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Exploring the Psalms
Psalm 146
Advent - Hope




Exploring the Psalms



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Exploring the Psalms
Psalm 146 


Read : Psalm 146 

I hope ir's dry tomorrow. I hope I win the lottery next week. I hope it's a short sermon on Sunday . . . 

How often, when we use the word 'hope' is it really just wishful thinking ? How often when say we hope for something, is it because we are already sure that the opposite will happen ? 

One of the main themes of Advent is hope - but that hope is not an impossible wish for something that won't happen, it's 'Hope' the way it is used in the Bible, because hope that is based on God's promises, is not wishful thinking. God's promises come with a cast iron guarantee - God himself. So, when we hope in God's promises, we will not be disappointed. When God says he will do something, it will happen. 

We know we live in a fallen world, where nothing is the way God created it to be, as he intended it to be. As we look at our world that seems to be increasingly unstable, increasingly violent, increasingly anti-Christian, sometimes it can be hard to see anything positive. It can be hard to see any signs of hope. Sometimes we may despair of anything ever changing. 

Nevertheless, there is hope - even when things seem hope-less - we have a firm and reliable hope, that things will get better. That things will change. Because God promises it, we believe that things will not always be the way they are now. That's why so often in the Bible, God's promises are written as if they have already been fulfilled - because the Bible writers had no doubt that they would be.  

hope

Advent is the season of hope, the season when we wait expectantly, looking forward in hope, anticipating what lies ahead. Advent is not only about waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ child at Christmas, it is also when we look forward to Christ returning in glory, at the end of time. We look forward to all things being made new, when all that is wrong will be put right, and be the way God originally wanted it to be. We look forward in hope - and that hope is not wishful thinking, it is not an unrealistic expectation, that hope is a firm belief that  

God will work justice for those who are pressed down by the world.
God will provide food for those who are hungry.
God will free those who are imprisoned.
God will make the blind see.
 

We believe these things will all happen - in God's time - because God has said they will.  

I wonder whether as you read the words of Psalm 146, they sounded at all familiar ?  

Can you hear echoes of this Psalm's themes in Isaiah's words which, centuries later, Jesus read in the synagogue, when  

 

the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to [Jesus], and unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free."

Can you hear echoes of the same themes in Mary's song, known as the Magnificat  

[God] has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty

So, when we read these, or many other, Bible passages, with all their present-tense phrases  

God works justice for those who are pressed down by the world. God provides food for those who are hungry. God frees those who are imprisoned. God makes the blind see.

These passages were written this way, not because the Biblical writers were deluded - they knew there were many people who were hungry, who were prisoners, who were blind. And as we know only too well, there are still many people who are hungry, or oppressed, or in need of healing and help. The Biblical writers are not denying the reality of that, but - and here is the power of Biblical hope - because God has said he will do these things, then they are considered as good as done.  

The Psalmist says : Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.. . . 

When someone asks us to do something, if we say 'consider it done', we mean that that they can be absolutely - 100% - sure that we will do it. And yet, sometimes we don't do what we say we will, and despite having the best of intentions, sometimes we let people down. 

However, God isn't like that, when He makes a promise, when he says 'consider it done', then we can be absolutely - 100% - sure that it will happen. 

. . .which is why the Psalmist can say with certainty : Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God - he remains faithful for ever

But !  

What if, simply waiting for God to sort out these problems at some future date, is not the whole story here - what if there is more to this ? 

Do you remember when Jesus fed the 5000 people ? He provided more than enough food for everyone, but the disciples had to hand it out to the people who were there . . .  

What if God already provides enough of everything for everyone - but because of the way we're living, nothing is shared out the way he wants it to be ?  

Think of Governments with vast budgets spent on war - what difference might it make, if that much was spent helping countries instead ?  

Think of the vast research budgets to find ever more "efficient" ways of killing people - what difference might it make, if that much was spent researching cures for diseases instead ?  

Think of Kenyan farmers growing roses for western markets instead of growing food for themselves, or Moroccan farmers growing inedible crops for vegetable oil, for the same reasons - what difference might it make if they were growing food for themselves instead ?  

What if all the water now being bottled, is contributing to droughts ?  

What if there would be enough food for everyone, if what is already being grown, was fairly distributed throughout the world ? 

What if there are ways that we could help right now to hasten the time when all the hungry are fed, when all those who are oppressed are set free, when all those who are bowed down are lifted up ? 

What if there is something we could be doing to help make all these things a reality here and now ?  

What if God is waiting for each one of us to play our part, in helping to make someone else's hope a reality ?  

What if . . . what if . . .? . . . maybe something to think about ! 

Advent then, is the season when we remember God's promises, and because of them we can look forward with hope - longing, waiting, believing - that things will not always be the way they are now. We can believe that the time will come when 'all things will be made new', we can believe that the time will come when 'God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes', we can believe that the time will come when 'There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain'.  

So take heart ! Have hope ! Trust God's promises - these things will happen ! 

And when we truly trust God's promises we will be able to say with the Psalmist : 'Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.' 

Amen to that !  



Video

Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : https://youtu.be/PnSD0rpKCWo



Ruth Gillett, 2015

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