Hope Beyond the Headlines

In times of extremely dangerous threats, it can be hard to see hope.

The time of Isaiah the prophet was one such time (8th century B.C.). For a long time, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had enjoyed relative prosperity without major threat of invasion. Now, the Assyrian Empire was brutally subjugating the territories around them and menacing the nations of Israel and Judah.

As this threat arose, Isaiah called on the people to consider the state of their lives. Were they living the right way? What were they living for? Had they forgotten the needy around them? Were they living for luxury and sensual pleasure rather than finding their enjoyment in God? This was a time for introspection (see Isaiah 1).

But it was also a time in which the people needed hope. Scary times don’t seem like times to hope. They seem like times for fear and fear. It’s very easy in those times to see only the threats and not see the things that are above them and beyond them.

So, Isaiah preached hope. He preached about a time when a descendant of their kings (from the house of David, see Isaiah 11:1, 10) would rise and create a glorious, prosperous, and peaceful kingdom. Isaiah describes this kingdom using different pictures, like those of the animal world. In this kingdom, for example, the lion will lie down with the lamb. This is the emblem under which he represents the amazing peace of the kingdom of the future King.

Not only that, the nations would actually submit to this King, and this would usher in peace and justice throughout the world. “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). It would be a glorious worldwide kingdom of peace and justice.

The Apostle Paul was a Jewish Rabbi who was nourished on those promises and looked forward to their fulfillment. He was looking for God to intervene and set up that kingdom. In Jesus, Paul saw a threat to this future kingdom. He was so upset by people following Jesus that he sought to imprison anyone who followed Jesus.

Then, all of a sudden, Paul shows up in Damascus, Syria arguing with everybody that Jesus was in fact the very King Isaiah was predicting! What in the world happened?

According to Paul, Jesus was alive, though crucified, and he met the risen Jesus on the way to Damascus. As he explains it, Jesus spoke to him in a vision so convincing that it changed his life forever. In addition, he was convinced that Jesus was not only the King for the Jews but for the entire world. He saw it as His mission to tell everybody about this risen King.

Years later, Paul wrote a letter to the followers of Jesus in the great city of Rome. As he reflected on Jews and Gentiles coming together to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, he realized that all that Isaiah had prophesied was coming to fulfillment. He writes, “And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope'” (Rom. 15:12).

And we are still seeing it fulfilled in our day. In the past 100 years, we have seen more people from more nations become followers of Jesus and submit to His reign than ever before. In places where the name of Jesus was unknown, prayers and praises to Him ring out all over the world. There is much more to come, but Jesus is reigning now.

So, we have more reason to hope than Isaiah did. Isaiah could only see the kingdom far off. We have seen it fulfilled in Jesus who said that the kingdom of heaven was here because He was here. We have seen it fulfilled in people submitting to His reign all over the world.

It’s easy to lose sight of that hope in the midst of a dangerous threat. We need to remind ourselves and one another of the reality that Jesus is now reigning and His kingdom is expanding over all the earth. That is the hope beyond the headlines.

It’s not always easy to see and feel this hope. To see and feel it more clearly and fully, we need God’s help. That’s why the Apostle Paul told the followers of Jesus in Ephesus that he continually prayed that God would enlighten their eyes to see the greatness of Jesus’ power and reign (see Eph. 1:18–23).

The more they could see it, the more they would become what Richard Lovelace calls “a new center for the reordering of life on earth as it is in heaven” (Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 47). Jesus wants His reign to manifest itself in how we live as people of His kingdom in every sphere of life: family, business, school, state, the arts, and everywhere else.

But we don’t have to do it alone. God has given us the church to help us. One of the major purposes of the church is to equip people to make an impact on the world, living out Jesus’ reign in all of life (see my explanation of the four major purposes of the church here). How do we help each other do that?

  1. We pray for each other to see the reign of Jesus more clearly like Paul did for the church in Ephesus.
  2. We seek to make the church look more like the kingdom of God. We accept one another and “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 15:7, 14:19).
  3. We help each other think through what it means for us to live out our lives, marriages, parenting, work, and play in light of Jesus’ reign.
  4. We pray for God’s leading and working in each aspect of our daily lives, not just the so-called “spiritual” parts.

If we do this, we can really become a people who live in light of the hope that comes from the reign of Jesus, even in the darkest hours. This is the day of Jesus’ reign. God will help us and answer our prayer, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).


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