The Power of Hope

Genesis 17: 15-22   NIV, 21

        15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. 


  1. Talk about Genesis
  2. The story of Abraham and Sarah requires us to cross the threshold of faith in ways we cannot imagine.
  3. Do you ever wonder what could have been going through Abraham’s and Sarah’s minds as they received the news that they were going to have a baby?
  4. If Ann told me that message tomorrow, I would faint! The impossible, I would exclaim over and over! Wouldn’t you?
  5. We know that God made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah and promised to make them the parents of many nations. But Abraham and Sarah were in their nineties! Pretty old to be new parents — great-grandparents maybe – but parents with a new baby! And Sarah was barren – Abraham had sired Ishmael by Sarah’s slave woman Hagar, but it was not the same. Sarah and Abraham hoped for a baby of their own, and they were very old senior citizens.
  6. We have journeyed with Abraham and Sarah to this juncture, and now we are left with a question:
    1. How will God work out the covenant promises? How will “hope” be victorious where barrenness rules?
  7. Let me expand on this word – “hope” and see if we can find power in the word hope!
  8. Think for a moment – so often we use the term — that in a situation we opened “Pandora’s box.” — You know more things happened than we had expected. Ever wonder what this really means?
  9. According to Greek mythology, the first woman on Earth, Pandora, was given a box that she was not to open under any circumstance. Sound familiar to the Adam and Eve story in the first chapters of Genesis. Too curious to resist, Pandora opened it, and all of the evils of the world flew out: hate, pain, destructiveness, starvation.
    1. When Pandora saw what she had done, she closed the box before the last thing in there could escape.
  10. That last thing that was in the box was hope.
  11. Hope is the belief that circumstances in the future will be better. It’s not a wish that things will get better, but an actual belief, even when there may be no evidence that anything will change.
  12. Hope can encompass a wide variety of beliefs –
    1. everything from a high school student hoping for an A in algebra, assuming she worked hard enough;
    1. to a cancer patient hoping for a cure.
  13. In some retellings of the story of Pandora, hope finally leaves the box and goes off to comfort the suffering.
  14. But if you were to look at hope through a biblical lens, you may find that hope offers confidence after all.
    1. While hope provides joy, peace, protection and strength according to various scriptures, hope also provides a way forward even when times are bleak.
    1. When times are dark – hope can prevail.
  15. Throughout Scripture we read again and again that in the darkest of times God appears. God can appear in the darkness of night and in the darkest periods of our lives.
  16. God and darkness have been friends for a long time.
    1. Remember that God appeared to Abraham in the night and told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.
    1. The Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt began in the darkness of the night.
    1. God met Moses in the night on the top of Mt. Sinai and gave Moses the 10 Commandants.
    1. Nicodemus came secretly to speak to Jesus under the cover of darkness so that no one would see him, and Nicodemus’ life was forever changed. 
    1. The Apostle Paul’s conversion to be the witness for the resurrected Jesus occurred after three days of blindness.
    1. And – Jesus experienced the resurrection in the darkness of the tomb.
  17. Perhaps it is an understatement to share that in times of uncertainty people begin to look for hope.
    1. In fact, politicians run on the theme of hope, proclaiming that they represent a break with the past; indeed, they are the ones who can provide hope! Give hope a chance! In times of uncertainty, it is easy to send out a search party to find hope. Where can we find it? Where is it?
  18. Since September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina, and countless mass killings by others obsessed with revenge or hate motives, we have been wondering what else there is.
    1. What does the future hold?
    1. Will we continue to resort to endless violence?
    1. Will we continue to expend our every waking moment on endless activities of sports and entertainment and social media and become detached from the illness in our society because we seem to want to momentarily escape it?
    1. If the future does not seem to hold much promise, why not get lost in the present, why not live for today? Who cares about tomorrow?
  19. When we are young, we want reassurance about the purpose of our lives.
    1. We want to find our way in this world.
    1. We seek some kind of reaffirmation amid the confusion of the world’s competing voices and interests.
  20. But we also expend energy on the now, pursuing life without giving much attention to what is to come.
    1. It’s a paradox, and in the course of our seeking, fear and anxiety can take hold. As we grow older, we seek reassurance about the promises of life, in particular, about eternal life.
    1. We want to believe in tomorrow, even when we encounter trouble today. Regardless of age, though, the message is the same: without hope, we fall into despair and lose touch with the promises of the future.
  21. The story of Abraham and Sarah speaks to the power of hope. When we first meet the couple, God has chosen them to bring into existence a great nation with a future full of promise.
    1. This covenant brings into focus, not simply the future of a people, but the story of a creator who makes something out of nothing.
    1. Where there was nothing there is now a new people—God’s people. God blesses Israel to be a blessing, living among the other nations. That’s the promise—and the challenge.
  22. But in our story of Abraham and Sarah, there is an obstacle to the promise—barrenness; not simply the inability to conceive, but the inability to hope.
  23. That’s the kind of barrenness Genesis describes.
    1. Barrenness is not simply the absence of children but the absence of hope, the absence of a future, the absence of promise. Abraham and Sarah are barren, without hope.
  24. God steps in to remind Abraham and Sarah that he will become the parents of many nations and that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars, that the land that they will inhabit will be a “perpetual holding” (Genesis 17:8).
  25. God’s covenant promise is fertile with hope. But still no children, until God blesses Sarah’s womb with life, and she conceives. She bears a son, Isaac, who will carry the covenant into the future.
    1. From Isaac’s offspring will come forth children to bless and populate the earth.
    1. Isaac will be the covenant-bearer.
    1. Isaac will take the promises into tomorrow.
  26. All of this sounds unthinkable to the older couple.
    1. Sarah laughs so hard she falls on the floor crying: How can God fulfill this kind of promise?
    1. Abraham has no reason to hope.
    1. He looks at the land of Canaan, and he looks at Sarah, and he sees nothing but barrenness.
    1. He looks at his circumstances and thinks, nothing can come of this!
  27. But Abraham has every reason to hope; God has made a promise to him. God has called him and given to him the hope of a new future. God will fulfill the promise.
  28. Hope is not fleeting, and hope does not disappoint.
    1. In fact, to live in hope means to live with the assurance of God’s presence in our lives, knowing that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
  29. One of the most difficult aspects of the Christian life, then, is not so much the call to sacrifice as to hope—to continue to hope through the authentic trials of life—to hope against hope.
  30. So many of us have darkness that pervades our lives.
    1. We may have just received the diagnosis of an incurable disease.
    1. We may have received the pink slip of unemployment.
    1. We may grow concerned about the environmental changes or the world conditions.
    1. We may experience separation and disharmony in our personal relationships with family and friends.
    1. We may just think that we are spiraling deeper into depression or addiction.
  31. Darkness is pervasive — but God comes to us in the darkness.
  32. Here is another example: Picture this in your mind’s eye –There is a painting that features a woman in rags and covered in wounds. She was a musician and played the harp – but now her harp has only one string, and yet she is still making music to praise God.
    1. This is act that was an audacious example of hope.
    1. She could have just sat there, miserable, and wished for things to get better. Instead, when there seems to be no hope, making the choice to believe that there is indeed hope, and that there is indeed a better life ahead, is what God wants for us.
  33. And no matter the situation, a person can choose to hope as a means of looking toward the future.
  34. Or just as easily, we can leave hope in Pandora’s Box.
  35. The Resurrection is the keystone to our faith. The Resurrection defines our faith:
    1. Without the Resurrection there would be no hope.
    1. Hope is far more than unbridled optimism. Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is a faith statement:
  36. That in-spite of the troubles we have now – like the birds I saw in the snowstorm on Wednesday singing in the storm or the ragged woman praising God with music from a one string harp—
  37. That regardless of the difficulties in this life — God has a plan – God is in charge – God will deliver.
    1. Hope is trust – trust that God is in control in spite of what we presently see— Hope is an attitude of faith. Hope is faith.
  38. The author of Hebrews says it quite clearly: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
  39. So, there are two things I wish for you take away today. Maybe in the quiet time of your day or in the quietness of your rest or in the darkness – two things – – two thoughts about Jesus the Resurrected One:
    1. Jesus the Christ transforms lives – even yours – if you seek him
    1. Jesus the Resurrected One offers hope – in the darkest of times in our lives – if you seek him.
  40. So – leave this morning seeking Jesus and it does not have to be Easter: – whose resurrection we proclaim again today. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed!!!!
  41. Thanks be to God!

[1] With help from Ministry Matters,