Day 358

How to Live in Hope

Wisdom Psalm 146:1-10
New Testament Revelation 14:14-15:8
Old Testament Ezra 10:1-44


In July 1999, Ralph Craythorne spoke at our church about the recent death of his eight-year-old daughter, Sasha, from a brain tumour.

I remember so well going to visit Sasha in hospital. On the way, in the taxi, I was desperately trying to think and pray about what God would want me to say. Only one word came into my mind: hope.

In his talk Ralph said, ‘That one word exploded in my spirit. It was as though I suddenly saw the fullness of what God has meant us to understand about “living in hope”. It’s not the kind of wishy-washy, “I hope this will happen, but it probably won’t happen.” It’s the sure, confident, positive hope – the way God designed us to live.

‘Our hope was placed not in an outcome but in the Lord.

‘Sasha, too, held onto hope – not necessarily to be healed, although that was included, but a deeper hope, the hope that comes from the certainty of being in the palm of the hand of an all-loving God.’

In the final two weeks of her life, she went blind. Ralph said, ‘I remember lying in the bed saying to her, “Sasha do you ever see angels?”

‘She didn’t have much energy to speak. She said, “No dad.”

‘I was a bit disappointed. So, I thought, we’ll go for the big one. “Do you ever see Jesus?” I asked.

‘“Of course, I do. He holds my hand.”

‘The dream that she would be healed was shattered, but we’re not disappointed with God. He hasn’t changed. He still pours out his love into our hearts. We don’t understand her death. I doubt we really ever will. One day we’ll know… These are the foundational principles of living in hope.'


Psalm 146:1-10

Psalm 146

  1 Praise the Lord.

  Praise the Lord, my soul.

  2 I will praise the Lord all my life;
   I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
  3 Do not put your trust in princes,
   in human beings, who cannot save.
  4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
   on that very day their plans come to nothing.
  5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
   whose hope is in the Lord their God.

  6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
   the sea, and everything in them—
   he remains faithful forever.
  7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
   and gives food to the hungry.
  The Lord sets prisoners free,
   8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
  the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
   the Lord loves the righteous.
  9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
   and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
   but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

  10 The Lord reigns forever,
   your God, O Zion, for all generations.

  Praise the Lord.


Put your hope in the right place

Many today put their hope in the wrong places. They trust in wealth, a successful career, a long-term relationship, or in their image or status. There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of these things – but none of them are a firm enough foundation upon which to build your life.

It really matters where you put your hope: ‘Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing’ (vv.3–4).

The psalmist proclaims the right place to put your hope: ‘Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God’ (v.5). If you put your hope in the Lord, this hope is ‘an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’ (Hebrews 6:19).

The psalmist has this firm hope in the Lord. He praises God continuously (Psalm 146:1–2). He recognises that he is ‘the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them’ and that he ‘remains faithful forever’ (v.6).

The God of hope gives new hope to those who seem to have little hope, and he calls you and me to do the same.

The psalmist lists some of those to whom God especially gives hope: the oppressed (v.7a), hungry (v.7b), prisoners (v.7c), blind (v.8a), marginalised (v.9a) and bereaved (v.9b).


Lord, thank you that I can put my hope in you. Thank you that this is a sure and steadfast anchor for my soul. Help me to give hope to those who need it most.

New Testament

Revelation 14:14-15:8

Harvesting the Earth and Trampling the Winepress

14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

Seven Angels With Seven Plagues

15 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues —last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

  “Great and marvelous are your deeds,
   Lord God Almighty.
  Just and true are your ways,
   King of the nations.
  4 Who will not fear you, Lord,
   and bring glory to your name?
  For you alone are holy.
  All nations will come
   and worship before you,
  for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

5 After this I looked, and I saw in heaven the temple —that is, the tabernacle of the covenant law —and it was opened. 6 Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. 8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.


Look forward with hope

Hope is powerful. It is not just a feeling or an emotion. It is not dependent on circumstances. Real hope is a constant positive attitude that, no matter what the circumstances, things will change for the better.

‘Hope has a thick skin and will endure many a blow,’ wrote John Bunyan (1628–1688). ‘It will endure all things if it be of the right kind, for the joy that is set before it... it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and long-suffering under the cross, until the time comes to enjoy the crown.’

When we look around at the world we see so much injustice. Bad things happen to good people. Evil often seems to thrive. There may be injustice now, but one day there will be justice for all. God will put everything right.

As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin put it, ‘The horizon for the Christian is, “he shall come again” and “we look for the coming of the Lord”. It can be tomorrow, or any time, but that is the horizon. That horizon for me is fundamental, and that is what makes it possible to be hopeful and therefore to find life meaningful.’

In this passage, John gets a glimpse of what the final ‘putting things right’ will look like. Jesus will be the judge. ‘I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand’ (14:14).

Jesus said that, in this life, the wheat and the weeds grow up together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30), and that ‘the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels’ (v.39). He speaks of the weeds being pulled up and destroyed and how ‘the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (v.43).

There is a radical judgment where every vestige of evil is destroyed ‘in the great winepress of God’s wrath’ (Revelation 14:19).

As you read this, remember that Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for you on the cross, and so you are saved from these judgments. In this passage, we see what it looks like when God’s judgment is completed (15:1). John sees ‘what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire’ (v.2) – an image which combines burning purity and serenity. Peace and righteousness go together.

God’s judgment purifies the world, destroying evil and corruption, and rescuing his people from those who persecute and oppose them (‘the beast and his image’ v.2).

Just as after the Exodus a great cry of praise went up from the people of God who had crossed the Red Sea, so now a great cry of praise goes up to God:

‘Great and marvellous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages…
All nations will come and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed’ (vv.3–4).


Thank you, Lord, that one day you will put everything right. Thank you that I have such a great future hope, made possible through the cross of Jesus.

Old Testament

Ezra 10:1-44

The People’s Confession of Sin

10 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”

5 So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. 6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.

7 A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. 8 Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.

9 Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now honour the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”

12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. 13 But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this.

16 So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, 17 and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.

Those Guilty of Intermarriage

  18 Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women:

  From the descendants of Joshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. 19 (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.)

  20 From the descendants of Immer:

   Hanani and Zebadiah.

  21 From the descendants of Harim:

   Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah.

  22 From the descendants of Pashhur:

   Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.

  23 Among the Levites:

   Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.

  24 From the musicians:


  From the gatekeepers:

   Shallum, Telem and Uri.

  25 And among the other Israelites:

  From the descendants of Parosh:

   Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah and Benaiah.

  26 From the descendants of Elam:

   Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah.

  27 From the descendants of Zattu:

   Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza.

  28 From the descendants of Bebai:

   Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai.

  29 From the descendants of Bani:

   Meshullam, Malluk, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth.

  30 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab:

   Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh.

  31 From the descendants of Harim:

   Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluk and Shemariah.

  33 From the descendants of Hashum:

   Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei.

  34 From the descendants of Bani:

   Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu.

  38 From the descendants of Binnui:

   Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Maknadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah and Joseph.

  43 From the descendants of Nebo:

   Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah.

  44 All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.


Never give up hope

Do you ever feel that you have gone too far, done something too often, or failed too badly for God to forgive you? This passage is an encouragement that, however much you have messed up, ‘there is still hope’ for you: ‘But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel’ (v.2), says Shecaniah to Ezra.

Ezra was ‘praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God’ (v.1a). He was joined by ‘a large crowd of Israelites – men, women and children… They too wept bitterly’ (v.1b).

Ezra fasted and mourned over the unfaithfulness of the people of God. In total, there were 113 people guilty of this unfaithfulness. Eighty-six were ‘laity’ and twenty-seven were ‘clergy’ (Levites). A call to full-time ordained Christian ministry does not make us immune from temptation.

The particular issue highlighted in this passage was that of Israelites marrying non-believers. By this time there was probably an official ceremony by which non-Jews could convert (see 6:21), and it seems that these people were the ones who had refused to do so.

Ezra was concerned that they would draw their spouses (many of whom were part of Israel’s leadership) away from God. The Bible encourages you to think hard about whom you marry, and to avoid marrying someone who will draw you away from God (see 2 Corinthians 6:14 and commentary for 3 September).

Nevertheless, divorcing their wives (Ezra 10:19) can seem in a way to make the unfaithfulness worse, and this is a difficult passage for us to read. It is interesting that it was not unanimous (v.15). Once the unfaithfulness had occurred, the solution was bound to be less than ideal. When the same issue was addressed by the church in the New Testament, those married to non-believers were given very different instructions – they were told to remain married, and be an example and blessing to their spouses (see 1 Corinthians 7; 1 Peter 3).


Lord Jesus, help us to take our own sin and the sin of the community seriously – to pray, confess, weep, throw ourselves down before you in repentance and resolve to be radical and ruthless about avoiding unfaithfulness in the future. Thank you that there is still hope for the people of God. Thank you that our hope is in the Lord, ‘who remains faithful for ever’ (Psalm 146:6).

Pippa adds

Psalm 146:8 says, ‘The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.’

This verse is a reminder that with all the Christmas celebrations, there are many who are going through hard times. How does God lift these people up? He may want to use us.



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Lesslie Newbigin in interview with Andrew G. Walker, 1988, transcript in: Andrew G Walker, Note from a Wayward Son: a miscellany (Cascade Books, 2015) p.268.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

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