Remember the past, maintain hope for the future

Father John A. Kiley

The ancient Jews understood that God’s fidelity in the past was an assurance of his faithfulness in the future. The Jews had cried out from the anguish of Egyptian slavery and the Lord God heard their plea. Through Moses, God led the Jews safely if arduously through the wilderness for 40 years.

This Exodus from tyranny and servitude was made endurable not only through the manna and quail and water that God supplied his people but even more so through the promise of a settlement in the patriarchal homeland of Canaan, the land rich in milk and honey, the land of their ancestors. And God was true to his word. Joshua assumed command after Moses and led the wandering Hebrews over the Jordan River, towards Jericho, and towards the eventual establishment in the homeland first given to Abraham. Not all at once but over the centuries, God, through the Judges, Saul and David, united the original Jacobean twelve tribes around the sacred city of Jerusalem. The promised kingdom had been established for the Jewish people.

It was the memory of the past, the successful Exodus from Egypt, which ensured Jewish perseverance in establishing the chosen people’s kingdom here on earth. The fidelity of God from Sinai to the Jordan strengthened the Jewish nation’s campaign from Jericho to Jerusalem. To this day, the Exodus event is the premier Jewish religious experience. What God did for their Jewish ancestors, God can perform for their children. The ancient Exodus is still the source of authentic Jewish hope about the future.

As another season of Advent commences, the Christian world is asked once again to remember the past and maintain hope for the future. Although little thought is given to it nowadays, mankind has inherited a fallen nature from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Mankind is neither morally corrupt nor intrinsically evil (in spite of all the evidence to the contrary), but mankind is indeed morally weak and spiritually fainthearted. Mankind’s slavery to the devil is just as real as the Jewish slavery to the Pharaoh. Like the ancient Jews, modern man needs deliverance. And just as surely as God heard the cries of the ancient Jews along the Nile, so God has heard the cries for deliverance (even if scarcely muttered) from the family of man. Jesus Christ is the new Moses, the new Joshua, the new David, the new deliverer, the new liberator, the new savior of the world.

Christ’s birth into history, his suffering and death at the hands of religious and imperial leaders, his appearances in his resurrected body, and his final return to heavenly glory are the pledge and guarantee that all God’s promises to mankind will be realized and fulfilled. The earthly life of Christ, predicted by the prophets, witnessed by his disciples, recorded in the Scriptures, preached by the church, is mankind’s assurance that, just as God was faithful in Christ, so God also will be faithful in history.

Advent is the ideal time to review and realize the historic events on which Christian assurance of future deliverance is based. The fall of mankind along with the Divine promise of a redeemer is truly the first step of the Advent season. Man abandoned God but God never abandoned man. Through succeeding generations – Noah, the Patriarchs, the Judges, the Kings, the Exile – God guided and supported his chosen people. Through the prophets God strengthened his people’s hope for salvation and called them back time and again to authentic, faith filled living. In the fullness of time, Jesus was born of Mary, bringing to completion centuries of preparation and fulfilling beyond all anticipation the hopes of the people and the promises of God. The God-man preached, healed, organized, suffered, died, and was raised up, leaving behind a community of believers who would increase into a universal Church, the people of God. As Advent worshippers reflect on this history of promises fulfilled, their thoughts should afford them deep assurance that God who was faithful in the past will be faithful in the future. God is true to his word.