One to Hope In (Sermon)
It’s hard to believe that it’s that time again—another presidential race is upon us. Prepare to be assaulted by ads as you watch television. Make sure to get your mail each day, so your mailbox doesn’t tip over from the pamphlets and brochures stuffed inside.
Quite honestly, I don’t care for politics. It’s not my thing. Life has enough frustrations, why voluntarily embrace more? Maybe you love politics, maybe you hate them. Maybe you could care less. The one thing that’s almost impossible to do is completely ignore them. No matter how hard you try, you can’t get away from the yard signs. The closer we get to November, the more the signs must breed. Where you find one, you’re sure to find dozens.
I could do without the political signs, but I do find the political slogans interesting.
In 1844, James K. Polk’s presidential slogan was “Reannexation of Texas and Reoccupation of Oregon.” Not to be outdone, his opponent’s slogan was “Who is James K. Polk?”
A few years later, John C. Fremont campaigned on the slogan, “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men and Fremont.”
When Abraham Lincoln ran for a second term, his slogan said, “Don’t Swap Horses In the Middle of the Stream.”
In 1884, Grove Cleveland ran against James Blaine, using the slogan: “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.”
Over time, the slogans became less about the opponent and looked more toward the future. The slogans became promises of a greater future.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Peace and Prosperity.”
Walter Mondale, “America Needs a Change.”
George Bush, “Kinder, Gentler Nation.”
Al Gore, “Prosperity and Progress.”
George W. Bush, “Yes, America Can!”
Barack Obama, “Change We Can Believe In” and “Hope.”
Different slogans…different keywords, but ultimately, they’re all selling the same thing. Each one is attempting to sell you hope. Hope for the future. Hope for the country. Hope for your family, and hope for you.
The problem is that hope is not really theirs to sell. Many voters end up disillusioned and discouraged when the promise is broken and the hope is unfulfilled. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on. No human leader can deliver all that you need.
The soundbites and slogans promise something that’s impossible to deliver. These men suggest that all of your problems will be solved and all of your dreams will be fulfilled. At their best, they can only temporarily fix certain problems, but they’re powerless to affect them all. They may be able to improve the economy, but they can’t improve your health. They may be able to broker world peace, but they can’t broker peace in your home.
Our world is a flea market full of merchants selling you hope. Promises of peace and prosperity are handed out every day. Where will you put your hope? Who will you hope in? Who can deliver what you need?
There is only one who is worthy of your hope. There is only one who can fulfill your hope. This morning, I want you to see that Jesus is your only hope. You may be discouraged because of broken promises or disheartened by a broken relationship. Let me show you why you can safely put your hope in Jesus Christ.
Turn with me to Genesis, chapter 37. We’re going to focus on a picture and a promise. The picture is of a man named Joseph, and this picture will reveal that Jesus is like Joseph. Then we’ll see the promise made by Joseph’s father. In the promise we discover that Jesus is greater than Joseph. Jesus is like Joseph, but He is greater than Joseph.
That’s a pattern we see in other places in the Bible. The accounts of some other men show us how Jesus is like them, but how He is also greater than them. Jesus is a prophet like Moses, but greater than Moses. He is a king like David, but greater than David.
Here at the end of Genesis, he is a ruler like Joseph, but greater than Joseph. As we study this picture and promise, I want to highlight four reasons you can safely put your hope in Jesus.
Reason #1: He suffered unjustly.
Now to understand Jesus, we’ve got to first understand Joseph. He’s the picture of Jesus. If you’re not familiar with the story of Joseph, allow me to bring you up to speed. Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham. Abraham is the father of the nation of Israel. Joseph was the son of Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel. Jacob, or Israel, had 12 sons. These sons were from four different wives. Of the four wives, Jacob loved one the most. Her name was Rachel, and she was Joseph’s mother.
Joseph was the oldest son (and one of only 2 sons) of Rachel. As a result, Joseph was treated with favoritism by his father. In fact, he received a fancy coat as a gift from his father. You can imagine how that went over with his brothers. Not only is he the favorite, but he’s also sporting the designer coat he received from their father.
One day, Joseph heads out in the fields to check on his brothers. His dad had sent him out to see how the flock of livestock was doing.
(Genesis 37:18–20 ESV) They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
One of the brothers talks them out of murder, but they still attack him and throw him in a pit.
(Genesis 37:28 ESV) Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
Joseph did nothing to deserve this type of treatment. What could you do to deserve this treatment from your own flesh and blood? He was an innocent victim of their hatred.
His unjust suffering doesn’t end there. When he arrives in Egypt, he’s sold as a slave to an Egyptian officer named Potiphar. Repeatedly, Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph.
(Genesis 39:11–15 ESV) But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.”
(Genesis 39:20 ESV) And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.
Through no fault of his own, Joseph has been throne into a pit and now into prison. He’s been persecuted by his brothers and now by his master. It doesn’t stop. In prison, he meets two palace employees. They both tell him about dreams they’ve had. He interprets the dreams for them, asking only that he be remembered when the cupbearer is released.
(Genesis 40:23 ESV) Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Joseph’s unjust and repeated suffering was not without purpose. In the final chapter of Genesis, Joseph, speaking to his brothers, said this about his suffering.
(Genesis 50:20 ESV) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Why did Joseph suffer unjustly? His suffering was part of God’s plan to save His people. This then becomes the picture of the coming Messiah. He would suffer unjustly, but His suffering would have a purpose. His suffering was part of God’s plan to save His people. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
(Isaiah 53:5 ESV) But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Though He was perfectly righteous, Jesus Christ did suffer. He was beaten with rods. The flesh was torn from His back. His beard was wrenched out. Nails were driven into His hands, and He was hung from a cross to die. He deserved none of it. But it was part of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made righteous.
Many political leaders seem driven by self-preservation. They’ll say whatever is necessary to hold onto their power and authority. They’ll pin the blame on someone else or make some other person the fall guy.
Jesus took blame that wasn’t His. He took the fall for our sin. He willingly gave up His power and authority to die in weakness. If He died for you, do you think He will ever reject you? Do you think He’ll make you a promise and then fail? He took the pain of your punishment; do you really think He’ll hurt you?
Here’s why you can hope in Him. He suffered so you wouldn’t have to. He suffered because of you and for you.
Every politician claims to understand suffering. They put out press releases and write books about how they suffered. Jesus does understand suffering. Nowhere in this universe does a problem exist that He does not understand. He is “the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Brothers and sisters, you can run to Him in your time of sorrow and grief. You can turn to Him in moments of pain and suffering. He understands what it means to suffer.
Reason #2: He acted wisely.
Again, we see this first in Joseph. Each time Joseph was thrust into a new situation, he responded with wisdom. Even after being assaulted by his brothers and sold to an Egyptian, he acted wisely.
(Genesis 39:2–6 ESV) The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
Look at what happened when he was in prison.
(Genesis 39:21–23 ESV) But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.
After forgetting about Joseph for an additional two years, the king’s cupbearer finally remembers him. What sparked his memory was a problem plaguing Pharaoh. One night Pharaoh had two dreams. In the morning, when he woke up, he called his wise men and magicians to him and asked them to interpret the dream. No one could. That’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh about Joseph, and Pharaoh had Joseph brought before him. Joseph was able to interpret the dreams and counsel Pharaoh about how to respond to it. Look at Pharaoh’s description of Joseph:
(Genesis 41:39–41 ESV) Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
Pharaoh recognized Joseph’s wisdom. He put Joseph in charge. Joseph acts wisely and through his actions he preserves countless lives.
Wisdom is living under God’s rule. It’s living in line with God’s will. Joseph aligned his life to God’s will. He was not wise because of natural intellect. He was wise because He obeyed God and submitted himself to God’s plans.
One mark of the Messiah was that He would be a man of great wisdom. He would have “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Isaiah 11:2). He would submit Himself to God’s plan and perfectly follow Him.
Wisdom was perfectly exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. He is wisdom embodied. In every way, He lived in line with God’s rule. His own testimony was that He came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.
Our world has seen scores of foolish leaders. We have witnessed men make foolish decisions that cost the lives of millions of people. Some failed to see their own foolishness. Others saw it and confessed. Either way, those who followed them suffered from choosing to align themselves behind a fool.
He is no fool who follows Jesus Christ. The way we align ourselves to God’s will is by following Jesus Christ. The way we live under God’s rule is by following Jesus Christ. Jesus will never need to apologize for a foolish decision. He will never lead you astray. In a world of lies and liars, listen to the voice of truth. He will never disappoint.
Of course, to follow Jesus Christ as God’s wisdom means you must acknowledge your own inadequacy. You must come to the realization that you are a fool, who apart from Christ will drown in an ocean of folly. Jesus always acts wisely. Following Him is always the wise decision. But it takes humility to admit that. It takes humility to say, “I don’t know what to do. Jesus, help me.” Arrogance will prevent you from admitting that you don’t know how to fix your relationship. Pride will stop you from conceding that it’s outside of your control.
In 1969, in a science lab in New Jersey, Canadian physicist Willard Boyle and his colleagues invented the concept of an electronic eye, the science behind digital cameras. Their technology revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film.
A few years after the invention of this technology, Boyle walked into a store to purchase a new digital camera based on his invention. During the visit, the salesman tried to explain the intricacies of the digital camera, but stopped, feeling it was too complicated for his customer to understand. According to one long-time friend, Boyle was normally a humble man, but on this occasion he was taken aback by the salesman's arrogance and disrespect. So Boyle bluntly replied: "No need to explain. I invented it." [i]
We go through life like that salesmen, pretending we know better than the Inventor. We ignore the Creator’s wisdom and act as if we know best. In our arrogance, we can even pretend that God’s the one who doesn’t know what He’s doing.
Friend, you are a fool if you place your hope in your own wisdom. You are a fool if you place your hope in another person. But you are no fool to place your hope in Jesus Christ, the very wisdom of God.
Reason #3: He forgave fully.
As second-in-command over all of Egypt, Joseph had unbelievable power. One day a group of men from the land of Canaan appeared before him to buy grain. Joseph instantly recognized his 10 brothers who had kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Now was his chance for revenge.
(Genesis 45:1–5 ESV) Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
No vengeance, no punishment, no anger or animosity…but forgiveness, full and free. His forgiveness was so radical, so shocking that his brothers had difficulty accepting it. Years later, when their father died, they were sure Joseph would now seek revenge. They came to him, begging his forgiveness.
(Genesis 50:18–21 ESV) His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
He had every right and every reason to condemn them. He would have been justified in seeking swift and severe vengeance, but he forgave them, without condition, based upon no merit of their own.
It’s a picture of what Jesus would say as He hung on the cross, punished for the sins of mankind. Instead of lashing out in vengeance, he cried, “Father, forgive them.” Forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ. In Him we can receive the forgiveness of sins.
It’s the work of Jesus that allows God to say, “I have removed your sins as far from you as the east is from the west. I have buried your sins in the deepest part of the sea. I will remember them no more.” It’s the work of Jesus that allows God to look at me, a wicked, vile rebel and see a beloved son. Through Jesus, we can receive forgiveness, without condition, based upon no merit of our own.
Friend, have you been forgiven by God? Jesus, God’s own Son, was born into this earth so that He could die in the place of sinners like you and me. He took the punishment your sin demanded. He suffered in your place, and He rose from the dead so that you could have life. He offers forgiveness full and free. If you’ll turn from your sin and ask God to forgive you because of what Jesus did, He will. He will wash your sin away and make you clean. He will accept you into His family. Like Joseph, He will open His arms and receive you to Himself.
Right now there’s a controversy in Mississippi about the number of criminals pardoned by the outgoing governor. Before he left office, he pardoned or reduced the sentences of 300 criminals. As you know, these decisions are often made because of political pressure. For the right gift given to a campaign fund, a pardon can be signed.
Listen, there’s no gift you could ever give that would purchase forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t need money. He doesn’t worry about the voters. He doesn’t take a poll before offering a pardon. Jesus purchased your forgiveness with the price of His life. Put your hope in Him. He will never disappoint. He will never hold your sin over your head. He is not petty or vindictive. He will never fail to forgive.
Life without forgiveness is life in prison—maybe not an actual prison, with steel bars and barbwire, but a prison of shattered dreams and broken relationships. You need forgiveness. You need to be pardoned and set free. Only Jesus can offer that forgiveness, and once given, it will last forever. You no longer need to stay shackled to your sin. You can live in the freedom of His full and final forgiveness.
Reason #4: He reigns perfectly.
The final reason you can hope in Jesus doesn’t come from the life of Joseph; it comes from a promise made by Joseph’s father. On his deathbed, Jacob called his sons to Him and blessed them. In his blessing, a promise is made to his son Judah. Ultimately, this promise is a continuation of the one given to Adam in the Garden. It’s the promise of a future son who would reverse the curse of sin. It’s the promise of a coming Savior.
(Genesis 49:8–12 ESV) “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”
Unlike Joseph, Judah’s far-off son would sit upon the throne. Joseph ruled under a pagan king, but Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
His reign will extend over all peoples. Every tribe and tongue, country and kingdom will be under His dominion. As Abraham Kuyper wrote:
“In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, 'That is mine!'”
It is all His! Jesus reigns over all, and He will bring everything under His control. Even the picture here of tying a colt to a choice vine and washing clothes in wine shows His control over all creation. When Jesus returns to set up His kingdom, the best wine will flow in such quantity that you can do your laundry in it. When Jesus returns, all of creation will be renewed, and He will inaugurate a kingdom unlike any kingdom the world has ever known. Jesus reigns now from heaven, but someday that kingdom will be established on earth—a new earth that does not feel the effects of sin.
Jesus has begun that process of establishing His kingdom. He is calling men and women from every culture, every language and every nation to set aside earthly allegiances and to enter His kingdom. He is calling people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, from the kingdom of wrath to the kingdom of love.
The Gospel is the call to a new kingdom. The message of the Gospel is that “our God reigns.” He reigns over sin and death. He reigns over heaven and hell. It’s a call to give up rebellious autonomy and give God the throne of your heart. The Gospel’s aim is to establish the throne of Jesus Christ in the hearts of men.
Brothers and sisters, we are ambassadors of this King tasked with the responsibility to declare His message of peace. Constrained by love for Him, we plead with our friends and neighbors to turn from their rebellion and submit to King Jesus. We tell them about His grace for sinners, how He freely forgives traitors and joyfully pardons rebels.
But we also warn them that He is a Lion who will bring all things under His control. The description of Jesus as a lion is not accidental. To reign perfectly necessitates perfect justice. This king of love must, out of love for His people, destroy those who would harm them. He must, out of love for His Father, punish those who would reject Him.
Jacob describes Jesus Christ as a lion returning from a hunt, settling down to enjoy the spoils of victory. He then asks the question, “Who would dare rouse Him?” Friend, if you have not repented of your sin, if you have not given your allegiance to Jesus Christ, if you are still living in rebellion to Him, then I am obliged to warn you about His fearsome and just wrath. He is a Lion. He will conquer. He will judge. One day, you will rouse His justice, and He will punish you for rejecting His invitation and continuing in your rebellion.
Later, in the Psalms, we see that there are two ways to relate to this Son—the Lion of Judah. One way is to rage against Him and the other way is to run to Him. Those who run to Him find in Him a refuge. He becomes their safety. Those who rage against Him will be broken like pottery smashed by an iron rod.
I urge you to hope in Him. He will never be defeated. He will never be conquered. He will never lose an election. His kingdom is eternal, and if you’re a citizen, you’re citizenship is irrevocable.
Jesus is like Joseph, but He is greater than Joseph. No human ruler is worthy of washing Jesus’ feet. Your favorite political leader has more in common with a dandelion than he does the Lion of Judah. If the power of Jesus is like lightning, your hero’s power is like a lightning bug. He is the only one you can safely put your hope in.
As we wrap up, let me help you evaluate your own life, your own heart, your own hope.
First, examine your hope.
Ask yourself, “What are my greatest needs?” Then, “who do I think can deliver what I need?” If you say your greatest need is money, and you think your job or your boss or your husband can deliver, then you’ve found where your hope is. If you say your greatest need is to be loved and you think your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or child can deliver, then you’ve found the location of your hope.
Your greatest need is reconciliation with God. You need mercy and wisdom, grace and forgiveness. You need someone to care for you who never sleeps and never stops. You need one who is both merciful and powerful, one who punishes sin and forgives sinners. The only one who can deliver what you need is Jesus.
Next, repent of idolatry.
If you’ve placed your hope in something or someone other than God, you’ve made them an idol. You’ve given them a role that only God can fill. Repent of that. Confess that sin to God and seek His forgiveness.
Finally, hope in Jesus.
Don’t hope in a political leader or a political system—neither capitalism nor communism will save the world. Don’t hope in a relationship—no human being can meet all of your needs, solve all of your problems or satisfy all your longings. Don’t hope in a job, or a raise, or a vacation, or a baby.
At Niagara Falls, the water plunges some 180 feet from the top of the falls to the bottom. Before you get to the Falls, you encounter violent, churning rapids. Just upstream from the rapids, where the water is calmer, boats are able to navigate. Before reaching the rapids and the Falls below, the boats pass under a bridge. On the bridge is a warning sign with 2 questions: “Do you have an anchor?” followed by, “Do you know how to use it?” [ii]
Hope in Jesus Christ is an anchor for the soul. In this turbulent, churning, broken world, He alone can keep us from capsizing and save us from drowning. So I ask you, “Do you have an anchor? Are you using it?”
This sermon was originally preached at Redeemer Community Church in 2012.
[i] Allison Lawlor, "Master of Light invents a photo revolution," Globe and Mail (5-21-11)
[ii] Paul Adams in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker).