A Word of Hope
For many people, ‘hope’ is simply the balancing of probabilities. A man wants to play golf. He looks out the window and says, “I ‘hope’ it doesn’t rain today” – but he knows it might. A college coed shares a concern with her roommate: “I ‘hope’ I passed the exam” – but she knows she may have failed it. Sometimes ‘hope’ is used as a synonym for despair. After visiting a terminally ill patient, a loved one remarks, “All he has left is ‘hope’.” That is, everything has been done which can be done, and only a miracle can alter the inevitable march toward death.
In marked contrast, when the Creator of all things extends to mankind a word of ‘hope’, it is certain, absolute, unalterable, because God’s word of promise is rooted in His immutable character and omnipotent arm of power.
Sin had entered front and center onto the stage of human history. Man’s image in the likeness of his Creator was marred, his fellowship with God broken, his right to rule as king of the earth forfeited – he was about to be expelled from the Garden of Eden to start his long, lonely, futile walk across the centuries. It was mankind’s darkest hour. And, in the darkness of that hour, an eternal God who changes not gave to man a word of ‘hope’. Like a flaming meteor, that hope lit up the darkness of night to point to a glorious day. The ‘hope’ was couched in the promise that a unique personality would one day appear on earth. His coming would have three objectives: first, to make it possible for man to be restored to the image of God with a mind with which he could interact with God’s thoughts, with a heart with which he could respond to God’s love, and with a will with which he could do God’s bidding; second, to recapture man’s lost destiny as king of the earth; and third, to defeat Satan, the fallen angelic being who, through the serpent, beguiled Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
This promised Redeemer would be neither cherub nor seraph – a being from the angelic sphere would not do. God’s word of ‘hope’ specifically referred to the Seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15). It was a man who caused man’s dilemma – it would be a Man who would resolve it – a Kinsman – the God-Man.
The God of creation, the God of eternity, the God who is all-knowing and all-powerful, was confident that the promised Seed could not be deterred from the divinely appointed task. And so, in the active will of God, a man was summoned from Ur of the Chaldees in the Mesopotamian Valley. The ‘state’ religion of Ur was idolatry, but for some reason this man believed in the one true God. Abram, whose name would later be changed to Abraham, would become the first “Hebrew”.
Through the loins of this man, God would start a new nation. And for that nation God would provide a land. And through that nation, in that land, God would provide the Seed – the Seed promised in Genesis 3:15 – the Seed which could meet every need of the human heart for time and eternity. And since that Seed would one day deal Satan a fatal head wound, the destruction of the “chosen” people to prevent that Seed from being born would be one of Satan’s most vigorous undertakings.
But, God did not choose the Jewish people because they were a large nation. He said through Moses, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Dt. 7:7). Nor did He choose them because they were righteous, for He said, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people” (Dt. 9:6). God is sovereign in His universe. He doesn’t come down in the still of the night and call for a committee meeting – He doesn’t ask for national elections – He doesn’t ask man’s permission to execute His plan. God does things according to His own good pleasure, and unless man realizes that God is sovereign in His universe, he will always build his castles on a foundation of sand, certain to one day collapse.
The universe didn’t just happen. God created it. He threw the stars into space. He spoke the earth into existence, He fashioned Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life, and from Adam’s rib God formed woman. It ought not, therefore, seem impossible or be thought unreasonable that when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah ninety, a miraculous child should be born to this godly couple. The child was Isaac, the second son of Abraham. And the Lord made it clear that Isaac, the second-born, would have the right of heirship – God said, “. . . in Isaac shall thy seed be called “ (Gen. 21:12).
In manhood, Isaac and his beautiful wife, Rebekah, were the proud parents of twin sons. Perhaps never were twins more dissimilar. Dissimilar in appearance – the elder son was ruddy and hairy, the younger son was not. Dissimilar in life styles – the elder son was a great hunter and a man of the field, the younger son was a plain man dwelling in tents. Dissimilar in that the elder son lived for the passing moment, the younger son for the promise of the future. Dissimilar in that the elder son was the object of Isaac’s affection, the younger son of Rebekah’s love. Dissimilar in that their stations in life were reversed – Esau was the older, the heir apparent, the one through whom the “promised seed” should have come; but God, who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to make a mistake, declared, “. . . the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). Jacob, therefore, would be in the lineage through which the promised Seed would come.
With the passing of time, Jacob had twelve sons, and the twelve sons became the respective heads of the twelve tribes of Israel which bore their names. How would the promised Seed be recognized when He appeared? For what good would it be to have the promise of a Redeemer but not be able to identify Him when He came into the world? God continued, therefore, to blaze a trail that men of faith would be able to follow. On his deathbed, Jacob summoned his twelve sons and gave them his ‘last will and testament’, forecasting that which would befall each of the twelve tribes of Israel. To his fourth-born son he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah. . . ” (Gen. 49:10). The scepter was the emblem of the king, and Jacob was saying that the promised Seed would come through the tribe of Judah and not the other eleven tribes.
And so, men looked, waited, wondered and prayed for the One who alone could satisfy every requirement of mankind. Hundreds of years passed – it appeared as though God had forgotten His promise of a Redeemer or, worse, was powerless to bring His plan to fruition. But God was neither forgetful nor impotent.
With perfect precision and right on schedule, He reached down to a young lad who was the keeper of his father’s sheep. This lad would become the first divinely appointed king of Israel. He was the tenth generation of the tribe of Judah – the tribe through which the promised Seed would come. His name was David, and it would be under David and his son, Solomon, that Israel would reach its zenith of power and glory – a glory unequaled in the last three thousand years. To David, God made a remarkable promise:
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thine own body, and I will establish his kingdom . . . And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:12, 16
King David was so overwhelmed by the divine promise that, in characteristic humility, he responded:
. . . Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? . . . Wherefore, thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears . . . And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as thou hast said.
2 Samuel 7:18, 22, 25
King David rightly understood that the Seed of the woman, promised in Genesis 3:15, the Seed that would meet every need of the human race, the Seed that would come through his father Abraham, through Isaac not Ishmael, through Jacob not Esau, through Judah not the other eleven tribes, was to come into the world through his family – what a glorious privilege was his!
Once more, long, seemingly endless centuries passed with sufferings and groanings, with dispersion and restoration of the chosen race. And somehow, miraculously, they were neither annihilated nor assimilated. Marching armies couldn’t stamp them out and surrounding nations couldn’t integrate them. They were, as God had decreed, the indestructible Jew (Jer. 31:31-40). Then, when everything was ready – in “the fullness of time”, at God’s precise moment – he sent His Son into the world. Miraculously born of the virgin Mary and, therefore, without the Adamic sin nature which was passed on to all of mankind, the Seed of the woman was now physically present among humanity. The endless dreams and hopes and needs of suffering humanity could now find solution in Him. Clearly, it was the noon hour of the human race. The eternal God was now present among His creation. Now Satan could be defeated, fellowship between God and man restored, and His glorious kingdom established.
This unparalleled event is recorded in the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament. It simply and sublimely states, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And with that advent, the outlook for man never looked brighter than it did at that moment. The hope of the ages was now present with the virgin birth of an infant Babe, dressed in swaddling clothes, born in a stable in the “little town of Bethlehem”.