Prisoners of Hope

Zechariah 9:9-13
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
13For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

This reading from Zechariah may be a familiar one – for Palm Sunday! Yes, we begin with the announcement of the arrival of the King of Kings, as He entered Jerusalem on the first day of what we now call “Holy Week”. Little did the people know as they spread their coast on the ground before the King of Kings that He was born in a humble stable 33 years earlier.

This year for our Advent studies, we’re going to go “old school” and think about those four candles on the Advent wreath, the first of which stands for hope. Hope is an interesting characteristic, for it feels slightly difficult to define. I heard a child once define hope as “something you already have” and that is an apt description. Often the words hope and wish are used interchangeably. That’s a mistake, for wish simply describes something you want but probably don’t really need. Hope, on the other hand, is reality – something you already have, as that child pointed out so profoundly.

Zechariah uses this word hope in rather a surprising way. He calls God’s people prisoners of hope. The word prisoner here refers to the household slave – the bondsman. This was a person who intentionally bound themselves to the family as a lifelong slave. Their life was good with that family and they were willing servants because in all likelihood, they were in a wonderful relationship with that family. We are prisoners of a loving and hope-giving God. Our lives are good with the Father and He loves us, not as His slaves but as His children!

Hope in God and His promises is defined as “confident expectation” because it isn’t a wish. The Old Testament is filled, 487 times to be exact, with prophecies concerning the coming Savior and Jesus fulfilled every single one of them. Our hope, our confident expectation, is secure, for we already have what we have been promised. Some days it may not look like it, but faith is being certain of what we may not be able to see.