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A Shoot from a Stump — Hope Restored

January 22, 2024

Mary Miller

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” [1]

What is Hope? Do you “hope” for a close parking space, a passing grade, a pleasantly reasonable number on the bathroom scale, a music gig, publishing opportunity, or fresh creative inspiration? Is my hubby taking a long desired Mediterranean cruise with his oldest daughter this May? They sure hope so! But is this truly hope?

Hope has been on my heart and mind for days as I pondered this essay. While I was on the rowing machine at the gym this morning, the words on the overhanging television screen flashed, “What brings you hope?” Judy Woodruff was interviewing J. Michael Luttig in her feature on the current state of American politics. He responded, “To be honest, it’s hard to find hope on the horizon right now.” [2]

Yes, I agree. We live in a Godless time and the hopelessness of our world reflects this—from wars and diseases across the world, to broken families and abused children, or the present political scene. Pervasive hopelessness has set in which has yet to lift. That’s the world. But what about the Church? Too many believers I know also wrestle with unfulfilled yearnings.

In 2022, my husband delivered an Advent sermon on Hope. He shared that Hope is the emotional reservoir of faith. When we feel despair, when we struggle with temptation or loneliness, when life doesn’t seem to move forward, or whenever something is an existential threat to our existence, hope rises from the depth of our lives in order that we will be guided by our faith! We cultivate hope through faith.

He shared that Hope is the expression of active faith rooted in the faithfulness of God; it is a cultivated belief, not a crossing of the fingers or wishful thinking.

Hope is not just a desire for goodness in the future, but a confident expectation for that object or idea to manifest. 

King Ahaz, one of the most wicked rulers of Israel, [3] led Judah in absolute rebellion, idol worship, and other pagan practices; there was no tangible hope for Judah to return to Jehovah. Despite Ahaz’s rebellion towards his rebuke, Isaiah recalls God’s promises to David through Nathan the prophet, [4] an unconditional covenant made between God and David through which God promises David and Israel that the Messiah would come from his lineage. “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot…In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together…” [5] Isaiah could look at the ruin of the nation of Israel and declare, “A shoot from a stump!” God promises new life and hope will grow from the remains of what was lost and dead. [6] Isaiah remembers that no matter how dead this “Stump” (Judah) appears, and even though God doesn’t seem to be speaking to His people, the promise is rooted in the eternal covenant of God’s promises—a stump with promise.

Like Israel, some of us haven’t heard the voice of God for what feels like ages, yet we soldier on, wondering if God has left us. We query, “Is He even real?”  How often have we helplessly cried out, “Where are you God? Why has ‘this’ happened to me? Why have you abandoned us?” I’ve been there — wishing for my son to embrace Christ, pleading with God for healing, and longing for our churches to return to the New Testament missional community.

In the void of answered prayers, I chose to fill an imaginary fire pit and burn my hopeless utterances. I returned to the Word like a stack of favorite books, then opened these friends and rediscovered special passages and characters. I cultivate as one would a garden. As I have read, meditated, and declared the promises of God (despite how I felt), faith-filled hope returned, one green shoot at a time. “Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit says the Lord.” [7] My hope is not in my own strength or lack of strength.

My hope cannot be in my circumstances, in new medical breakthroughs, or the lack of fruit in long-prayed-for transformation. It cannot be for a political savior or legislation, but must be found in Christ. Just as Isaiah saw into the future and foretold of God speaking life to a lost world, I look to the Word and breathe life into my bones. Hope is my confident expectation for something good in the future. The Word of God never returns void, [8] so I can speak the Word over His promises with confidence. The just shall live by faith. [9]

I choose to remember Isaiah, “Out of the stump, hope will rise.” While looking at the emerging green shoots, I rejoice. I pray. I praise. My hope is in Christ alone.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand. [10]

[1] Edward Mote, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, 1837. 

[2] America at the Crossroads, Judy Woodruff

[3] 736-716 BC.

[4] 2 Samuel 7:1 (KJV).

[5] Isaiah 11: 1, 6 (NLT).

[6] Mark Miller, Riverstone Church, December 2022.

[7] Zechariah 4:6 (NIV).

[8] Isaiah 55:11.

[9] Romans 1:17 (KJV).

[10] Edward Mote, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, 1837.

The featured image, “Christmas Moss 1,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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