Hope is a powerful word that is often misconstrued…
For a follower of Christ, it is more than just an optimistic outlook but a confidence that God will complete the plan that HE has promised.
The prophecies of the Old Testament cast a vision of the Messiah that gave hope to God’s people.
This is the HOPE that we celebrate this first week of Advent.
The LORD speaks of the Hope of the Messiah even as the punishment of the Fall was delivered.
The first woman, Eve, in the midst of the curse, became a vessel of redemption.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. ~ Genesis 3:15
The Psalmist calls out a prayer and song of hope:
Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Hope is at the heart of our celebration of Advent. As I have pondered this truth the women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ come to mind. Their stories are often marginalized as women in an age of patriarchs and they would not live to see the hope of a Messianic line in which their names were revered but they each demonstrated the “hope” that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would deliver His people.
They were more than optimistic… they expected HIM to complete the promise of a Savior and went to great lengths to be included therein.
First mentioned in Genesis 38 in relation to Judah, son of Jacob, who arranged for her marriage to his oldest son. It simply states that her husband was an wicked man and the LORD put him to death. We can only imagine how he treated his wife. Next, she is shamed by the second son and set aside by Judah. Despite her mistreatment, or maybe because of it, she goes to great lengths to secure her place among the people of Israel according to their customs but she was forced to play the harlot to do it. It is through her and Judah that the Messiah would come.
First mentioned in the second chapter of Joshua, a successful harlot of Jericho, heard the stories of YHWH, and went to great lengths to secure a place among the people of Israel. It is through her and Salmon that the Messiah would come.
First mentioned in the Book of Ruth, like Tamar loses her husband but goes the extra mile to cling to her adopted family and returns with her mother in law to Israel. She marries Boaz, Rahab’s son. It is through her and Boaz that the Messiah would come.
First mentioned in 2 Samuel and again in 1 Kings she is perhaps most well known for her affair with King David, but she is listed as the “wife of Uriah.” I believe that this is less about shaming her and more about including the faithful Uriah in the heritage. It is through her son, Solomon, with David that the Messiah would come.
Each of these women lived in the shadow of Eve and was hobbled by the sinful world in which they lived.
Each hoped for the promised Messiah who would crush the serpent’s head.
Each had been with at least one other man before the husband to whom she would bear the child included in the Covenant lineage.
Our God is willing and able to use us where we are; no matter how humble the circumstances to accomplish HIS PURPOSES.
The young mother of Jesus, whose story is found in the Gospels of Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 was not a harlot, an adulteress or even married before… she was a virgin… but the world saw her as no different than these other women.
She would experience a miracle no woman before or since has ever known but most would not believe the wild story she told of the child’s extraordinary conception.
She would give birth to GOD and watch Him die… but still she would hope…
She would see Him resurrected and then she would lose Him again… but still she would hope…
These stories are different but they share something in common.
They found themselves in places they never expected where life was absolutely not going the way they had planned but they never gave up hope and we are all the richer for it.
Remember their names, go read their stories and cling to the HOPE that the Gospel is spread by us, the least of these, and our testimony is usually built out of our response to our lowest moments. Be encouraged!
On this first Sunday of Advent we light the Candle of Hope!