His grace is greater than we know.
His word is truer than we understand.
He is who He says He is, all the way down into the valley.
Jesus had given His disciples the Sign of Jonah: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:20)
But when He died and was buried, it still came as a shock. They had wanted a conqueror, a king who would take back their land. They hadn’t gotten that.
“Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last… And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.”
“Now there was a man named Joseph…[who] asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb…”
Luke 23: 46, 49, 53
Sometimes you have to bury your hope.
The smallest seed is put into a hole in the ground. Dirt is heaped upon it, water from the sky floods the soil, the sun bakes the earth – and it remains. The seed begins to crack, and a green shoot pushes its tender head up from the ground.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse… the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
When you can’t see hope – ?
Gladys Aylward was refused by her missions board to be sent – based on their belief that “my qualifications were too slight, my education too limited to warrant my acceptance. The Chinese language, they decided, would be far too difficult for me to learn.” She took up a position as a parlormaid and waited on the Lord. “[B]ut still the thought of China tormented me. Always it was China! I could not rid myself of the idea that God wanted me there.”¹
Amy Carmichael packed up everything she had in “two airtight tin trunks” and prepared to leave for China. But – “[t]he mission doctor refused to give approval for Amy to go to China, so back she went… But one thought never left her: ‘This is not your rest.’ Doctor’s verdicts notwithstanding, she knew she had to go.”²
Brother Andrew was departing for missions training school when he received a telegram: “‘Regret to inform you expected vacancy has not materialized. Request for admission denied…’ And yet unmistakable inside me, sublimely indifferent to every human and logical objection, was a little voice that seemed to say, ‘Go.'”³
They were left the task of waiting. As it was for the disciples hiding behind locked doors, hope was still buried. Nothing had materialized yet – no shoot.
Maybe it takes longer than three days, sometimes. Maybe it will take three months, or three years, or three decades. The years of locusts will drag on drearily, the fields will turn to dust, the rain will never come.
But our Hope rose indeed after three days, and He stands as a banner for the peoples.
As soldiers in battle look to the standard for hope – and when the standard is lost, all hope of victory is lost –, so we look to Jesus, our banner – and He has already won.
“Look to me and be saved!” He says.
Hope in Him does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)
¹ The Little Woman, Gladys Aylward
² A Chance to Die, Elisabeth Elliot
³ God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew