I always think autumn is a beautiful time of the year; the crisper cooler mornings, the changing colours of the leaves, and the amazing skies. In many ways the harvest season of late summer already feels an age away, and since the combine harvesters completed their work, we’ve been blessed with a wonderful spell of weather to sow the majority of our crops as we look forward to harvest 2023. The ground has been cultivated, seed sown and new green shoots are emerging as we look forward in hope. Despite rampant inflation across the agricultural sector, uncertainty regarding commodity prices going forward, and of course the weather, we go again. Generally (though on occasion a little grumpy), farmers can be a pretty hopeful bunch!
As we look around our world right now, hope appears to be a commodity in short supply. Our news feeds inform us of the risk of recession, a shrinking economy, and the volatility of the pound, not to mention a government in disarray, the cost of living crisis, environmental concerns and of course ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. Add to that deep concerns regarding the future of many of our churches and things can all seem a bit gloomy. Recently, I’ve been involved in some discussions regarding church closures in our local Church of Scotland Presbytery, and sadly there doesn’t appear to be a lot of hope on display there.
Last week one of my readings took me to the account of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, it was a timely reminder to me that even in very difficult circumstances we can find hope in the Lord. Jehoshaphat faced a vast army from Edom marching against him, yet his response to the situation both encouraged and challenged me, so I’d like to share a few points for you to reflect on as I encourage you to cultivate a posture of hope in your own life.
Firstly, I was struck by Jehoshaphat’s initial response to the news of imminent attack (2 Chronicles 20:3). Yes, he was terrified, but he didn’t panic. Rather he sought firstly and crucially to look to the Lord for guidance, indeed the New Living Translation speaks of him begging the Lord for guidance. Conversely, I have to admit that sometimes my initial response to seemingly difficult, hopeless situations is panic.
Next, I was struck by how Jehoshaphat shared the problem with others and addressed the entire community (2 Chronicles 20:5). All too often we can easily internalise our fears as we watch hope fade away, or perhaps we find it difficult to share our fears and struggles with others. Jehoshaphat however, stood before the whole community, reflected on God’s faithfulness through the generations and mobilised everyone to prayer and fasting.
Finally, he was willing to listen to, and heed the advice of others (2 Chronicles 20:15). How often might we decide we can work our own way out of problems, seeking to rekindle hope singlehandedly? In this passage it was the voice of God that spoke through the prophet Jahaziel. I imagine to many of the assembled masses his plan seemed crazy, but the people went out to battle led by singers repeating the chorus of praise ‘Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!’
As the account unfolds the battle is won as the enemy turns on itself and hope is restored. Perhaps it would be easy to focus on the mighty victory and all too easily revel in triumphalism, yet I get the sense that in these days God would rather have us learn from, and seek to cultivate that same hope in times of trouble and hopelessness which Jehoshaphat possessed. As I mentioned earlier, hope can indeed appear to be a commodity in short supply, so let’s seek to embrace a posture of hope just as Jehoshaphat did; turning to God for guidance, sharing our concerns with others and listening for the prophetic voice of God to speak.
As we look around the countryside in this season and witness ground being cultivated as new green shoots of hope appear again in the fields, let’s use that as a visual reminder as we seek to cultivate and nurture a posture of hope day by day in our own lives.
“The Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope… the battle is not yours, it is God’s’” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
Director: Scotland & Northern England