of snow in some places. Over 60 million people suffered its effects, the worst being in the north where states suffered tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. Some people called it a “Frankenstorm.”

There for a while, from Florida to Maine, the sun was hidden by clouds. Rain fell by the gallon as coastal towns were drowned with swelling tides. But amazingly, no matter how hard it rained, no matter how high the waves, it didn’t put out the sun. Go figure.

Light Source

The difference between the righteous and the wicked is their source of light. As with the sun, the Light of the righteous is far beyond the reach of nature. No storm, no matter how big, can quench its flame. It may be hidden from view at times, but it is always there, and always will be.

The wicked, on the other hand, light their own lamp. In other words, the source of their “light” comes from within, below the storm, subject to both torrent and tempest. It will go out, eventually.

“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled–This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” – Isaiah 50:10-11 NKJV

 Still There was Light

Years and years ago, back when I lived in Kentucky, God allowed a “Frankenstorm” to hit the coasts of my life. The storm was so big and lasted so long, literally nothing of my own making remained standing. FEMA couldn’t even help me.

At one point it was so bad; it was so dark, that I literally raised my fist to heaven, cursed my God, and begged Him to do what I was too afraid to do. I told Him I hated Him and wanted nothing more to do with Him. It was a bad, bad storm.

Yet….(isn’t that a great word?)…Yet, even in the middle of the darkness, there was a Flame that could not be quenched. Even as I cursed my Heavenly Father, inside I could hear a still, small Voice whispering, “I understand…I know…It’s OK…I’m here…Let it out…I still love you…I’m not going anywhere.”

If you could see me crying right now…it’s hard to see the computer screen.

The light of the righteous rejoiceth…


“Wind Your Neck In”

Proverbs 12:16

“A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.”

The Wisdom of Fools

For a book of wisdom, Proverbs, and indeed the Bible, contains an awful lot of “fool observation.” Which is good, because I (and I am vainly assuming you) fall into the “fool” category more often than not. Today we look at the fool and vanity.

Defense Mechanisms

The Bible urges us not to think too highly of ourselves, but this is something most of us fall prey to. I’ll be honest I don’t just want you to like this post – I want you to love it. Because if you do I can gain some sense of validation from that, I will feel good. But just as we seek validation from the things we produce we also become extremely defensive when under attack. If something we have done or produced is received in the wrong way, a way we never intended then we feel that urge to defend ourselves, to point out the folly of the other person, and achieve our validation once again.

A Multi-Headed Beast

We see this played out in a variety of ways, be it the straight up insult, the person who disagrees with our beliefs, the more subtle manipulator, what ever it is we cry out for God for justice, and God’s advice – wind your neck in. How much time do we waste over arguments that can never be won? Defending our ultimately indefensible self? Oh we freely admit that we are up there will Paul as a “chief of sinners” but when it comes down to it our judgments prove this a fallacy.

The Wisdom of Job

Job had a lot to be annoyed about…unfairly treated by God, hung out to dry by his “friends”… but when God comes to question Job we find an echo of this proverb in his reply:

Job 40:4-5 – ‘“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I will say no more.”

Next time you have been undermined, insulted, misunderstood, next time you have a burning desire to correct misunderstanding of your words, to defend you motives, to get annoyed at how wronged you have been – why not try being prudent for a change? It can’t hurt that much – can it?


Roots of Faith

Proverbs 12:3 

“A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.”
Uprooted

Over the last several years there have been a lot of storms come through where I live. Many of those storms produced very strong winds, even tornadoes.

I hate tornadoes.

But when I look at this proverb, there comes to mind mental images of trees uprooted and blown over, smashing houses, cars, etc. And when I think of those trees, I can remember what they looked like lying on the ground. Huge trees with roots that spread out in every direction – except down.

Trees

When we think of trees, we think of strong, healthy plants that grow tall and impressive. They are symbols of stability. They almost always win when challenged by automobiles, woodpeckers, or lovers with initials to carve.

The wicked and the righteous are both trees; both have leaves, and both have roots. But only one has roots that run deeper than the surface. Only one can stand in a storm.

Roots

The roots of a tree primarily do two things: they bring nourishment from the ground and tie it to the ground. Without roots a tree would die. Without deep roots, a tree could could be toppled by a strong wind.

But strong winds aren’t the only danger trees face; drought can kill a tree with shallow roots. Yet, if a tree has deep roots, it can find the water it needs to survive.  Maybe you will remember the following verse…

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psa. 1:3

Established

But we are not trees, are we? We are people. We don’t have roots; we have faith.

The deeper our root system, the less likely we are to fall over when the storms of life come our way, or when there seems to be little rain of hope.

Wickedness will not produce roots that will hold. Wickedness produces roots that grow outward and just below the surface. They bring in everything needed to grow a beautiful, leafy tree, just not one that can hold on in a gale. Nor can they soak up water from the dry soil when the blessings of God seem to be withheld.

On the other hand, righteousness goes deep and anchors the believer to the solid ground. The roots of faith find refreshment from hidden sources of hope.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. – Jer. 17:7-8 NKJV

How are your roots?


Got Rope?

Proverbs 10:28

“The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”
Hope

All men have a hope of some kind. Men and women without hope are surely to be pitied, for they have no reason to go on, no reason to live.

Hope is what keeps people going even in the worst of times. The hope of freedom keeps prisoners alive. The hope of walking again urges the crippled to keep trying. The hope of seeing one’s family again makes a child’s summer camp experience bearable. Hope is what we hold on to when don’t know what else to do.

Rope

Rope is something we hold on to, also. When people are in deep pits they yell out, “Throw me a rope!” When people want to repel down mountains, or clean the windows of skyscrapers, they put their trust in ropes.

When you think about it, what makes a rope useful? If you are not tying something up, but trying to climb, anchor a boat, or swing from a tree, what makes a rope useful is what it is tied to. In other words, you can’t climb up a rope that isn’t attached to anything. Throwing a rope to someone in a well is only helpful if someone on the other end attaches it to something.

Dopes

According to one prominent lexicon*, the original Hebrew word translated “expectation” came from a word that meant “rope”. A rope is something tangible, something you can see; not a hope that is based on the unseen.

But do you know what a “dope” is? A “dope” is someone who has been “duped;” a person who has fallen for a trick. That is what we could call the wicked in Proverbs 10:28. They have put their hope in a rope that is attached to nothing.

Do you see the irony? The righteous put their trust in a hope that is unseen and based on faith. But the wicked say there is no God, they have no use for faith, and trust in something they can feel, something they can get their hands around. The only problem is when the wicked fall, they will discover a rope tied to nothing will not save. They’ve been duped by the evil one.

Conclusion

The hope of the righteous is grounded in faith, while the expectation of the wicked is tied to nothing. The atheist claims that there is nothing beyond this life, and holds to that rope with tenacity. The righteous hold to the Unseen Hand and follow a voice only heard through the Spirit.

One day the floor will fall out from under both the righteous and the wicked. He who says, “let me fall into the hand of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:13) will have his hope fulfilled. But he who holds to the “rope” of unbelief will surely be disappointed.

*Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (872). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

A Timely Missing Post

Proverbs 9:6

“Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”

A while back, in the process of re-posting entries, I found that Proverbs 9:6 was not only left off the blog, but out of the book! (click here to purchase) That’s terribly embarrassing, especially since all the editing that had been done. Therefore, this post is what you could call a “web exclusive!


Forsaking

The first word in this verse is an imperative: forsake.  It’s not a word that suggests temporarily turning away, but abandonment. To forsake something is like saying “to heck with you,” turning on one’s heels, walking out the door, slamming it, going to the airport, buying a plane ticket, arriving at the destination, then burning one’s passport.

Why are simple words hard to understand?

Foolish

If you have been reading Proverbs at all, even the least bit, you should be aware what foolishness is. Foolishness is man’s wisdom, not God’s. Foolishness is acting stupidly, even when you know there is a better way. Foolishness is rebellion, selfishness, seeking one’s own way, and never caring where the road leads, just as long as the trip is fun.

The “foolish” we’re commanded to forsake could be a combination of things. The “foolish” could be people, ideas, actions, philosophies, worldviews, attitudes, etc. There are foolish friends, foolish plans, foolish job opportunities, foolish desires, and foolish dreams – all of which lead down a bad road.

Forsake the foolish, and you might survive; don’t, and you’re in trouble.

The Way

The “way of understanding” can be interpreted as the “right” way, or even the way on which wisdom has already walked. It is the way in which people walk who walk in wisdom, seek wisdom, and love wisdom.

When we walk in the “way of understanding” we consider the consequences of each step and the direction we are going. The direction is a 180 away from foolishness.

Living

But why is it that so many are more likely to hold on to the “foolish” rather than travel in the way of understanding? Instead of walking out the door and leaving the old ways behind, why is it that so many are more apt to slam the door from the inside, lock it, and turn up the music? The reason is based on one’s understanding of “living.”

playstationOne beer company is famous for touting the “high life.” Another shows people partying away the night saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Everything from hotels to video game systems have encouraged consumers by promising, “This is living!”

Funny. Even kind of ironic, I must say. It’s hard to go down any path when you’ve locked yourself inside with computer game.

Timely?

Yes, this post is technically 2 years late. On the other hand, God knew exactly who would be writing it and what would be going on. As my daughter Katie looked over my shoulder and read the proverb about which I was to write, she said, “Well, that’s timely…”

This week we’ve dealt with foolishness, the foolish, and an unwillingness to forsake it. I have personally witnessed a close family member, blinded by a lack of wisdom, detail a specific plan for destruction. I’ve even faced down a foolish physical threat. Foolishness…simply foolishness.

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. – Proverbs 16:25

Forsake foolishness and live, or shut the door and die. The way is up to you.