Hope makes a difference

Hope is an intriguing concept. I read this story one time about an experiment some graduate students did with lab rats and light. The first phase of the experiment was simply putting rats in a tank of water in a room of absolute darkness. There was no light sneaking in, just complete darkness and no chance of the rats climbing out of the tanks. These rats in darkness swam for 6 hours before giving up. What was most interesting about this experiment is that, when these Hopegrad students tried the experiment again, they experienced a different result. This time, the experiment included having a small light in the room. The rats are still placed in a tank of water with no chance of escape, but with the light in the room, a little pinprick of hope, the rats swam for almost 17 hours! Hope makes a difference.

There’s this passage tucked into a minor prophet in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. This part of the narrative comes after Israel’s many ups and downs and twists and turns. Israel was chosen by God to be a nation set apart; to be a nation that shows every other nation the goodness and glory of God the Father, our Creator.

But there was just one little problem…that whole “being human” thing. The Israelites failed with incredible resilience. Even when it was hard to fail, they found a way. They were obstinate, moody, “stiff-necked,” ungrateful, whiny and selfish, among other things. Remind you of anyone you know? Checking the mirror, I can definitely be all of those things (more often than I’d care to admit).

God was not pleased with the way His chosen people had been acting, especially worshipping created things rather than the Creator, and so He allowed His people to be enslaved, imprisoned, and unfairly treated…for centuries. All throughout the history of Israel, there is this history of the nation doing well for a few years, and then going back to what they had always done, pursuing idols and false gods and believing and putting their faith in weird things that didn’t make any sense compared to the God who talked with them.

But, this story in Zechariah, is a ray of light. This piece of the narrative shines a light into the darkness and provides incredible hope that God is not done, the Israelites will not be discarded and thrown out, but in fact God has a greater plan (if they follow Him). After all, a guide may have a great route to take and may know very well how to get you from point A to point B, but unless you follow that guide, you may never reach your destination.

Here is the hope-filled piece of the narrative in Zechariah 8:13, 16-17:

“And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong… These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

The houses of Judah & Israel used to be used as a curse because of the destruction and calamity they had faced…but now God would save them! Now God would bring them blessing and peace! If they will follow His guidance.

I think the same is true for us. No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done, no matter who we think we are, God loves us. God loves us so much He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to die on a cross, to be tortured, crucified and buried, for our sins. Three days later God raised Christ from the dead so that we could have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the ray of light in the midst of darkness.

God is our refuge and our hope. Let’s be honest, if things in your life are crazy and horrible and hard, and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, the situation is pretty hopeless. There is not much you can do. But if you choose to follow Jesus Christ and His guidance, there is hope for you today. See the light and run toward the only real hope–the hope we have in Jesus.

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