December 4, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 146:5-7
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
Why have hope in Advent? Because our hope isn’t wishful thinking. Rather, it is confidence based on who God is and how God has acted in the past. God the creator is powerful and good. God is always trustworthy. God executes justice for the oppressed and feeds the hungry. In Advent we renew our hope in the God who came among us in Jesus and who will come again to make all things new.
This devotion is part of the series: Advent in the Psalms.
In last Friday’s devotion, I began to consider the question: “Why have hope?” Psalm 40 helped to answer that question by pointing to what God has done in the past. When we remember God’s gracious works in history and in our own lives, we are encouraged to maintain hope in God and what God will do in the future.
Psalm 146 echoes what we have heard from Psalm 40, though with distinctive tones. Verse 5 affirms, “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” The Hebrew word translated here as “happy” is ’ashre, which is rendered in other English versions with “blessed” (NIV, ESV). Whether you go with “happy” or “blessed,” it’s important to know that ’ashre means more than “feeling good” or “receiving good things.” The Hebrew word ’ashre points to living well in all aspects of life. We might paraphrase the first part of verse 5 in this way: “Those who look to God for help and hope in God flourish.” So, one reason to put hope in God is that it will benefit us personally, helping us to live fully and fruitfully.
But we may still wonder what commends confidence in God beyond the fact that such hope is personally beneficial to us. Psalm 146 responds by pointing to the acts of God that reveal the character of God. First, God is the one “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (146:6). This testifies to God’s unequaled power and unique goodness.
Second, God “keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:6). The Hebrew word for “faith” (’emet) conveys the trustworthiness and reliability of God. In a world that is so inconsistent and unstable, the stability of God matters greatly, both to the psalm writer and to us. Because God “keeps faith forever,” God can be trusted at all times.
Third, God “executes justice for the oppressed; [and] gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:7). God isn’t biased in favor of the powerful and privileged. Rather, God treats all people justly, which is good news especially for those on the margins of society, those who are often victims of injustice. Verse 7 mentions the oppressed, the hungry, and prisoners as recipients of God’s gracious justice. Verses 8 and 9 add others to the list of those for whom God cares: the blind, the bowed down, the strangers, the orphan, and the widow. Thus, according to Psalm 146, even when we are pummeled by the pains of this life, we can have hope in God.
Hope implies waiting. We hope for that which hasn’t yet come. But our hope isn’t wishful thinking because it’s grounded on the actions and character of God. We aren’t hoping that everything in life will somehow magically work out. Rather, we have put our hope in the God who works in all things for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).
In the season of Advent, we remember and renew our hope in God. Why have Advent hope? Why hope for the coming of Christ and the fullness of the kingdom? Because the God who came among us once in Jesus will surely come again. When that happens, “his authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7).
Do you tend to be a hopeful person? If so, why? If not, why not?
If someone were to ask you why you have hope, how would you answer?
What are you hoping for God to do in your life?
What are you hoping for God to do in the world?
Talk with a wise friend or with your small group about your experiences of hope.
Gracious God, thank you for being our helper. Thank you for being there in our time of need or fear. Thank you for giving us strength and confidence in you.
Thank you, O God, for keeping faith forever. Thank you for being trustworthy. Thank you for not abandoning us even when we wander away from you.
Thank you, God, for the glory of your creation. In what you have made we see your power, your beauty, and your goodness.
Thank you, O God, for executing justice. Thank you for exercising special care for those who need it most.
God of power and might, God of goodness and grace, God of great faithfulness, help me to hope in you today. Amen.
Banner image by Carl Hunley Jr on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Psalm 146.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.