Hope; April 21, 2018

Zechariah 9:12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

I have written on this verse several times, but every time I read it, it hits me again. The traditional English translation is, “prisoners of hope,” but the Japanese says, “prisoners who have hope.” Those can be very different things. Someone who was a prisoner of hope might not be able to move forward to the next thing, because they were fixated on the restoration of something in the past. A prisoner who had hope, on the other hand, might refuse to be bound by their circumstances, convinced that things would get better. Not knowing Hebrew, much less having the original manuscript, I don’t know which is the more accurate translation here. In either case, God is instructing such prisoners to return to their fortress. Biblically speaking, that is Christ, God Himself. When we make other things our fortress we eventually find that they are worthless. That’s why the hymn, The Solid Rock, is so true: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…. All other ground is sinking sand.” Jesus Himself told the famous parable of the two men who built houses, one on sand and one on a sure foundation. (Matthew 7:24-27) If our “fortress” is in man, either materially or organizationally, it will fail, because we are by definition moral and fallible. It is only when we return to our Source that He is able to restore to us what the enemy and circumstances have taken from us.

This is, of course, very applicable to us right now. All sorts of things have been taken from us, but God hasn’t changed, and no one can take Him from us. Our own efforts are remarkably fruitless, but nothing is even difficult, much less too hard, for Him. The point for us now is to confirm our place in Him, not fixating on how things “ought” to be. We don’t know how things will go in the short term, but we do know that God’s plans for us are good. (Jeremiah 29:11) In the immediate present, I need to focus on faithfulness. There are things to be done that for one reason or another I don’t want to do, but I must not let that keep me from doing them. Today is a specific case in point. My problem is sometimes in not knowing what to do, but far more often in failing to buckle down and do what I do know to do. Especially with the wide range of demands on me, the temptation to run, or to crawl into a hole, is very real. I must not do that, but know that in Christ I can do everything required of me. (Philippians 4:13) When God restores things to us is up to Him, but in the mean time I need to be faithful in the tasks at hand.

Father, thank You for this reminder, and gentle push. Thank You for keeping me from getting lost yesterday and for what I was able to do, even though results weren’t all as I had hoped. Thank You for all I will be able to do today. Help me keep at each task until it is completed, resting, relaxing, and rejoicing in You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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