We often associate the New Year with a fresh start, carrying the hope that things will be prosperous or improved in the coming year. What are you hoping for this year- winning the lottery, finding that special someone, better health, a return to church work?
In 1 Samuel 4 and 5, Israel goes into battle against the Philistines and loses. In the ensuing post-fight analysis, the elders determine that the Philistines won because Israel didn’t bring the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them. They were reflecting the pagan notion that a deity was magically bound to the symbol of his presence, or as John Ortberg puts it in his book Know Doubt, the Israelites thought of it as “God in a box”. But as the Israelites found out after a second loss, you can’t cage God or force Him to give you the thing you are hoping for.
As the Biblical account illustrates, hope comes in two ways-hoping for something and hoping in someone. The problem is, one day everything we hope for will disappoint us. Our hope and focus needs to be on Jesus, the everlasting hope.
For several years after my downsizing, I hoped for another teaching position. It only was when I turned my eyes outward to Jesus and and yielded to His plan for my life and ministry that I received clarity. When your hope seems to be fading away and your eyes of faith grow dim, remember with Hagar that our God is the “God who sees me” and desires that we learn to trust Him to provide.