More than ever it is apparent that the propaganda of society is driven by fear. Our faith is driven by hope; hope given to us by God. As our culture lunges forward grasping because of fear, God provides hopeful assurance through promise.
Genesis tells the story of a promise. The promise is land, son, and blessing.
The promise is God’s resolve because there are problems.
These promises are passed down through the generations.
The stories of promises fulfilled are passed along as well.
God revealed Himself to man providing hope through promise.
God’s people shared this hope, these promises.
I would venture to say that there were other people delivering other stories while these stories were being given.
People realized that they would not be here forever.
People realized that there were times when it rained, and the rain helped the harvest.
People realized that there were times when there was no rain, and the drought killed the harvest.
People realized that people would lie to them in their business dealings.
People realized that good land did was not obtained without a cost (goods, services, fighting, lives).
People realized that life was uncertain (what I have today could be gone tomorrow; I could be gone tomorrow).
People realized that children propagated their life (if I die with no children I am dead).
People realized that no one was going to give to them. More so, if they weren’t careful they would be taken from (they had to watch their own, protect themselves, look out for number one.
From these revelations mankind’s stories reigned, these were stories of grasping. I have to grasp for land. I have to grasp for children. I have to grasp for getting.
God provided hope to people who were living in fear.
God gave a promise to people who were grasping.
Promise is God’s hopeful resolve in a culture of fearful grasping.
What story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
There are these mothers found in the story of Genesis, who almost were not mothers.
Their bodies had grown past the physical stage of conception.
These women were promised children. They could not conceive children. These children were gifts.
We have records of these mothers because their stories were shared from generation to generation.
They were claims that in a culture of grasping, God provides a promise.
The gospel writer Luke tells of a woman who is old. Explicitly, she is too old to conceive children. She has never had a child. She really wanted a child, but she has given up hope. One day her husband is greeted by a messenger, who announces he is from God.
I bet you know where I am going.
The messenger has a promise to deliver to this man, Zacharias.
He says, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
Zacharias did not believe the messenger. Zacharias had lost hope. Zacharias forgot all about promise. Zacharias had resigned to grasping.
Nine months later…
Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to a son, John.
The story of hope continues with fulfilled promises.
It is really something when a lady who is too old to conceive has a baby.
Luke continues to tell us about another lady, well, she is more of an adolescent girl.
She is at the prime time for conception.
But she has never been with a man (in the Biblical sense).
She is visited by a messenger of God.
She is promised a child.
Oh great she thinks, “my fiance will be happy to know that when we get married, and we consummate our marriage, we will be able to have a child.”
The messenger corrects her, “No, Mary, not after you get married. Not after you have had intercourse. Before all of that, God is going to allow you to conceive.”
Mary’s reaction is uncanny. She does not have any questions. She does not have any doubts. She simply is in awe that this is going to happen to her.
Mary believes the messenger, and worships God because she knows all too well that He has promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled. Mary believes those stories over the stories others are telling.
Stories driven by fear
Stories of grasping
Nine months later…
Mary gives birth to a son. Her son’s name is Jesus.
The other day some buddies of mine showed up to HUT Mobile Home Park with 3000lbs of food. They opened up the back doors and said, “take some, it’s free”.
The people at the mobile home park stood looking at each other in disbelief.
They sheepishly waited for the first brave soul to approach the truck and to get their food.
They were looking for the sign-up sheet.
They were holding off for the sales pitch.
They were waiting for the catch.
They remarked aloud, “is this really for free?”
These people were used to grasping.
Yesterday they were introduced to promise.
I have a friend for years she lived her life in fear, all the while grasping.
She was afraid that she would not be loved.
She was unsure of herself.
She devised a plan.
If she let go of her inhibitions and opened her body to guys, she would be loved.
She was grasping and grasping and grasping.
One day a guy did not want her body for himself.
The guy told her of a story about a man, who was born to a virgin because of a promise.
He told her the story of Jesus. This guy introduced this girl to hope, to promise.
So now I have a friend named Allisa and she lives to tell people of this hope she came to realize through the promise of Jesus.
I have more stories like this. They are great stories. They continue to give me hope. They continue to remind me of promise.
However, I know that there are more stories of people who are grasping.
They tell me, “Jesus could not have been born of a virgin” they are grasping to be right.
There are others who tell me things like, “I am really a good person”. They usually proceed to tell me, “why, just the other day I found a wallet in the parking lot of Sam’s. It was full of cash, and I found the owner and gave it back”, stories like these, these moral tales are pretty inspiring. These stories are not rooted in promise; these are stories of grasping, grasping to be accepted as right.
There have been others, who are not in disbelief grasping to be right, nor are they in mis-belief grasping to be accepted as right. I know of people who are in utter belief of God. They believe that Jesus is God. However, they tell me things like this, “God would not forgive me for the things that I have done”. They are beyond grasping. They are in resignation (we'll talk more about this week).
In Genesis we find stories of promises given, promises fulfilled. These stories continue and are shared and recounted and new stories are added. The greatest story of a promise given and fulfilled is through the story of Jesus.
Jesus provides a concept of hope in fearful days. In days when the taxes were high, and food was scarce. In days when jobs were unsecure; In days when the government was promising peace and security and “the answer”, but people were not realizing this audacious peace and security; people were not getting answers. Jesus’ hope was rooted in the God of promise; God who knew that we would be grasping until the day we died if there was no resolve; God whose promise provided a path to nourishment, propitiation, and blessing.
Jesus’ call was for people to simply realize they were grasping. Upon their realization of the fear they were consumed with, their acts of grasping, Jesus called them to believing. “Believe”, he said, “that God’s promises are sure.” “Believe”, he continued, “that you can move out of fear and into hope alone.” “Believe”, he concluded, “that God’s promises are realized through me.”
Again, what story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
Do you find yourself grasping?
There is a promise. Believe!
I delivered this message on Sunday August 30, 2009. The concepts of fear, hope, promise, and grasping were clearly outlined in talks given by Walter Brueggemann at the First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville. His talks put form to this message.