Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
today’s suggested reading
Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-7, 11:1-10
Before God sent His Son to earth, He raised up men and women to speak on His behalf. The job of a prophet required humble people who weren’t motivated by pet projects or celebrity status but rather chose at all costs to be the audible voice of the unseen God. They were tasked with communicating His will, never their own, and explaining what it meant to live lives set apart for God’s glory. The assignment wasn’t an easy one. God asked them to move outside their comfort zones to face tremendous opposition and discomfort, but they knew the blessing in obedience. They had a crazy, amazing assignment to communicate for the God of the universe about the Prophet, His Son, who would come one day to set all things right.
Through the words of Old Testament prophets, we see glimmers of hope, of humankind one day returning to the perfection of the garden and unhindered relationship with the Creator. Their words to the people of Israel weren’t guesses of what would happen or wishes for a better day but were God’s certain and hard, yet hopeful, words for His people. The most noted of the men and women speaking on God’s behalf were Isaiah and Jeremiah, who reminded the Israelites of His covenant with them and warned them that continued disobedience would bring punishment.
Through Isaiah, God warned of captivity for His people because of their idolatry, and yet He reminded them that hope was never extinguished in Him. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean,” God said through Isaiah, “put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressors, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword” (Isaiah 1:16-20, NKJV).
God had set forth rules for them to live by, to show them how to appropriately love Him and to run from anyone or anything that toppled Him from His rightful place in their lives. They were instructed to crush the idols surrounding them that gave them a false sense of security and happiness and instead, trust Him. He reminded them of His love for them, calling them a chosen and redeemed people set apart to Him, a treasured possession upon whom He promised to forever set His steadfast love.
However, His people continued to waver in their trust or completely walk away from Him to erect new idols in their lives. Even still God reminded His people through Isaiah that He hadn’t forgotten them and would one day bring the Rescuer to restore their relationship with Him. A glimmer of hope shined through the book of Isaiah. A baby would one day come as God with us through the partnership of a virgin girl (Isaiah 7:14), as a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). This baby would be the Promised One, coming with justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7) from the family line of king David (Isaiah 11:1) to bring eternal salvation to His people (Isaiah 52-53).
Israel’s disobedience to God’s best for them did bring their exile to the land of Babylon, just as prophesied through Isaiah. They had to endure a long period of being led by false prophets with personal messages of wishful thinking, not true hope. But in the midst of this great heartache, God reminded them He would never abandon them.
He used the prophet Jeremiah, who had witnessed the seizure and capture God’s people, to speak to them on His behalf. God reminded them that a day was coming when He would “raise up for David a righteous Branch,” who would “reign as king and deal wisely” and would “execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5).
But in the waiting, God said, “Get busy. Your assignment to be a blessing to the other nations hasn’t expired.”
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
God promised that they would one day return to their homeland.
“When seventy years are complete for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, and I will bring you back to the place which I sent you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:10-14).
This was a future and a hope in temporary homes on earth and in their eternal home with the Rescuer, who would one day crush the evil one. The LORD proclaims a song of hopefulness for His people, declaring that He would “turn their mourning into joy” and restore His covenant with them. He required their obedience to His law with a promise of forgiveness and the blessing of restoration. (Jeremiah 31).
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
Today’s stop along the scarlet cord of hope from creation to the creche barely touched on the hard and beautiful messages of the Old Testament prophets. I hope you’ll go back and read or listen from Isaiah and Jeremiah today, especially the sections that speak of the coming King of hope. As you explore these sections, ponder the hearts of the people at the time — the prophets themselves who were scorned for their resistance literature and the people of Israel who were struggling to hold onto hope. We now see the fulfillment of the prophets’ words from historical and biblical accounts, so we take the words of the prophets seriously. But would we have in the time of Israel and Jeremiah? When despair seems heavier than unfulfilled promises, we can struggle to keep our eyes on God. Spend time praying, asking God to renew His hope in you for eternity in His courts, for He is worthy of our praise.
Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.