12/21/14

Prisoners of Hope

My nieces were taking a bath, dumping water on each others' heads and then telling on each other; filling cups with bubbles and pretending it was lemonade; and just generally taking advantage of the bathroom acoustics by squealing as loudly as possible.

I sat on the toilet seat, flipping through the kids Bible my sister-in-law reads to the girls before bed. It's a big, illustrated Bible that retells the familiar Bible stories in simple kid-fashion. I was mostly looking at the pictures and not really paying much attention to the words (in simple kid-fashion).

Then I turned the page to this.














It's the space between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

400 years pass, to be exact.

Four hundred years.

I sat there and stared at the words for a while. Then I closed the book and finished up bath time with a rousing rendition of "this is the way we wash our hair" (in C major).

A few days later I was reading Zechariah. It's one of the last books in the Old Testament, right before that 400-year space between the Testaments. Those last few books of the OT are nothing but prophecy after prophecy and I admit that sometimes I get bogged down with it all...until they start talking about Jesus.

On this particular day I was reading in Zechariah 9 about Jesus coming to us, "humble and...mounted on a colt, the foal of a donkey," and I was thinking about the scene in Mark 11 when Jesus really does ride in mounted on a colt, when I read Zechariah 9:12.
"Return to your stronghold, O prisoner of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double."
O prisoner of hope.

My eyes hovered over those words and I read them over and over again. Prisoner of hope. O, prisoner of hope.

I thought about the people of the Bible in the space between the Old and New Testaments. I thought about the long silence of God and how very hopeless it must have felt at times, to feel far from God and to want to hear just one word from Him that would reassure them He is still coming. Just one word to let them know He still sees them. Just one word for them to hold onto, to sustain them, to comfort them.

I know because I've felt like that this year. It hasn't been 400 years but it has been long, and silent, and frustrating. And I have felt that darkening chasm of hopelessness open wide right before my feet so that all I'd have to do is step into it and I would be swallowed.

But I am a prisoner of hope.

I am tied to the promises God has made so that, even when there is silence, I still know He has spoken.

I am tied to what I know of the character of God so that, even when there is silence, I still know who He is.

I don't know why God chose 400 years before He sent Jesus to redeem His people, and I don't know why He chooses to make some of our own seasons of struggle so long. But I do know that even after those 400 years, He still kept His promise. He sent the Messiah. He was faithful.

They were prisoners of hope as they waited for Jesus, and we are prisoners of hope now, because we have Him.

He came as a man and He left us His Spirit. He is with us, and even when there is silence, He is still with us.

I don't know what season you are in right now, and I don't know how long you've been in it or when it will end. But God sees you. He has already come, and He is coming again, and He is with us now. No matter how long it takes, God is always faithful, always good, always true. Hold onto Him. Even in the silence, He is working.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoner of hope; He will restore you.

"Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to those who take refuge in him." - Proverbs 30:5 
"The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works." - Psalm 145:13
"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope." - Psalm 130:5 
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." - Hebrews 10:23

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