Psalm 119: Waiting in Hope

Head in Hands

I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.

Ensure your servant’s well-being;
let not the arrogant oppress me.

My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.

Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.

I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.

It is time for you to act, O LORD;
your law is being broken.

Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,

and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.

–Psalm 119:121-128, NIV

“My eyes fail looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.” The night can get awful long sometimes–dark, quiet, still, and populated by many random, yet worrisome thoughts. In those times, the light at the end of the tunnel can seem small indeed. So small, our eyes just get tired from strain.

Last week in our adult Bible class we were looking at the promises God made to Abraham in Genesis 15. In verses 13 & 14 God tells Abraham (at the time, still called Abram, by the way), “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” Wow. Now there is a tunnel if ever there was one. The overarching promise that is dealt with in the whole interaction between God and Abram in this section of Genesis is that God is going to give Abram and Sarai (later called Sarah) a son. Through this son, and through Abraham’s descendants which shall be as numerous as the stars, the whole world will be blessed.

The light at the end of the tunnel, we know looking back through the lens of the fulfillment of the promise, is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. But forget you know that for a moment. Instead, look at it from another angle. A part of the prophecy/promise here is that the descendants of Abraham and Sarah will be enslaved. What? That’s in the middle of a promise? Aren’t promises supposed to be good? You know, like, “I promise you’ll get the next promotion,” or “I promise you I’ll get you that bike for Christmas.” But slavery?! And not just slavery, but FOUR HUNDRED YEARS? How do you like them apples? Indeed, I wonder what it must have been like for the Hebrew slave in Egypt around the 253rd year of the 400. The light must have seemed dim. His eyes must have been awful tired.

Yet the light still shined. The freedom came–on time–as promised. A genocide surviving baby washes ashore at the tyrant’s daughter’s bath party and the rest is history. Moses, reluctantly at first because of tired eyes, steps up in faith and leads the people of God, the people of the promise out of slavery. And they did in fact come out “with great possessions”…all the gold and jewelry of the Egyptians they could carry.

Centuries and many ups, downs, and dark nights later, tired eyes received relief once more. Again a tyrant orders the death of babies; again a baby is raised to lead. This time, though, he didn’t just obey God. He was God with us–Emmanuel. He came preaching good news to the blind, the poor, the sick, the sinner. He reminded people that dark tunnels are temporary, life and light eternal. He saw not just broken laws, but broken lives, hearts, spirits…and he acted as no one else could to make things right again. Taking our brokenness, he lifted it through himself onto a cross and blazed a trail from death to life that we might not just see, but live, the hope we’d strained to hold onto. Through his love and promise, he set us free.

So lift your tired and weary head. Look to the One who sees you, loves you, wants to free you. See the hope, the light, the Savior at the end of the tunnel with outstretched arms. The promise of freedom and deliverance still stands. The time has come. The God of heaven has acted. Hope is real, no matter how much tunnel lies ahead or behind you.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

–Jesus, Matthew 28-30, NIV

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

–Hebrews 12:2, NIV

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

–II Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. 2The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

4By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

5By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” 6It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

7By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.

8By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. 9By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. 10Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations–the City designed and built by God.

11By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. 12That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

113Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. 14People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. 15If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. 16But they were after a far better country than that–heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

17By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him–18and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” 19Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.

20By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

21By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own–as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

22By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

23By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.

24By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. 25He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. 26He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. 27By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. 28By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.

29By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

30By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

31By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

32I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more–Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . 33Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, 34fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. 35Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. 36Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. 37We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless–38the world didn’t deserve them!-making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

39Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 40God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

–Hebrews 11, The Message

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