What’s on your Christmas gift wish list this year? Is there one dream item in particular that you’re hoping to receive?
If possible, think of a gift that you probably could not independently acquire on your own. Or, turn back the clock and remember when you were a child. What was your dream Christmas gift back then? How did you feel when it was unwrapped, or, if it never was received?
Why do children hope for Christmas gifts? Why do adults hope for whatever it is they hope for? Because we believe that what we are hoping for and hoping in will solve our biggest problems.
Children hope for Christmas gifts that will solve their lack-of-entertainment problem. Likewise, all year round, adults hope for [fill in the blank] to solve their [fill in the blank] problem. We all carry around with us our personal catalog of “if-onlys.” Whatever sits on the other side of your “if-only” will reveal what you think your biggest problem is and where you are looking for hope.
The Advent season is a story of hope, and Isaiah 59 is a brilliant Old Testament exposition of Christmas hope. This passage exposes our need for hope and supplies the source of hope with the prophecy of Christ’s birth.
No matter what we try to define as our most significant problem in life, the Bible is explicitly clear: we are the problem.
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, emphasis mine).
When God accuses us of being the problem, there are only two options: deny the accusation and attempt to shift the blame, or accept the charge and make a desperate confession. The Israelites wisely choose to confess: “For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities” (v. 12).
Why would the Israelites choose to confess? Because they understand the doorway to hope is hopelessness. When we give up on alternative sources of hope that can never truly save, we will pursue the only source of lasting hope: the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
What does God do in response to our hopelessness? “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” (v. 16).
Use this Advent season to remember that everyone hopes. From the smallest of things to the grandest of concerns, our lives are shaped, directed, motivated, and frustrated by hope.
Read passages of Scripture like Isaiah 59 and remind yourself that your sin is your biggest problem. It’s not other people or your current situation or location. A change of address, job, finances, or relationship won’t ultimately solve what needs to be addressed.
Finally, as you give and receive gifts, remember that salvation is a free gift. The hope of your life will never come wrapped in paper and placed under a tree.
No, the gift of life was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger, and would later hang on a different type of tree: “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord” (v. 20).
Paul David Tripp
1. What item is currently lacking in your life or home that can be purchased? What problems are being caused by not owning this item? How will purchasing this item solve your problem?
2. What situation, location, or relationship is currently causing you problems? How will a change of situation, location, or relationship make your life easier?
3. How does this missing item and challenging situation, location, or relationship pale compared to your ultimate problem—your sin? How have you made your life the most difficult recently with your transgression against the law of the Lord? Be specific.
4. When was the last time you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit? What were you being convicted of? How did you respond?
5. In the past, what happened when you hardened your heart, denied the accusation, and attempted to shift the blame? How did this affect your relationship with God and others?
6. In the past, what happened when you softened your heart, fired your inner lawyer, accept the charge, and made a desperate confession? How did this affect your relationship with God and others?