Taking Hold of Hope During Darkest Times

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.

The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

 Jeremiah 1:11-12 (NIV)

The prophet Jeremiah bore the heavy burden of delivering messages from Heaven to the kings, priests, and people of Israel about the pending judgment for their sin, the destruction of Jerusalem for her idolatry, and coming captivity of the Jewish people into foreign lands. Despite the difficulty of his role and the darkness of the season he would have to walk through with his fellow Jewish people, Jeremiah would have found comfort in knowing from the beginning of his ministry that God had hand-picked him for this task even before he was formed in his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).

God knew Jeremiah from before he existed, set him apart for his unique prophetic ministry, and came time and again to Jeremiah at critical moments to remind him that—even when difficulty abounded, when his message was ill-received, and when despair loomed all around, his destiny and calling were secure because the heart and the promises of God were sure.

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, only a few verses after understanding that he had been brought into existence for the purposes of delivering God’s messages to Israel and to the nations, the Lord shows Jeremiah the blossom on an almond tree. And, through this blossom, He confirms that the words God has spoken and the promises He has made shall surely come to pass. For the Lord is ‘watching over’ or ‘intently hastening’ to accomplish them.

Interestingly, the almond tree (shakéd’ in Hebrew), was one of the first trees in Israel to put forth its blossoms at the end of winter. The tree was likely named based on the root Hebrew word which means ‘hastening’ or ‘on the watch’ to be the first to spring into action. While all other trees were sleeping, and before any other trees sprouted their leaves, the shakéd would spring into bloom around January. Still late winter! But it was a sign that other things were about to awaken. That spring—a new season—was on its way. The Lord affirms Jeremiah’s observation of the shakéd, and says, ‘…for I am watching over (shoked) My word to perform it.’ The same root Hebrew word! In this case, assuring Jeremiah that God is ‘hastening’ or keeping watch to seize the first opportunity to accomplish what He has promised. Jeremiah understood, and we can join our confidence with his, that God, like the almond tree is ready to spring into action FIRST to speedily accomplish His promises, even when everything else around seems to be dark, asleep, or even dead.

Jeremiah did not see all of what God spoke through him come to pass in his lifetime, but he did see most. Because God hastened to accomplish it according to His promise. God has made many promises to us—in His word, and to us personally in our lives. And in this season, as we have seen fear, uncertainty, darkness, and even a ‘shadow of death’ spring up so quickly around the world, we can and must fix our hope on the reality that—even more than the trouble around us—God’s word, His promises, are waiting and hastening to spring into action…un-delayed and undiluted by the trouble and slumber around us. By His grace and in full assurance of faith, let’s guard against ‘falling asleep’ or succumbing to the ‘winter’ of dread or despair. Let’s remain alert and full of hope, watching for the promises of God to come quickly to life in this season—for God is hastening to see that they do! Spring is here! May His promises spring to life in us and through us as we wait expectantly upon Him.

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