Hope, for the Christ-follower, has always been a treasured and unique aspect of our faith. From the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3, man looked forward with expectant hope for the one who would crush the head of the deceiver. While in bondage in Egypt, Israel hoped for the day when God would free them from their bonds. Then, as they wandered through the wilderness, those who were to enter the Promised Land had a hope that the God Who led them through the wilderness would lead them into the land of milk and honey.
While this hope was revealed to – and coming through – the line of Abraham, God foreshadowed that this hope was not just for the Jews. Rahab and Ruth, both members of nations defeated by Israel, were grafted into the line of hope. As Israel conquered and ruled the Promised Land, their need for judges and desire for kings had, at its heart, a desperate need for this hope of a Savior. As Israel was led into captivity, their hope was for a Messiah who would vanquish their captors.
We know how this hope unfolded; God sent His Son to this earth to free His people, not from their human captors, but from an even stronger bondage – sin. The hope that began with man’s fall had come to pass; God had kept His word! As we live in the light of this fulfilled hope, we have a new hope, also based on the promises of God. The object of our hope is the same – Jesus Christ, who will return, not as a baby, but in full glory.
Today, we light the candle of hope, praising God for the hope He has given us, both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled.
Hypocrisy is a charge often leveled against Christians. “How can you say you believe ‘x’ and still do ‘y’?”, the unbeliever asks. While the merits of this claim probably deserve an entire devotional on their own, the implication is that these hypocrites are unqualified - unqualified to be taken seriously, unqualified to speak the truth of the Bible, even unqualified to be a child of God. If someone hears this charge, particularly the latter one, with enough repetition, they may actually start to believe it. What exactly qualifies someone to become a Christian, or to at least claim that they are?
Believe it or not, the list of qualifications is quite short.
1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Throughout the Bible, there are many, many examples of those who would likely be called hypocrites today. Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife - twice! - (Genesis 12:11-20, Genesis 20:1-18) and is still the father of the nation of Israel. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:5-35), but was still the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. David committed adultery (2 Samuel 11:2-5) and murder (2 Samuel 11:14-24), yet God used Bathsheba to give him Solomon, his successor as king. Paul persecuted and killed Christ’s followers (Acts 8:1-9:2), yet he was used to write nearly half of the New Testament.
Were these people hypocrites? Some may say “yes.” The thing is, while salvation is an instant change in state, learning to live in a way that pleases Christ takes a lifetime. As we work to allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, and deepen our relationship with Him, we can see significant growth. Habits can be changed, thought patterns can be transformed, and we can experience peace and joy that are not possible in our own strength. We will get better, but we will never be perfect.
This is also a great example of God’s redemption. The more cynical person would look at the people above and think “If these are the founders of this religion, I want nothing to do with it!” When you look at each life, though, you see God working to bring about a changed heart, which results in a transformed life. These people weren’t used by God to do those sinful things; those people were used by God to do amazing things for Him in spite of those sinful things!
(A note on leaders - Paul sets out qualifications for deacons and pastors in two different places (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-13). James echoes this along with a warning.
1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For we all stumble in many ways.
These guidelines are good for all, but the church should hold their leaders to these standards as a condition of continued leadership. The Bible contains several examples of God removing people from leadership when they turned from Him.)
How, then, do we get qualified? That’s just it - God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If you have accepted Christ, you are qualified! Don’t let your failures get you down; rather, use them as reminders of how much you (and we all) need Jesus. If you haven’t accepted Christ, the good news is that you’re only missing one qualification. There is no credit check, and no test for which you have to study. God is waiting with open arms to welcome you into His family! All you have to do is ask; God’s Simple Plan of Salvation can show you how.
This week, we’ll take a look at Galatians 3:16. It is below, in the context of verses 10-18. In this passage (and all of Galatians 3), Paul is writing to clear up confusion. The Galatian church had been deceived by legalistic teachers who emphasized following the law. In writing this, Paul refers directly or indirectly to several Old Testament verses to illustrate how Christ has fulfilled the promise made to Abraham.
10For all who [rely on] the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law. 11Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. 12But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. 13Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. 14The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
15Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside even a human covenant that has been ratified, or makes additions to it. 16Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but and to your seed, referring to one, who is Christ. 17And I say this: the law, which came 430 years later, does not revoke a covenant that was previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise. 18For if the inheritance is from the law, it is no longer from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
First, he shows the futility of trying to live under the law. In verse 10, the “it is written” references Deuteronomy 27:26a, “Cursed is anyone who does not put the words of this law into practice.” It is absolutely impossible to live without transgressing at least one of the law’s demands; and, once we have broken the law in any one point, we are guilty of breaking it.
In verse 11, he reminds the church that “the righteous shall live by faith.” This is not the first nor the last time this phrase is used. In Habakkuk 2:4, we read:
4Look, his ego is inflated;
he is without integrity.
But the righteous one will live by his faith.
And, of course, Hebrews 11 chronicles those who lived by faith.
In verses 12 and 13, we see the wonderful solution to the dilemma of the law. When Jesus came and died on the cross for us, He took our sin on Him, and also took on the curse of the law. Again, Paul refers back to Deuteronomy:
23you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung [on a tree] is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
In verses 15-17, Paul then uses what he’s set up to illustrate how this applies to the promise made to Abraham. In those days, a covenant was a solemn promise, a contract that could not be broken. Few contracts today would be strong enough to be considered a covenant! When God promised to bless Abraham’s seed, this was a covenant. He then points out that the covenant was to bless Abraham’s seed, not seeds. This singular vs. plural is important; not only has the collective seed of Abraham, the nation of Israel, been blessed, but that one seed in particular, Christ. Finally, the law, which (Paul points out) followed this promise by 430 years, did not remove this covenant. Rather, following this law out of a belief in God’s promise was faith!
Verse 18 wraps it all up. If inheritance came through the law, then none of us would be able to inherit it - remember above, where we’ve all broken the law at some point? But God knew this, so He provided another way to receive His inheritance. And, as Paul points out in verse 14, this has also come to the Gentiles (us non-Jews), so that we can, though faith, receive God’s blessing.
The argument above may seem like it follows a strange path. But, for the church to whom this was written, this made perfect sense. With the deception and focus on the law, they were familiar with the passages regarding the law. Paul used these passages to show them, in a different way, what God has done for them. It’s just another way of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So, you may not realize it, but as a Christian, you are in line to receive an inheritance! I pray that we can live as children of God, by faith, looking forward to our inheritance to come.
It is very easy to get discouraged in life. We may try our hardest to do something that we think is good and right, and yet we feel like we’re just spinning our wheels. Then, we may look at others who are not following God, and they seem to be doing well. This quandry is not unique to the Christian of the 21st century; even Jeremiah the prophet asked God, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do the treacherous live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1)
The Jews had forgotten the promise made to their father Abraham; “He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’” (Genesis 15:5) Isaiah reminds them of this in verse 26, that not only did God create the stars, He knows each one by name. Then, in verse 27, he asks them “why do you assert: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord…?’”
In verses 28 and 29, Isaiah continues to remind them of the absolute power (omnipotence) of God. It is He Who gives “strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.” (v. 29) These words also speak to our need of yielding to Him. If we try to do everything within our own power, we will not be able to use His power through us. Remember that Jesus said, “You can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5) When we admit that we are powerless on our own, we can allow God to use us as an instrument of His power. And, once we let go of the controls, we can also let go of worrying about the results - how liberating!
In verse 30, Isaiah reminds us that even young people fade. If you have been around toddlers, you have seen this for yourself. They have a seemingly endless supply of energy; yet, at some point, they crash and have to sleep. I’ve often wished I had that much energy! But even that falls far short of the power that God gives to His children, as verse 31 tells us.
This last verse is the most well-known verse in this passage. It does encourage us that we will be able to continue our Christian life without growing weary or tired. But the picture of an eagle is quite intriguing. We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Eagles fly very high and smooth, and from their vantage point, they can see more than just where they are now. Seeing the “big picture” is one way that God uses to keep us encouraged, and to reveal to us His plan for our lives. Proverbs 29:18 says “Without revelation, the people run wild.” Instead of running around in circles, we can follow God’s direction.
Be encouraged. No matter what is going on in your life, it is not happening unnoticed to God. He is in control of everything in your life, and “all things work together for the good of those who love God…” (Romans 8:28) Pray that He will give you the strength to endure, and that He will reveal His will for your life and His purpose in your circumstances.
Daniel is a man who wants to be used of God however He sees fit.