Hope for the Hopeless

From Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

August 10

Hope for the Hopeless

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 85:8-13 | Ezra 10:1-44 | 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 | Proverbs 21:3

Today’s Scripture Focus: Ezra 10

“We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel” (Ezra 10:2 NIV).

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “There is always hope.” How do these two expressions fit together? Somehow Ezra’s story twists and turns through those two clichés. Maybe the hybrid expression would be: “It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks, but there is always hope.”

The “old dogs” of Judah are returning to their old ways. God had been faithful to them, yet they once again proved to be hopelessly faithless. God had warned them about the effects of marrying the Canaanite women. He had forbidden it and already they had disobeyed big time (I sometimes wonder about some of the lists in the Bible, but I can understand the reason for the list in this passage—it shows the depth of compromise). 

By the way, occasionally I hear someone use this as a proof text against “inter-racial marriage”—not the point. The Canaanite people were of the same basic racial background as the people of Judah. The problem is that they had a reputation for sin and idolatry. God knew that intermarriage with Godless people like that would lead to further drifting and compromise. Be careful not to allow your prejudices to skew your interpretation of scripture.The point is: choose a Godly spouse!

That God’s chosen people would so quickly fall back into deliberate disobedience and sin brought Ezra to his knees. Rebuilding the temple was important, but they also needed to rebuild their lives in accordance with God’s design. He saw the sin of his people, and knew that they needed repentance and revival. So he prayed intensely until he got the breakthrough. 

I love the response of Shecaniah that signals the beginning of the breakthrough: “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.” You see, there is always hope, even for “old dogs to learn new tricks.”

Paul in 1 Corinthians gives us a a lot of hope in regards to ability to change, despite our past failings. After describing their past lifestyles of sin, he says, “and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. See, there is hope for you after all (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Despite our failures, our attempts to distance ourselves from God, our deliberate disobedience, our drifting from the principles of his word, God is still faithful and forgiving.  He is a God of grace and mercy. He is a God of hope (Rom. 15:13). He doesn’t give up on his people—even the ones who seem hopeless. People like you and me.

God of Hope, thank you for your faithful and steadfast love. Thanks for your patience with your people. Help me to find my hope in you today and keep walking on the path you have laid out for me. Amen.

About pastorjeffsneighborhood

Born and raised in Minnesota, I have served in churches in Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and California. I am a graduate of Crown College (MN) and George Fox Evangelical Seminary (OR). I have also done additional graduate studies in New Testament Studies at the Center for Advanced Theological Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary (CA). I am also a graduate of the College of Prayer. Having served as the Academic Dean and Program Director at Horizon Institute of Los Angeles for several years, I have returned to the pastorate and serve as Pastor of Big Trees Community Bible Church in Arnold, CA.
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