Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you or someone you know been seriously sick and refused to get help or medical treatment? Why do some of us just refuse to see the seriousness of our sickness and get help for it? It comes down to pride. Sometimes it’s a confidence in our own strength. When faced with sickness, we often just like to “power through it”. We don’t want to ask for help. Asking for help means admitting weakness and that’s humiliating! Of course, this can be very harmful. If you try to ignore the sickness and “power through it” you could be wasting valuable time. If you catch the illness soon enough, the doctors may be able to save you, but try to “power through it”, and it could be too late. That’s the point of course. If you have a serious disease, the earlier you seek medical attention, the better your chances, the more hope you have.
Sin: Our Need for Hope
Our hope as Christians is more than just hope for the correct medical treatment. It isn’t a kind of hope which may or may not come to pass. (Like how some people hope a certain sports team will win the game). Our Psalm highlights our need for hope. It warns us of the real danger of pride, an overestimation of our own strength. Our Psalm says that God is not pleased with those who trust in their own strength. God doesn’t favour those who think too much of themselves and their abilities. Yes, we sometimes think that we can get through our problems all on our own. Sin is like a terminal illness which has infected all humanity. We all still suffer the symptoms of its presence in us. We’ve got this debilitating illness, yet we just go on ignoring our symptoms and think that we will get better if we just “power through it.” And just like our illustration, that will not go well.
Our situation is even more dire because God is seriously offended and fearfully angered by our sins and he will make sure we see justice. God is not pleased with sinners who trust in themselves. Instead, God wants you to recognise your condition. In order to have any hope you need to see that in-and-of yourself there is no hope. We need to acknowledge what we really are: sick, powerless, enslaved to sin. Left to yourself you have not one drop of hope: you are already dead in trespasses and sins. You need to have the same realisation as St. Paul who wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh.”
Notice: God heals the “broken-hearted.” In today’s culture a broken heart is an emotional thing. If Bobby dumps Sally, and Sally spends the rest of the day crying, eating profuse amounts of chocolate and listening to depressing break-up music, she is said to have “a broken heart”. That is not what our Psalm means when it talks about the broken-hearted. The idea is being so overwhelmed by troubles that you have no confidence or courage left. Someone who is broken-hearted has a complete loss of hope. A broken-hearted person recognises and freely admits their sin. They are sorry that they’ve have offended God. A broken-hearted person is the exact opposite of the proud, hard-hearted person. The main difference between these two types of people is shown by their reactions when confronted with their own sins. How did Pharaoh react when shown his sin? He was proud. He hardened his heart and refused to repent. How did David react when shown his sin? He was broken-hearted. He acknowledged his sin. He had anguish and pain because he knew that he was in sin and angered God.
God: Foundation of Our Hope
If our condition is so hopeless, what possible reason could we have for hope? The reason our Psalm gives for us to have hope is a simple one: who God is. Consider the boundless understanding of the one who created and sustains this vast universe! While some days I can’t keep the names of my three children straight, God has no such problem! Each of the countless stars has a name and a number and God knows each.
Since the God we hope in is all knowing, he knows exactly what our condition is. Indeed, he knows our condition far better than even we do. He’s like a doctor who knows the patient’s condition better than the patient himself does. The patient perhaps doesn’t understand all the implications this disease will entail. But the doctor knows and is ready to assist. In the same way, God knows our condition. He knows our sin down to the dirtiest, most hidden, most incriminating detail.
The God we hope in is all knowing, and he has complete control of the universe. The clouds are under God’s control, each raindrop lands precisely where he wants it, and the grass on the hills grows because of God’s almighty hand. God is all powerful, but he doesn’t wield this power without purpose. Almighty power isn’t wielded by a malevolent madman. No, God makes the rain come down and the grass grow for everyone, good and bad, just and unjust, (even Donald Trump)! God even feeds the wild beasts and the baby ravens who cry out to him for food! This all knowing, all powerful God is all caring.
Now, this is where it begins to sound like good news: We must remember that because God is also all powerful, he has the ability and strength to do something about our condition. If he can make it rain wherever and whenever he wills, then he has the ability to fix our sad and broken condition. And we know what kind of God we have, because if he cares for the baby ravens who need food, why wouldn’t he care for us? So, we can see that God is the foundation for our hope. He has the knowledge, power, and desire to do something for us, to rescue, deliver, and heal us.
The Kingdom: Christ is our Hope
But has he done so? In this world things our sin has broken things. Our relationship with God was shattered to pieces, and the same can be said about how we relate to one another. Yet, in God we have a reason for our hope, not just because the all-knowing all-powerful Creator cares for us. Jesus gave a hint of more when he instructed his disciples to proclaim, “The kingdom of God has come near to you,” (Luke 10:8-9). The Kingdom of God is not a place or realm, but the rule and reign of God. We have a reason for hope because an all-knowing, all powerful Creator God demonstrates his care for us by showing up in Jesus, and in our own lives.
Our hope rests upon the God whose almighty power flowed through Jesus as he healed the sick, raised the dead, and proclaimed the Gospel. Through Jesus the Messiah, the Kingdom, the reign of God has come near. In Jesus, God has shown up to gather together all the exiled people of God. In Jesus, God has shown up to heal the broken in heart, to bind up their wounds, and take up the humble. He shows up today to rule and reign in our midst by means of his Word and Supper and to offer us mercy. It is only because of Jesus substitutionary death upon the cross that God is well pleased with those who hope in his mercy. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the start of God’s Kingdom, his long-awaited saving reign.
Do you feel broken-hearted? Are you are conscious of your own sinfulness? Sin has infected and wounded you. Maybe there’s a lingering sin in your life, much like a sickness you just can’t seem to beat. Remember then, the Kingdom of God has come near. God has shown up, dealt with your sin upon the Cross, and offers you his mercy. He offers his mercy to you here today! Acknowledge that sin is restless in you! Confess to God just how wounded and sick you are. He wants us to cry out to him like children. Stop relying on your own strength and reason, and trust in Christ. That is where you will find a reason for hope. God is pleased with those who are hoping in his mercy, and his mercy mercy offered in Jesus. God has promised to give it you! Trust him! He is our father who takes us into his arms. The Lord lifts up the humble. God will lift us up, care for us, and bring us to himself when we cry to him. Where he is there we shall be. That’s our hope. Through Christ we are made heirs of this kingdom. We get to be citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem! A place without sorrow, dying, sickness, or death. A place of everlasting blessedness.
St. Luke, was a physician by trade, who became a companion of St. Paul and wrote one of the four Gospels. While we remain in this life, we are tended to by a better physician than St. Luke. We have the best physician treating us, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is the great hospital for sinners. Christ the mighty physician continues to apply bandages to our wounds through his Word, and through the Sacraments. Pray daily, hear and meditate on the Word daily, receive the sacraments, and purge the poison and rottenness dwells in you. We should to use these means, so that we are purged, cleansed of the poison of sin, which is never finished in this life. God is willing and able to do it, and he has accomplished this for us through the crucifixion and resurrection of his Son. Christ is God’s mercy. Christ is our hope, and that is a good reason to sing God’s praise.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.