4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
“He’d better do it!” my friend exclaimed, “I need that thing on Friday.” He was talking about the mechanic who was currently fixing his car. The old Mazda had seen better days and needed some work done on the constant velocity joints, those critical junctions that deliver power from the engine to the front wheels of his car. The mechanic had told him it would be done by Thursday, and this was Wednesday. My friend had heard the promise which the mechanic had made and was expecting it to be done. This is not strange to us. We have all had similar expectations of those who have made promises to us. Sometimes we have been disappointed but often the promises have been kept.
The word Paul uses for hope in this passage, a word which both begins and ends these verses, is perhaps better translated as “expectation.” We have often turned hope into something that we wish would happen but think rather unlikely. If my friend had said about the mechanic, “I hope he gets it done,” he probably would have meant that he was not sure, perhaps even anticipating that it would not happen. Words change over time. A couple of centuries ago, “awful” used to have a meaning much more like “wonderful” today. It filled us with awe. I think hope has weakened in our understanding of the word. We think it something unlikely today. Paul wants us to have an expectation, something he tells us that comes through both the experiences of life (endurance) and the promises of Scripture (vs 4). We have learned to count on God. He is trustworthy and true to His word. Jesus said he would rise from the dead and Paul met on a road to Damascus. He kept the promise. Encountering that Jesus gave Paul both joy and peace, which he also wants for us (vs 13.) God had sent His Messiah, Jesus, and had kept a promise which He had made long ago in a garden to our first parents, a promise he had reiterated many times in Scripture. That same Jesus has promised to come again with blessing for all humanity. In this Advent season, we expect something. God has promised it. We count on it. Abound in that expectation!