Hope – that’s what Christmas and the coming of Christ is all about. It’s finding hope in the midst of our troubles. Seeing that light at the end of a tunnel.
A few years ago I went on an outward bound weekend with some friends and part of the weekend was to walk without torches through a very long disused tunnel that twisted and turned under the Welsh mountings. It was so dark, no not dark – it was black. You could not see your hand in front of your face, we had to keep our left hand on the wall, and keep walking and our right hand out in front so we did not bump into the person in front. But I knew it would end and I found myself hunting out the light and when that first bit of light appeared what a relief. Into a dark world came – and still comes – our Light, Jesus.
Jesus, our hope, came to this earth in the midst of troubling times just as it was predicted by the Old Testament prophets. 700 years before Christ, the people of Israel were facing severe judgment from God because of their idolatry. Isaiah, the prophet, had warned them that the Babylonians would come, destroy their country, and take those who didn’t die as slaves and prisoners. Yet, even as they faced certain judgment and destruction, Isaiah gave them a reason for hope in four “servant songs” that describe the coming of God’s Special Servant to bring deliverance and joy in the midst of trouble.
If you have your Bibles, please turn to Isaiah 42:1-4. It says: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.”
So, even those in the outermost parts of the earth will hope in His rule. Our hope is found in God’s Gentle Servant who will not stop until he brings justice to the entire earth.
So if we want to find hope in the midst of our troubles, we must…
1. Embrace God’s gentle servant (v.1-4)
We must receive and accept Him into our lives, and we must welcome Him as our Lord and King.
Now, that Servant is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Matthew 12:15-21 makes that very clear. Matthew quotes this passage that we just read, and says it is about Jesus! Jesus is the One “in whom [God] delights” (vs.1). At his baptism, the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). And in case you missed it the whole trinity were there – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The meaning of the Hebrew word “uphold” in verse 1 literally means to take hold of something or to grasp it. Well, here God is seen holding His Servant – embracing the one He has chosen to bring justice to the world, His Son, God’s own Son.
And we need to embrace Him too as the One who can make things right in our own lives. He doesn’t shout or raise his voice to establish his authority (vs.2). He is not like some people who have to scream and yell to get people to pay attention. As McKenna said “His [Jesus] authority is in his character more than in His command”
Jesus is quiet and gentle. Verse 3 says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.” In other words, He doesn’t disregard those the world considers useless. He doesn’t destroy the life that is fading out. Instead, he saves it. He restores it.
And He will restore our lives if we let Him, if we embrace Him as our Lord. He won’t force Himself us. In our bruised and broken condition, we have to give Him permission to take control of our life if we want to save it.
Do you know the painting The Light of the World by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910), representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door? It’s an illustration of Revelation 3:20: where Jesus says ” Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”.
Hunt said: “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject.” The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the stubbornly shut mind”.
That’s because we have to open the door to let Jesus in, some of us may have done this a long time ago and then put Him Jesus in a cupboard just like the Christmas decorations and maybe just get Him out on Sundays or Easter or Christmas. Let’s let Jesus back into our lives – He is still waiting to be welcomed back, standing at the door.
Jesus is not like most world rulers who have to force their will on people. His is quiet, He is gentle, and simply invites people to trust Him with their lives. Yet in the end that quiet, gentle strength is stronger than any force or army the rulers of this world can gather.
In his book The Faith, Chuck Colson compares the invasion of Normandy with the invasion of God on Christmas Day. He writes: “In one sense, the great invasions of history are similar to the way in which God, in the great cosmic struggle between good and evil, chose to deal with Satan’s rule over the earth – He invaded. But not with massive logistical support and huge armies; rather, in a way that confounded and perplexed the wisdom of humanity “It was a quiet invasion. Few people understood what was happening. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew that she was with child… a virgin… pregnant with the Son of God.”
Most of the people in Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth were expecting a Messianic invasion, conquerors in armour bringing a sword to set the people free from oppression. Jesus came and announced: “The time has come… The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
This was the time the Jews had waited for, for so long? Liberation? And who was this ordinary Nazarene carpenter to say he was bringing in the Kingdom of God?” Jesus certainly didn’t seem like the powerful King they were expecting.
Herod, the one who styled himself as “The King of the Jews” tried to maintain his control with force. When the three wise men left without telling him where the new baby king was born, he went bonkers and ordered the murder of every male child two years old and under in the area of Bethlehem. Frederick Buechner says, “For all his enormous power, he knew there was someone in a nappy more powerful.”
Jesus is the quiet, gentle ruler, who will not stop until “he establishes justice on the earth” (vs.4). One day, the whole world will come under His rule. He died on a cross and rose again to redeem people “from every tribe and language and nation”
But He is very patient waiting for you and me to invite Him to be our King and Saviour. If we want to find hope in the midst of our troubles, we must embrace God’s Gentle Servant. More than that, if we want to find hope in trouble, we must…
2. Rest on God’s great power (v.5-7)
We must rely on the strength God gives His Gentle Servant to set people free from bondage. We must trust in God’s power and ability to accomplish our salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
In versus 5-7 it says: “This is what God the Lord says he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
God is saying this to His Gentle Servant: ‘We will go and re-create broken lives.’
I love this little joke: After discovering how to clone humans, a couple of scientists challenged God: “We don’t need you anymore,” they said. “We can make life by ourselves now.” “All right,” said God “go ahead”. The scientists said . “We’ll do it like you did in the beginning.” Then they reached down to grab a handful of dirt to begin to form a man. Then God’s said: “Hold it – get your own dirt!”
No man can do what God has done in creating the world and giving life and breathe to every person in the world. God is all-powerful! And by that power, Jesus will set people free from their bondage to sin and darkness.
Jesus is the One who fulfils God’s covenant promises to Israel, “the people” in verse 6, and He is the One who is a light for the Gentiles – you and me who at one time were separated from God’s promises. With God’s power, Jesus opens blind eyes and sets people free, nine years ago Jesus did this for me, I was often listing but not hearing, often watching but not seeing, but then I accepted Jesus and I was set free by His grace.
We cannot save ourselves; I tried, for many years I tried. We cannot set ourselves free from the sin that entraps us, binds us and fills us with hate for what we are and hate of others. For that we need the hand of another. We need the hand of God’s Gentle Servant, Jesus Christ.
We must depend on God’s power through Christ to be set free and become all that God intended us to be.
It’s hard to live in the light. For that we need our Heavenly Father’s help through Jesus Christ His Son. If we want to find hope in trouble, we must embrace God’s Gentle Servant; we must depend on God’s great power; and finally we must…
3. Believe in God’s unfailing Word (v.8-9)
We must rely on our Lord’s sure and certain promises. Verses 8-9 say: “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”
God’s prophetic word is sure! If He makes a promise about “new things” to come, we can be certain they will come just as He said. No other god or idol can do this.
Out of all the religions of the world, only the Bible contains detailed, predictive prophecy which were fulfilled exactly as prophesied. It’s a sure sign that this Book came from God. For example, there are hundreds of precise prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ’s first coming. There are prophecies about the place of his birth, the date of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the manner of his death, and so on.
Robert Culver says, “About 300 distinct prophecies of Christ lie in the Old Testament. They were like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle… more or less obscure until Jesus came and put them all in clear relation to one another by his life.
I read this recently Mathematically speaking, the odds of anyone fulfilling this amount of prophecy is staggering. Mathematicians put it this way: 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: odd’s at 1 in 10 with 20 zeros. 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power. 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus!
You can trust this Book. Because history proves it, there is more historical proof that Jesus lived than that Julius Cesar lived. This book is absolutely reliable. Certainly, we MUST trust God’s Word if we’re going to find hope in troubled times.
We must embrace God’s Gentle Servant. We must depend on God’s great power, and we must believe in God’s sure and certain promises if we’re going to find light in the midst of our darkness. So whatever the circumstances don’t lose hope. Things WILL get better, because Jesus has come and God has promised “new things” ahead. Just trust Him. Trust in His power. Trust in His Word; and most of all, trust in His Son Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray: Lord, thank you that you so love us that you sent Jesus for our salvation, help us to walk by His light in our world, Amen.