Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:21 (Holman) The nations will put their hope in His name.
Israel expected and wanted a Messiah who would defeat and humiliate the nations, but Isaiah foresaw a Messiah the nations would love, and put their hope in. He would be their hope for knowing and enjoying God’s love, forgiveness, salvation, Heaven instead of Hell, answered prayers, His oversight of their lives.
In Messiah the nations could put bedrock confidence. We tinge hope with doubt, “I hope someday I will maybe travel, be a baseball pro, be a millionaire.” In the New Testament, hope refers to results we know for sure will happen.
This hope steadied many Gentile believers in the initial trying days of the Church. Anchors quickly became popular symbols of hope among believers. At least 66 pictures of anchors adorn the catacombs, where early Christians were buried. Clement of Alexandria, in the second century, said anchors were common insignias on Christian rings. Hope maintained early believers because it was sure.
Due to Israel’s misunderstanding of Messiah’s role, Jesus had ordered His disciples not to proclaim to the people He was Messiah (v. 16). This command to stay silent about Jesus was rescinded before long. Publicity soon replaced secrecy.
With infinite, condescending love, Jesus told the Twelve to invite us Gentiles to come along for Messiah’s victory party. Israel’s Savior would be the world’s Savior (John 4:42; I John 4:14), mankind’s only hope for worldwide hope.
For 2000 years the nations have hoped in Jesus with swelling numbers of a tsunami. Isaiah’s prediction began to be fulfilled before Matthew wrote our text.
Matthew heard Jesus say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (JN 10:16). At Jesus’ birth magi came from nations to the east (MT 2:1). At Jesus’ dedication in the temple, Simeon said this baby would be a light to the nations (LK 2:32). A Roman centurion came to Jesus to receive healing for a servant (Matthew 8:5). Another Roman centurion, seeing at Jesus’ death the earthquake and other remarkable events, said, “This man really was God’s Son” (Matthew 27:54).
A lady from Tyre and Sidon, cities outside Israel, begged Jesus to heal her daughter (MT 15:21-22). Jesus welcomed the Samaritan woman as a convert (John 4). Greeks said to Philip, “Sir, we want to see Jesus” (John 12:20-21).
Matthew lived long enough to see the Gentile tidal wave start coming in. I wonder if he felt a tinge of sadness over the passing of the mantle from his one nation to many nations? I would guess he had at least mixed emotions about it.
Jonah saw a foreshadowing of salvation going to the nations, and hated it. He was angry at God for sparing the city of Nineveh. Paul saw the Gentile influx actually happening, and was glad, yet wanted to go to Hell to save his kinsmen.
We USA Christians can relate to Paul’s hurt. We sense vital essence slipping away from our national, corporate, cultural expression of spirituality.
Hearing more and more tales of revival blazing in other nations, we rejoice. Yet our innate feelings of patriotism, which is our natural love of family expressed on a larger scale, cause something to ache in us. As we hear of revival in China, sub-Sahara Africa, India, Cuba, and elsewhere, a thrill of victory races through us.
But what is this other sensation we feel? Sadness? Disappointment? Jealousy? Everything in us USA believers wants to pray, “Do it again, Lord, . . . here. Let worldwide revival blaze . . . beginning with us.”
Instead of revival, sin is let loose in our land. Abortion blood stains our hands. Homosexuality makes inroads toward cultural acceptance. Absentee dads and divorce sabotage a whole generation’s mental health. Drugs are rampant.
Sin is spawning sadness. We are the first generation of USA Americans to live totally for “me now,” to seek all our happiness in this one selfish lifetime.
The result is unhappiness, the saddest we’ve ever been. We will not find in selfishness or this world what we seek, but are free to exercise our awful freedom.
Jesus lets us become bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. He hopes we will grow desperate enough to seek Him, the One who wants to love and heal us.
We like to think we are strong as oaks, but are more like ivy twining itself around the oak. We require something outside ourselves to cling to. I pray, based on our text, that our sad people will find the glad hope Messiah came to give them.
Jesus is the hope of the nations, the lover of all people everywhere. His love is ever winsome, the universal magnet of hearts. Napoleon, in exile at St. Helena, said, “My empire has passed away, because it rested on force, but the empire of Jesus lasts still, and will last forever, because it is based on love.”
This white hot love of Jesus for the nations, His determination to give us Gentiles hope, though we didn’t deserve it, is the glue holding Christianity together. It checkmates our enemies, but bolsters us, or at least should.
Are we enjoying this bedrock hope Jesus came to give the nations? The grueling conflict in Christian living is whether we count God honest or a liar.
In our heart of hearts, do we count God’s promises recorded in Scripture as true or false? Our spiritual success hinges on how we answer this question.
We were first saved by trusting His promises. The only way we can carry on successfully is by repeating this practice, by holding to what we trusted in then.
When fleeing Hell, we found God’s promises sufficient. We trusted His bare word then. We can trust it now.
We believers marvel at unbelievers who disbelieve the warnings of God. Yet at the same time we believers too often disbelieve the promises of God.
If unbelievers believed His warnings, they would not remain in their sin. If we believers believed His promises, we would not remain as sad as we often do.
“We have this hope–like a sure and firm anchor of the soul–that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner” (Hebrews 6:19-20a).
In ancient times, when a ship approached port, but was unable to enter the harbor under its own sail, a man called the anchorarius was sent ahead in a small boat. He took the ship’s anchor into the harbor, and fastened it to an anchoria, a rock imbedded close to shore. Thus secured, the vessel could be pulled to land.
Before Jesus came, this world was for Gentiles a tossing, turning, churning sea. Heaven’s haven beckoned us, but we couldn’t get in, we weren’t welcomed.
Jesus, our anchorarius, took the anchor of our alienated, storm-tossed boat and fastened it to the anchoria, His cross. In Heaven, Christ guards the anchor’s hold on the everlasting benefits of His cross and draws us to Himself. He is our Forerunner, which by definition means we His followers will for sure, without fail, follow Him there. Someday we will be drawn into the safe harbor, hear the order to disembark, and step on the better country. In the meantime, we live by faith, not by sight, having Jesus as our hope.
He gives us enough trials to make us keep one hand clinging to His anchor rope. He gives enough victories for us to keep one hand raised in praise to Him.