The Words of Advent - Hope
The first candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes hope — hope for the Christmas season, hope in God's perfect will for our lives and hope in the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope is such a powerful word in Scripture, one that means a joyful and confident expectation. It combines perfectly with our renewed faith and rejuvenated heart as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Hope is mentioned more than 120 times in Scripture, most often in Job and Psalms. We read many phrases like rest in hope, hope in the Lord, hope in His mercy and in thee do I hope. Well-placed hope was a hallmark of many of the Biblical writers, and they had no qualms about sharing their confidence in God.
In Psalm 71, one of my favorite psalms that spotlights hope, David begs God for deliverance from his enemies. Those who hated him had been lying and gossiping about him, claiming that God had left him alone in his time of need. The solution David sees is for the Lord to step in and take them out, to deal with the situation in some drastic way.
But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. Psalm 71:14
That word "but" signals a beautiful turn of attitude for the king of Israel. The first 13 verses were filled with negative, frustrated words of pain and distress. David poured out his heart to the Lord, telling Him just how painful these enemies were. But then...here comes the sudden change. Pain is exchanged for hope. Distress is traded for confidence in God.
Not only would he hope, but David added the word "continually." Not just for this one moment or until disaster was averted. He would hope continually, ongoing, making hope a permanent fixture in his heart. What a beautiful picture of David's confidence that God would do all things well and in all circumstances.
It's hard for me to wrap my head and my heart around this thought. My natural instinct is to pray for my negative circumstances to change. Isn't it always easier for the other person or problem to go away or make a change than for me to examine myself?
What David teaches us today is that having hope in God and His plan is that it should be present in our hearts no matter what's happening around us. The worse David was treated by his enemies, the closer he drew to the Lord. What a crazy concept, right?
The second half of this key verse always makes me smile. The secret to David's ability to maintain his hope in God was his determination to praise Him, even in this. When the enemy reared its ugly head and did everything possible to destroy David, the king vowed to keep on praising the Lord. Imagine how frustrated the evil-hearted people around him must have been when they turned the screws and David sang a little louder. He spent a little longer on his face before God. He had more of God's word read in his chambers.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, David told the Lord that he would praise Him more and more because the amount of praise he was already giving wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough. There are always more words to use in praising God, and David was determined to find them. He chose to praise more today than yesterday. Tomorrow he would praise more than today.
That's David's not-so-secret way to stop the enemy in their tracks - hope and praise. This winning combination got David through many perilous and heart-wrenching times, and it can be our tool as well. Never lose hope, David says, and find new ways today to praise God for what He's doing in your life right this minute.