Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Bible Series - Hope

I'm exhausted. The Bible, episode three took us from the darkest of hours to the pinnacle of hope all in one night.

Babylonian Exile
Those who watched Jerusalem burn as they journeyed into Babylonian exile must have felt quite forsaken by God. How many of them questioned the words that came down to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets through the centuries? I attempt to put myself into the moment as I watch these stories unfold; as I watched the Israelites walk away from the burning city, I believe they must have thought all hope was gone. Within the movie, they said, "Everything we fought for is lost." And a few moments later, "The people have lost their prophet, their city, and their king."

I want us to know, however, that hope is never lost even when all seems dark. Sometimes God's plan includes times of darkness, of separation, of consequences for disobedience. Even in those darkest moments, He has not forsaken us. Cling to His promises - His ancient words of old that are new and fresh like the morning. The living Word of God will never fail; every Holy Word will be fulfilled. God will bring you through and He will reign victorious in the end.

Lions and Fires
The Babylonian exile was a time of two of the greatest stories of the Old Testament - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions' den. I fear our 21st century church has belittled these powerful stories into barely more than children's Sunday school stories only fit for a flannel board.

Fire and lions - no human stands much of a chance against their ferocious appetites. These men were human so I'd be surprised if fear didn't rule their hearts as they were thrown into their respective death chambers. And yet, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up'" (Daniel 3:16-18). I can only pray my faith would be so solid if I ever encounter such a situation.

These four men serve as an amazing testament to the importance of faith. We must stay faithful to Him even when the world around us doesn't know Him. We must stay faithful in our own personal Babylons. We must stay faithful even when the lions and the fire await us.

Jesus' birth
The movie then skipped several hundred years. Indeed, the Bible itself is quiet for 400 years prior to the birth of Jesus. God stayed silent for so long but then spoke in a very clear and powerful way. He took a breath with human lungs, He stepped on soil with human feet, He spoke His Word with a human mouth.

The movie quoted the prophet Isaiah as part of Jesus' birth. I love this particular prophecy, "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Each of those names has special significance; you can read more at my article, And He Will be Called.

Jesus' baptism & start of ministry
Jesus' baptism seems odd to some, doesn't it? Jesus set the example for us through His willingness to be baptized. When we decide to follow God... when we yield to His calling... when we begin the ministry He has in store for us... we likewise are baptized in water as a sign to the world of our decision to follow.

After His baptism, Jesus immediately went into the desert to be tempted. I noticed something here. In the movie Satan said, "If you were the Son of God.." I looked it up to see if this quote is consistent with Scripture and it is. (See Matthew 4:3.) IF. It's a powerful word. And this is so sickeningly typical of Satan. He comes at us speaking lies. The speaker of lies uses them to plant doubt and make us question the truth. "IF you are the Son of God..." - there is no "if" in this scenario, friend. Jesus knew that. He knew the truth; He knew the Word. Even more, He is the Truth; He is the Word. That's exactly how He responded to each of Satan's attacks - with the power of the Word.

Tonight's episode ended with Jesus calling Peter to serve Him. Although the Bible never records that Jesus walked out to Peter's boat at the time of Peter's calling, I loved the imagery of this scene. It made me think, "God reaches out to each one of us. He stands outside our boat and wants us to pull Him in. What are we going to decide?"

So, I leave this week with that question. What are you going to decide? Will you pull Him in? If you do, He'll tell you as He told Peter, that with Him we will "Change the world."

Please leave your thoughts...What did you think of The Bible series, episode three? I look forward to discussing it with you.

Other articles in this series:
The Bible Series - Beginnings (Episode 1)
The Bible Series - Homeland (Episode 2)
The Bible Series - Mission (Episode 4)
The Bible Series - Passion (Episode 5)

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