Throughout the month of January, God has been impressing on me that He is the God of hope (Rom 15:13) who can turn even the most desperate situations around. During the prayer walks, ‘discovering’ Hope Avenue (despite walking past it for six years and never recognising its name!) became a kind of parable for me that there is hope for our village and area just because God is here with us, on our side.
Psalm 124 recognises that if God had not been on Israel’s side, they would have gone under.
“If the LORD had not been on our side –
let Israel say –
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.” (Ps 124:1-5)
The psalm resounds with the fact that God helps us. It starts with the thought that if God had not been on our side, we would have been completely lost – swallowed alive by enemies, engulfed by floods, trapped like a bird in a fowler’s snare – and ends with the declaration ‘our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ (Ps 124:8) God is the one who has made the difference.
Throughout the Bible, we read of desperate situations that are turned around by God. Things were bleak, with no way out… but God stepped in and made a way of escape! From the first sin (when God promised a Redeemer) through to Noah (Gen 8:1), Abraham (Gen 21:1, Gen 22:8) and Joseph (Gen 45:7-8, Gen 50:20), we see how God is the One who turns situations around. When the Israelites were trapped in Egypt, He provided a way out through the ten plagues and then through the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Trapped with the sea before them and the Egyptians behind them, the Israelites were told “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex 15:14)
The deliverance of Daniel in the lions’ den or of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace give us further examples of God’s ability to bring hope into hopeless situations. But by far the greatest evidence of God’s deliverance comes in the New Testament, where we see how God stepped into the world in the form of Christ and rescued us from the dominion of darkness. Throughout Acts, we read how “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:15) and “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2: 22-24)
There is no situation more hopeless than ours before Christ (see Ephesians 2). We were dead in transgressions and sins. (Eph 2:1) We were cut off from God, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). We were by nature deserving of wrath (Eph 2:3). “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Eph 2:4-5)
The fact that God has intervened in our lives to bring us back to life and has raised us to eternal life with Him as joint heirs with Christ gives us great hope. Even if we don’t see any reason to hope, there is reason, because God is the God of hope. As we seek God for what He wants to do in Goldthorpe and the surrounding villages in 2013, we do so with hope in our hearts and the good news that ‘Hope is here; shout the news to everyone!’ (Tim Hughes, ‘Jesus Saves’).