When snowdrops appear during the winter, emerging through the frozen ground and then showing such delicacy and fragility, you know that winter won’t last forever. These beautiful little flowers bring a message of hope and happiness. However bad things might be, they are harbingers of something better that is coming, hopefully soon.
Much of the developed world is experiencing hard times at present. It seems that people have become accustomed to a lifestyle that their country’s productivity cannot maintain, so for years wages have been at a standstill and public services have been cut back.
Many European nations, including Britain, have been facing an “austerity budget” in an attempt to limit national borrowing and “balance the books”. It has not been a popular strategy (ask the Greek people) and the result has been hard for many people, especially those who have lost their jobs and who now struggle to survive. No wonder people ask if there is any end to this process of cutting back and making do. All this is causing political anxiety and further unrest.
Death and Taxes
At the turn of the year, when pundits review the past twelve months and forecast how the coming year might work out, one headline said it all: “The only certainty is uncertainty”. This is particularly true as a General Election draws near.
It was Benjamin Franklin who made the now famous statement:
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
Uncertainty is something we have to cope with and we are designed accordingly. For only God knows the end from the beginning and His foreknowledge is a divine prerogative. Solomon explains that God has given us a sense of anticipation and apprehension which is quite different from the animal kingdom, but He has concealed just what the future holds for each of us.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
To return to Benjamin Franklin’s comment for a moment, we know that one day we will die, but we don’t know when, and it is as well we don’t know. For if we knew, we would always be living with that deadline over us. In Bible times, when God’s prophets ministered, there was a king who was told he would live another fifteen years. King Hezekiah had that life sentence to serve, which for him and for his nation was much better than the alternative (see Isaiah chapter 38). On the other hand, Jesus once told a parable about a rich farmer who was so concerned about storing his abundant harvest that he planned larger barns, only to be told:
“Fool, this night your soul will be required of you; then whose those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).
In an uncertain world, some things are unshakeably true and unalterable. The promises God has made cannot fail, for when God says something it has to happen. As one apostle put it:
“Let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).
What he meant was that God’s words can never fail, even if everyone else is shown to be liars and utterers of falsehood. This is not just a put-down for mankind, although it is, that because none of us ever keep our promises absolutely. It is rather a declaration of divine certainty. God will never fail to fulfil what He has said; His words are rock-solid certainties.
God has a purpose with the earth which will include the establishment of His kingdom, or rulership, here once again. Long ago, when there were kings in Israel, God’s kingdom existed on earth and people had the opportunity to witness a better way of life in action. But that arrangement only lasted some 400 years before collapsing because of human indifference and unbelief. Then Jesus was born and he showed us what mankind is capable of in terms of a living and vibrant relationship with God. Born the Son of God, the Lord Jesus always obeyed and always pleased his heavenly Father, and he willingly gave his life for us , so that we can also share in a loving relationship with our heavenly Father.
A Living Hope
When Jesus was raised from the dead, three days after he was cruelly crucified, his resurrection was a remarkable expression of hope. When the Bible uses the word “hope”, it doesn’t mean something that might happen, as in the expression “Oh, we do hope so”. We us the word loosely as we can never be absolutely certain what will happen. When God’s prophets or apostles talk of the hope of the gospel, or urge us to put our hope in the living God (Jeremiah 17:7), they are referring to something that is certain, which gives us hope.
That wonderful hope is available for all who read God’s word and act upon it, as God requires.