From Hopeless to Hopeful
Monday - June 1st
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 6:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The final chapter of the Old Testament provides a grim prediction of judgment that is yet to come. It does include a slight glimmer of hope that some could avoid judgment by heeding the voice of the Lord. The final word of the entire Old Testament as found in Malachi 4:6, depending on the translation you read, is "cursed" or "destruction." The closing chapter of the Bible's first testament paints a sad, bleak, hopeless picture of humanity, the Nation of Israel, and their relationship to God.
While at first, it seems disheartening to see the first half of the Bible conclude on such a grim image, it actually is a fitting summary of the theme of the Old Testament. The Old Testament story emphasizes that man cannot measure up to God's holy character. It answers the question, What would humanity do if God laid out clear rules to keep to achieve a right relationship with Him? God did that in the law given to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai (which included the ten commandments). The nation of Israel could not live up to the codes and regulations that represented the holiness of God. The entire conclusion of the Old Testament simply states that man remains guilty before God and still sits under judgment. So the final word "cursed" in the last verse of the final chapter fits incredibly well.
The Old Testament leaves human beings condemned and in desperate need of a savior. The New Testament opens with four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all recording the story of Jesus of Nazareth. We get four distinct perspectives of the same life and ministry. Each of the four declares Jesus to be the Messiah sent by God to rescue fallen and condemned humanity. He is presented as the hope and love of God sent to redeem those willing to place their faith in Him. Each records Jesus' own claims that He is indeed the Son of God on mission to redeem humanity. The four record in detail Christ's suffering, sacrifice, and ultimate resurrection.
At the launch of His three-year public ministry leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus delivers the most famous sermon in history - The Sermon on the Mount. The sermon is recorded in the Book of Matthew, chapters five, six, and seven. Jesus lays down the distinction of His Kingdom's values as compared to the earthly kingdoms of human beings. Jesus, the one who brought incredible hope in light of the horrible conclusion of the Old Testament, started each of the first eight sentences of that sermon with the word "happy." Eight times he declares "happy," or "blessed" is the one who... Think of the contrast. "Cursed" concludes the era of God's people before Jesus. Now, Jesus launches His ministry with the word "happy" or "blessed." What a distinction!
We who know Christ need to understand that contrast. Happiness, despite our circumstances, can be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul declared in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Before Christ's coming to earth and accomplishing His redemptive work, all was hopeless. Since Christ completed His mission of love, anyone can be full of hope.
Our nation currently deals with a pandemic of COVID-19, a hideous reminder of racism in the death of George Floyd, and peaceful protests hijacked by rioters and looters. Tensions are high. People are frazzled. Hope eludes us as we turn to politicians and influencers for change and stability. With that background, the hope of Jesus emerges as the only way even for our world today. His Kingdom principles lived out by His Church moves us from a "cursed" existence to a "blessed" reality. Let us get on our knees and cry out for hope and healing in our land. Let us cry out for revival and a turning of hearts back to God.
No matter how hopeless and cursed life seems today, Jesus promises blessing and happiness to all who will follow Him!