The Word in Me Today: Hope
Emily Dickinson wrote :
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.”
Solomon, in Proverbs 13. 12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.”
Without hope, people become depressed, see only darkness, lose perspective, and become physically ill. Some even take their own lives out of desperation. But hope is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.
The word hope is used in the Bible (KJV version) 126 times – 68 times in the Old Testament and 58 times in the New Testament.
Look at these verses as examples:
“….Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” II Thessalonians 2:16-17
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” Psalm 71:5
Out of those verses, my personal favorite is Hebrews 11:1. God wants us to live by faith and not by what we see. So we hope for that which we don’t see, and we trust in God’s provision for our needs. An Old Testament story in I Kings 17: 7-16 illustrates this precept.
Elijah and The Widow of Zarephath
Elijah, the prophet, was hiding from King Ahab, whom he had angered when he brought a word of judgment from God. Elijah now moved from place to place in the desert as God directed him, and the Lord had told him to seek out a certain widow, whom God planned to touch in a great way, in the town of Zarephath.
When Elijah found the widow, he discovered she and her son were starving and down to their last meal. The prophet asked the widow to prepare a little cake for him, and she said, “As your God lives, I have nothing baked. Only a little handful of meal in a jar and a little jug of oil. I am even now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for my son and me, so that we may eat it and die.”
This woman’s heart had grown sick! She was powerless to save her son, not to mention herself. She had exhausted all of her own resources and was down to the last ingredients in her pantry. We don’t see the woman’s back-story, but no doubt she had tried everything to sustain herself and her child. Most likely she had begged for food. Maybe stolen for food, even. But a famine gripped the land, and there was no food to be had.
Elijah saw this woman’s need, but he knew that if she were obedient to God, He would fulfill that need abundantly. So he told her to prepare the food anyway, and that God would not allow her meal or oil to run dry until rain came upon the land and there was food again. And this little widow, even though she was not one of the covenant children of Israel, made a decision to hope in Elijah’s words…in Elijah’s God. She prepared the food for him, and God fulfilled His word to her. She had food that lasted through the whole famine; her jars did not run dry!
What Can We Learn from the Widow’s Story?
Obedience Births Hope: The widow obeyed God without question, even though she did not know Him. She was not one of the children of Israel, but a worshipper of pagan gods. Notice that she says to Elijah, “as YOUR God lives…” She doesn’t identify herself in any way with Jehovah. Yet, she hoped in what she did not see. She obeyed God’s directive and she hoped in His promise!
God Rewards Obedience: 1Samuel 15:22 tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. In the Old Testament culture, a yearly sacrifice for atonement was necessary. In fact is was demanded by God. Yet, here He says that He desires obedience even more. Elijah looked at the woman’s need and knew that if he obeyed God in asking her for food, God would bless her and reveal himself to her. Elijah had just come out of the desert where ravens had brought him food. He had seen God deliver on His promises over and over. But he asked this little widow, who did not know Jehovah, to hope in something she had never seen. She did, and God rewarded her obedience.
God Uses the Little that We Have: What do you think would have happened if the widow had refused Elijah’s request? I think God would have found someone else in need to bless, and that lady would have sadly buried her own child and died of starvation and a broken heart.
How many times have you heard someone say, “If I just had more money, I’d give to missionaries.” Or “If I had a bigger house, I would hold a Bible study.” Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. God doesn’t need you to have more money or a bigger house so He can use you. He doesn’t want your “if onlies.” He wants to use what you have now, if you offer it to him with an obedient and humble heart. If he wants you to have a bigger house, He will provide it, but not doing the thing you know you’re called to do because of your circumstances, would be the same thing as the Widow of Zarephath refusing Elijah. God gives us circumstances to create hope, and then when we trust him, he fulfills our hope.
It Can Work for You!
As you look at your life circumstances today, are you filled with hope? Does it perch in your soul and sing to you? Or is your soul dry, down to the last meal and oil, in danger of drying up and starving. Sometimes the burdens of life become so heavy, that we feel we can’t get our hopes up one more time. I’ve been there, too. I encourage you to get up again. Reach down deep and pull that hope to the surface. Give it to God, even if your hands are shaking as you do. Dare to hope. Dare to believe that God is who He says He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek him.
What is He asking you to do today that you feel is beyond your capacity? Do it anyway. Trust that He will increase your resources as you pour them out to Him. Hope for what you don’t see.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”