beauty at the end of a dark tunnel August 27 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 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 traveling in a long dark tunnel. Is there any hope at the end of it? Perhaps our circumstances are not that bad, but at times we still feel hopeless. How can we get from a position of hopelessness to having hope? That is what the Jewish exiles in Babylon 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. Worse yet, when their cities were destroyed, their neighbors mocked, rejoiced, and looted them. When Babylon attacked Judah, she sought the help of Egypt and paid for her services, but Egypt retreated and did not help Judah again. Most of the people of Judah were killed.

Israel and Judah were taken from their homelands. Now, their people are scattered in areas which are under the control of Babylon. The treasures of their kingdoms are gone, the city walls have been reduced to rubble, every important building is burned, and most of the people in Judah have been killed. They rest have no money or assets. They are poor and homeless, and their land belongs to someone else.

Most of the people of Israel and Judah are in exile. Being in exile is confinement in a foreign land. Although in many respects they are allowed to live normal lives, their labors are mostly for the benefit of their conquerors. They are in a different culture in a strange land with strange gods and customs. They have no temple and no sacrifices to offer, and no hope for a future, or so they think (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol.1, by Walter A. Elwell, ©1988, pp.732-733).

The LORD is, however, still their God. He is looking after them like a father over his disobedient children or a shepherd over his wandering flock. After the small remnant in Jerusalem flee to Egypt for safety (against the stern warnings of the LORD and Jeremiah), God watches over His flock for harm, not for good. They will be almost completely destroyed because they continue to worship idols and will not turn to Him for help. Nevertheless, God promises in future days the exiles in Babylon and other nations will return and be restored. This seems impossible. How can it happen?

First, the people of Israel and Judah people have to take stock of their situation and repent (turn from their sins to God for forgiveness). It appears Israel is the first to repent (sometimes called Ephraim, the most prominent tribe of the northern kingdom). She confesses,

“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 we taken stock of our situation? Are we in a hopeless state because of our own foolish actions? The LORDS hears Israel’s tears of repentance, and He will hear ours if we humble ourselves and turn to Him in a spirit of genuine remorse. Let's pray and seek Him.

Because Israel repents, God will restore her land. He will bring His scattered people back to her homeland, destroy her enemies, bind her wounds, enrich her land, and give her peace.

How is that possible if her land is 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 He is the Almighty. God has delivered before and will deliver again.

Israel and Judah, however, have a bad track record. Even if they are delivered, will they be disobedient again?

In the near fulfillment of this prophecy, after seventy years of exile, Media-Persia will conquer Babylon, and Israel will be given an opportunity to return to their land. She will be a vassal state under Persia. It is true that Israel will once again be disobedient, but in the end times of the world Israel will be given a lasting 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 is their hope. Only if the sun, moon and stars pass away will Israel cease to be a nation (Jeremiah 31:35-36). God promises “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” (Jeremiah 31:37, NIV). This is love. This is hope.

If we are in a hopeless situation, God may deliver us, but lasting restoration will only come if we have a true 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 any of us are God’s lambs, we have hope! God will lead and guide our life if we follow Him. He will give us encouragement of heart and hope even in dark and seemingly hopeless circumstances. He is our light of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Lessons to Live By

  • Hope for the hopeless starts with self-examination. How did we get in the mess we are in? Do we bear any responsibility for it?
  • After self-examination, if there is anything we need to repent from, we should do so. Let's 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 our shepherd and we are His lambs, He will heal our wounds, speak encouragingly to us, and gently guide us through life’s trials.Let's be obedient, follow His voice (His Word, the Bible), and let Him lead.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: Tyre is a nation which pictures Satan in this Next Lesson. Learn how they fell from position, and how can we prevent Falling from Greatness.

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