Hope deferred

“I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD.”
(Genesis 49:18, KJV)

A South Sudanese Christian refugee in Uganda. Barnabas enabled her and many others to train in vegetable growing and nutrition

We are waiting – waiting for a vaccine to be developed to protect us from Covid-19, waiting for an end to facemasks and lockdowns, waiting to be able to crowd into our church buildings and sing God’s praise together, waiting for the world’s economy to recover. We are waiting for God to deliver us from this pandemic and all its repercussions.

The Bible is full of waiting on the Lord, waiting for Him to intervene, to rescue, to restore. Often the waiting time is prolonged far beyond what we had expected.

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
(Jeremiah 8:20, KJV)

This plaintive cry of the Lord’s people, who had “hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror”, may be ours too as we wait in a deteriorating world situation, with growing hunger, hatred and violence. (Jeremiah 8:15)

But still we must continue to wait, trust and hope, praying for God’s deliverance, no matter how long and hard the day. Even Elijah had to send his servant seven times to look towards the sea, before a little cloud was seen. (1 Kings 18:43-44)

Our trust must be in God and in His divine providence, not in the scientists struggling to produce a vaccine, nor in the politicians and economists puzzling over how to restore livelihoods. The words of a well-loved hymn, written by a young German Christian in the turbulent seventeenth century, remind us to rely solely on God:

All my hope on God is founded:
He doth still my trust renew.
Me through change and chance He guideth,
Only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
Calls my heart to be His own.
Pride of man and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray his trust:
What with care and toil he buildeth,
Tower and temple fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.
Joachim Neander (1650-1680), translated from German to English by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

Jeremiah prophesied in a time of national disaster. But he brought to the exiles in Babylon a message of hope:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Jeremiah also modelled this message of hope by very publicly buying a field, as the Lord had commanded him, while Jerusalem was being besieged by the Babylonian army (Jeremiah 32:6-9). In a time of disaster, in a period of great uncertainty as to the future, Jeremiah was called by God to invest in hope.

To many, Jeremiah’s action must have seemed ludicrous. No doubt some said it was an unnecessary risk, and others questioned his motives or his state of mind. Yet God was telling him not to retreat, not to give up, but to believe that there is going to come a time when God would be re-building and that Jeremiah was to be a part of this plan.

So we are called not just to see the tragedies of the present, but to have hope for the future, to believe that God has a plan for us and that in times of great trial His purposes will be fulfilled. For we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. (Romans 8:28)

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