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Is There Any Hope?
The Question People Asked Of God In The Past As We Do Today
As dusk fell on the Saturday before Christmas of 1927, two Coast Guardsmen stationed at Wood End in Provincetown spotted the periscope of a Navy submarine breaking the surface of the water just in front of a Coast Guard cutter ship.[i] Within minutes, the cutter had rammed the sub, sending it to the bottom of the bay. The entire crew was held captive in a sunken sub 100 feet below sea level. Rescue ships and divers were immediately dispatched in an attempt to save the crew. As the hours grew to days the weather worsened. After locating the submarine, a Navy deep-sea diver dove down to it and heard a noise coming from the inside. He placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel and realized that the crew was sending a Morse Code message. The diver spelled out the message in his mind being tapped on the hull. It was repeating the same question: “IS…THERE…ANY…HOPE?”
“Is there any hope?” That’s the kind of question the people of God asked of him in the past as we do today. “Is there any hope?” The people of God send out this question to him in prayer. Our prayers repeatedly tap into the heavens asking our Divine Rescuer if there is any hope of survival within this fallen world. “Is there any hope?” The bible delivers four prophetic signs to those who ask this question namely, the virgin shall bear a son, from Bethlehem shall come a ruler, out of Egypt I shall call my son, and Rachel shall weep for her children.
The Virgin Shall Bear A Son
This is the first prophecy of the Old Testament that is recorded in the New Testament. The prophet Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14).
In the Old Testament this prophecy is given in the context of a very wicked king and nation. Just a few verses earlier the prophet said, “Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people...If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all” (Isa 7:8-9). In a time of extreme wickedness, God promised a miracle.
But in the New Testament, this prophecy is fulfilled in the context of naming the Christ child. In Matthew 1:21-32 notice what the passage says, ‘“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”’
Today we live in a world of unbelief like Ephraim. There are wicked rulers about us like Ahaz. Even in our own communities, churches, homes, and families there is much sin. Yes, judgment will come. But we rejoice in “Immanuel.” He is God with us. The virgin has conceived a child. He will save his people from their sins. We rejoice in the birth of the Christ child.
From Bethlehem Shall Come A Ruler (2:6)
The second Old Testament prophecy recorded in the New Testament comes from the prophet Micah. The times were cursed when Micah spoke. He said of Samaria, “her womb is incurable” (1:9). He said the people “devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power” (2:1). These people “covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance” (2:2). These people “hate the good and love the evil” (3:2). Therefore the prophet prophesied, “Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height” (3:12).
But in the midst of this awful iniquity and rebellion the prophet gave this wonderful prophecy concerning Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days...And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace” (Mic 5:2-5)
What a promise for us today! We live in a world of great wickedness, and hatred, and spiritual hunger. But the word “Bethlehem” means, “house of bread.” Our capital cities may fall. People may devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds and in the morning perform it in their power. They may hate the good and love the evil. But Bethlehem, though numbered as one of the least among the clans, will tower over other cities. Every church of Jesus Christ still has bread for the hungry. Every church of Jesus Christ will stand firm, fed, and secure in the strength of the Lord. Jesus Christ is our great Provider and Peacemaker!
The New Testament repeats this prophecy of a coming ruler in Matthew 2:6 saying, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Out Of Egypt I Shall Call My Son (2:15)
The third Old Testament prophecy recorded in the New Testament comes from the words of the prophet Hosea. It was a time in which God said, “…for the LORD has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land” (Hos 4:1). Because of the evildoers, the prophet says, “Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hos 4:2). Israel is described as “a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit,” sinful fruit brought forth for himself; heaped upon himself (Hos 10:1).
But the Lord reminds them through the mouth of his prophet Hosea, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me” (Hos 11:1). He goes on to say, “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms...I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them” (Hos 11:3-4).
So it is in much of our world today. No faith. No loyalty. No knowledge of God. Swearing. Lying. Killing. Stealing. Committing adultery. Bloodshed follows bloodshed. I am reminded of my daughter recounting the tragic tale of a close friend in school. Her friend comes from a broken family. Her father is an alcoholic and wife-beater. Her mother is financially and emotionally unstable. Her parents are divorced and deemed unfit to raise their own children. In light of these circumstances, her friend has been living with her aunt. At the time, her mother was pregnant and her boyfriend had just abandoned her.
The world is a luxuriant vine that brings forth its own abundant fruit of evil. In Matthew 2:15 God called the Christ child who lived among a sinful people, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” He calls us today. Remember that it is the Lord who taught us to walk in his ways—he took us in his arms, led us with kindness and love, and lifted us like infants to his cheeks. He bent down and fed us. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Don’t remain in your Egypt. Don’t walk away from his calling upon your life.
Rachel Shall Weep For Her Children (2:18)
There are many who find no solace in this fourth Old Testament prophecy quoted in the New Testament. Matthew uses a prophecy from Jeremiah to depict the sorrow that visited the mothers of Bethlehem. A sword pierced their hearts when their sons were slaughtered by the wicked king Herod. When it is simply taken by itself, this is a part of the Christmas story that brings tears to the soul.
In Matthew 2:16-18 we read, ‘“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”’
But wait! Let’s look at the entire prophecy. Matthew does not quote the entire passage because he is simply showing how Christ is the fulfillment of all the wonderful prophecies of the Old Testament. Listen to all the words recorded in Jeremiah 31:15-17: “Thus says the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the LORD: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope in your future, says the LORD: your children shall come back to their own country.”
To me this is one of the most precious prophetic promises of the Christ child. Yes, we do live in a time in which “Rachel is weeping for her children.” Furthermore, it is a time that many mothers “will refuse to be consoled, because they are no more.” Christian homes are not exempt from the ravages of Satan. He tempts our sons. He seduces our daughters. He leads them like sheep to the slaughter. We hear voices in our churches—voices of wailing and loud lamentation. Our hearts bleed. We weep for our children. The seats of former churchgoers in our congregation remain empty “because they are no more.” They have become prodigals. Their earthly inheritance is foolishly squandered. Their souls are enslaved to the enemy. Their lives are lost in the far country.
But don’t stop there! Continue reading the prophecy. What does it promise us today? If you’re a weeping mother, dry your tears upon the pages of Jeremiah’s prophecy. If you’re a brokenhearted father, take comfort in the Lord through his servant prophet. If you’re a grieving parent, let the Spirit of God speak to you through his word, “Thus says the LORD: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope in your future, says the LORD: your children shall come back to their own country.”
For the promise to us is that out of Egypt, out of satanic slavery, out of the far country, the Lord will call all our sons and daughters back—he will call all our lost prodigals back to himself!
I know that I left you hanging in regard to what happened to those six survivors trapped in the sunken submarine that rested on the ocean floor 100 feet below. The weather deteriorated rapidly as the storm with gale force winds prevented any rescue effort to continue. It was no longer safe to send ships and divers into the waters. Precious oxygen from the crippled vessel was depleting fast. The situation seemed hopeless. After 62 hours of imprisonment in the forward torpedo room, the six survivors sent a final heartbreaking message: “We understand.” Sadly, there wasn’t going to be a successful rescue operation and a joyous homecoming for the crew of that ill-fated collision at sea. The families that anxiously waited for word concerning their loved ones received the dreadful news with weeping. The 38 Navy officers and sailors did not return home safely. The massive rescue attempt went unrewarded and all Provincetown grieved.
From inside the sunken sub the crew asked the question, “Is there any hope?” Word returned from the outside world saying, “There is no hope.” Unlike these brokenhearted officers and sailors lost at sea, those who weep and grieve for their loved ones in our fallen world are promised a divine rescue from their seemingly doomed life. Today the weeping mother and brokenhearted father may ask the Lord, “Is there any hope?” And God speaks to them in a prophetic code saying, “There is hope in your future.” The virgin shall bear a son and from Bethlehem shall come a ruler. The prophetic promise of a rescue is coming to pass. The sinful raging storm that is swallowing up a multitude of lost souls will soon subside. Hang in there! Help is coming! There is hope!
This is the meaning of the coming of the Christ child. He came at a time “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets.” He is our Christ-mass. He is our worship service. He is our hope. He is our gift. He is our deliverer. He is our joy. He is our life.
When it is a time that Ephraim “will not stand firm in faith as a people,” remember it is also a time when “the virgin shall bear a son.”
When it is a time that people “hate the good, and love the evil,” remember that there is a Bethlehem, a “house of bread,” where the Christ child is born and where God’s children are fed.
When it is a time of bitter bondage, harsh taskmasters, and wicked kings like Herod, remember that it is also a time God will say, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When it is a time of Rachel weeping for her children, remember it is also a time in which there is the sweet voice of the Lord whispering, “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears...there is hope in your future.”
[i] Mass Moments, “December 17, 1927: Coast Guard Cutter Collides with Navy Submarine.” The Navy submarine, S-4, and the Coast Guard cutter Paulding, collided just off the coastline of Provincetown. Six survivors trapped in the forward torpedo room managed to communicate to a diver through Morse Code that they were alive. In spite of a concerted effort between the Coast Guard and Navy to rescue the crew of the sunken sub, a growing nor’easter and treacherous underwater currents thwarted their attempts to rescue the six survivors. Once the weather cleared, the despondent rescuers set to work recovering the bodies of the 38 officers and sailors lost on the submarine.
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.