Psalm 33:17 ŌA horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save.Ķ
Aside from the first week of Advent, IÕve noticed that we talk very little about hope. Faith and love win hands down for topics both in church and in other religious circles. But hope is beginning to have a comeback. Whatever you think about him as a candidate, thereÕs no denying that Barack Obama has brought hope back into public discourse, and if youÕve seen the screaming crowds of thousands that cheer the message, itÕs clear that he has tapped into something deep. I believe it is the awakening of hope.
I think one of the reasons that hope has taken a back seat is because it is easily misplaced. Hope is the tiny thread that makes it possible to get out of bed in the morning, and when circumstances are frightening and cruel, we will reach for any thread that is offered. King David makes that clear in Psalm 33. David was a warrior and he is talking about the warhorse here. Many hoped in the strength of technology to thwart the enemy. In that day, it was horses. But the one who once slew a heavily armed giant with a river stone and a sling knew better. Deliverance from the enemy comes from another source. Hoping in the best technology is a hope misplaced.
Another example is gambling. Here in Massachusetts weÕre in the midst of a battle over whether to have casinos in the state. As the battle rages on, no one seems to recognize that much of the gambling urge is a grasping for hope. I know in my own life that the only times I have ever bought lottery tickets are when I have been least able to afford them. When times were desperate and I could see no way out of my financial pit, the only thing that got me through the week was that tiny little ticket of hope. It was literally the only way I could see any hope of getting on my feet. Now donÕt get me wrong, I think casinos are a horrible idea and the social ills they generate are well documented enough that the state casino plan is budgeting to address them. But I think we need to recognize that we canÕt just cut someoneÕs cord to a false hope without replacing it with a real one.
I am feeling hopeful for our country for the first time in a long time. IÕm encouraged that the election of any candidate currently in the race—Democrat or Republican—will mean that we will no longer torture people. No matter who wins, we will begin to take care of the earth that God entrusted to our care. That gives me great hope. Is it a true hope or a false one? Well, that depends. If I am placing my hope directly in Obama or any of the candidates, then it is a false hope. As a Christian, my hope should not be placed in any party or candidate or policy. We can support them, vote for them, and make intelligent decisions about who is best equipped to bring about change. But the true hope of Christians belongs with God.
David clears up the bit about horses at the close of the Psalm, and it is the same for our political process. ŌWe wait in hope for the Lord; God is our help and our shield. In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in GodÕs holy name.Ķ The final verse of the Psalm is the closing prayer:
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
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