light at the end of a tunnel August 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Jeremiah 30, 31; Ezekiel 25

Hope for the Hopeless

No friends, no home, no money, and in jail- that is certainly a description for someone who would feel hopeless. He might feel like he is in a long dark tunnel – where is the light at the end of it? Perhaps our circumstances are not that bad, but we still feel hopeless at times. How can we get from a position of hopelessness to having hope? That is what Israel and Judah wanted to know and that is what we want to know. Today’s Bible study may help us with answers.

Israel and Judah were friendless. Not one neighboring nation came to their aid when their enemies attacked them. In fact, when their cities were destroyed, their neighbors rejoiced and plundered them. When Judah was attacked by Babylon, she sought the help of Egypt and even paid for her services, but Egypt retreated and then did not help Judah again. Most of the people of Judah were killed.

Israel and Judah were taken from their homelands. Now both nations were scattered in areas which were now under the control of Babylon. The treasuries of their kingdoms were gone; they had no money or valuables. They were penniless.

Israel and Judah were in exile. Being in exile was like being confined in a foreign land. Though in many respects they were allowed to live normal lives, their labors were largely for the conquering nation. They were in a different culture in a strange land with strange gods and customs. They had no temple and no sacrifices to offer, and no hope for a future, or so they thought (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol.1, by Walter A. Elwell, ©1988, pp.732-733)

God was, however, still their God. He was looking after them like a father over his disobedient children or a shepherd over his wandering flock. After the small remnant in Jerusalem fled to Egypt for safety (against the stern warnings of the LORD and Jeremiah), God watched over his flock for harm, not for good. They would be almost completely destroyed because they worshipped idols and would not turn to him for help. However, God promised in future days the exiles in Babylon and other nations would return and be restored. This seemed impossible. How would it happen?

First, Israel and Judah had to take stock of their situation and repent. It appears Israel was the first to repent (sometimes called Ephraim, the most prominent tribe of the northern kingdom). She said,

“You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the LORD my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth,” (Jeremiah 31:18b-19, NIV).

Have you taken stock of your situation? Are you in a hopeless situation because of your own foolish actions? God would hear Israel’s tears of repentance, and he will hear yours if you repent.

Because Israel repented, God would restore her land. He would bring his scattered people back to her homeland, destroy her enemies, bind her wounds, enrich her land, and give her peace. How could that be possible; her land was destroyed and occupied by others? The answer is that God is the LORD; he is Sovereign. God controls any event, leader or people he wishes. God can work miracles, and he has the ability to create beauty out of ashes. We should think about that when we face impossible situations. God is kind and good and God is the Almighty. God has delivered before and will deliver again.

Israel and Judah, however, had a bad track record. Even if they were delivered, would they not once again be disobedient? In the near fulfillment of this prophecy, after seventy years of exile, Israel would return to the land and be a vassal state under the kingdom of Persia. It is true that Israel would once again be disobedient, but in the end times of the world Israel will be given a change of heart and be saved (The fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:33-34 is recorded in Zechariah 14, Revelation 14:1-5, and Revelation 21). This decree by the LORD was their hope. Only if the sun, moon and stars were to pass away would Israel cease to be a nation (Jeremiah 31:35-36). God says in Jeremiah 31:37 “‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done.’” That is love. That is hope.

If we are in a hopeless situation, God may deliver us, but lasting restoration will only come if we have a change of heart. We need to be saved from our sinful condition and given new hearts to obey God (more...). Many people are like wandering lambs, always getting themselves into trouble. Jesus encourages us to follow him, the chief shepherd of our souls. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand,” (John 10:27-30, NIV). If you are one of God’s lambs you have hope! God will lead and guide your life if you follow him. He will give you encouragement of heart and hope even in dark and seemingly hopeless circumstances. He is your light at the end of the tunnel.

Lessons to live by:

  • Hope for the hopeless starts with self-examination. How did you get in the mess you are in? Do you bear any responsibility for it?
  • After self-examination, if there is anything you need to repent from, do so. Cry out to God for mercy.
  • Hope for the hopeless comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:16, more...). When he is your shepherd and you are his lamb, he will heal your wounds, speak encouragingly to you, and gently guide you through life’s trials. Just be obedient, follow his voice (his Word) and let him lead.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (NIV)

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