It was the summer of 1820 and ten-year-old Phineas was about see the island, his island. You see the day he was born his grandfather presented Phineas with a deed, a deed to some land in Connecticut called Ivy Island. And for the first time, Phineas was going to see and play on the island, his island.
Before they got there, his parents were quick to remind him, not every boy is born a landowner. Neighbors feared that the young landowner wouldn’t want to play with their children. When you own an island, you feel important.
When you own an island, you want to see it! Phineas had yet to see it but now the day had come. On that summer day in 1820, after a long ride with a horse and buggy, Phineas jumped down from the wagon and ran through the meadow. He raced to a row of trees and there he saw Ivy Island. When he saw his island, he stopped. His heart sank to his feet.
Ivy Island was five acres of snake-infested marshland. His grandfather called it the most valuable land in Connecticut. It was worthless. His father told him it was a generous gift. It wasn’t. It was a joke, a cruel, heartless joke! Phineas stood there in utter disbelief and then uttered four words. Four of the most haunting words in the English language … “But I had hoped.” So much pain is backed into these four words … “But I had hoped.”
As we continue our series and look at Micah, I want you to imagine Micah’s anticipation when the word of the LORD first came to him. Other prophets like Amos, Isaiah, and Hosea in the eighth century BC paved the way. Amos writes about God restoring the house of David. Isaiah writes about a virgin conceiving and having a Son, whose name is called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Hosea envisions God having great joy over his people, just as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. Following Amos, Isaiah, and Hosea, everything was going to be great for Micah right? Wrong!
Micah 2:2 says, “They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” Micah 2:11 says, “If a man should go about and utter wind and lies, saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,” he would be the preacher for this people!” Micah 6:12 says, “Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.” After hearing Amos, Isaiah, and Hosea this is how people are living? Can you hear Micah’s heavy sigh? “But I had hoped.”
Life has a way of being like a hammer, doesn’t it? It can break our heart and fill us with shame and despair. “But I had hoped the promotion would come.” “But I had hoped for a Christmas bonus.” “But I had hoped for good news from the doctor.” “But I had hoped I finished school.” “But I had hoped that Covid would be over by now.”
What we wanted, didn’t come. What came, we didn’t want. The result of this? Shattered hope. Dashed hope. Empty hope. What are our options?
Well, we can become bitter. Do you know that Phineas, the Phineas with Ivy Island, this Phineas became bitter for the rest of his life? In fact, he made a career out of being bitter. He made a life out of fooling people, just like he’d been fooled. You don’t know him as Phineas. You know him as P.T. P.T. Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey circus. P.T. Barnum coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
We can become bitter and we come become broken. Someone once challenged Ernest Hemmingway to write a story in only six words. Hemingway wrote this, “For sale: Baby shoes, never used.” Talk about a tragic story. “For sale: Baby shoes, never used.” It’s a simple story about so much hope with the baby shoes. But it’s also a story of crushed, broken hope in that they were never used.
When crushed hope happens, we disappear in sadness. We know, we just know, we’ll never be happy again. Life after a loss doesn’t follow an ordered and predictable path. Instead it looks more like a tangled plate of spaghetti as there is no rhyme or reason. Four words consume us … “But I had hoped.”
When life’s hammer crushes our heart, we can become bitter, we can become broken, or … or we can become believing.
After the American Civil War, the College of William and Mary had to close its doors. Weeds grew on the campus. Roofs tumbled in. Windows were broken. It was all a lost cost cause if were not for the efforts of one man, Benjamin Ewell. Ewell went to the bell tower every morning and rang the bells, calling the students to class. Only thing is, there were no students. There were no professors. Every day for seven years, for seven years Benjamin rang the bells. He simply refused to become bitter and broken. Ewell became believing. The result? The College of William and Mary reopened in 1888 and is today one of the foremost colleges on the east coast.
This is exactly who Micah is! Micah keeps ringing the bells! “Who is a God like you?” Rhetorical question right because the only possibly answer is “No one!” “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgressions for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” God gets in when He doesn’t have to and stays in when He shouldn’t. “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities, our sin, underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depth of sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham” (Micah 7:18-20).
God’s incomparability is asserted in two parts, his attributes and his actions. In the middle, between these in verse 19 is the word “again.” Again! “Again” lies at the heart of the Gospel. Listen! God doesn’t give up on you. You may give up on you, but God does not give up on you! God will forgive again. God will renew again. God will show His steadfast love for you again! There is hope!
These words from Micah 7 are some of the most hopeful words you will come across in the Bible. But they are still just words. Just letters on a page forming ideas, figures on a page announcing concepts, viewpoints, and thoughts.
This why Micah also writes in 5:2 that from Bethlehem a ruler will come forth. This ruler’s origins will be from of old, from ancient days. Micah says that hope will be born in Bethlehem. Hope will stand on two legs and two feet. Hope will have eyes and ears and a heart. Hope will listen and love, hear and heal. Hope will have a name and his name is Jesus!
“But we had hoped.” Those are the words of two disciples on the way to Emmaus in Luke 24. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21). After shedding his blood for all sin, for all people, for all time … Christ is alive and walking with a man name Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus. Two disciples who are bitter. “But we had hope!” Two disciples who are broken. “But we had hoped!” Two disciples who are in so much despair that they don’t see Jesus. Two disciples who are in so much despair that they don’t see Jesus.
What does Jesus do with them? Scold them? Berate them? Dismiss and demean them? No! Luke 24 tells us that Jesus makes himself known through the Old Testament and the Lord’s Supper. The Old Testament and the Lord’s Supper is where Jesus delivers hope!
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, he was scorned and rejected by the church of England. So much so that he sailed to America to preach to people here. One Christmas John Wesley, full of despair wrote a hymn.
The hymn? “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Glory to the new born King.” Like John Wesley, we will refuse to become bitter. We will refuse to stay broken. Like John Wesley, we will live believing.
And there’s a word for this … Hope. And there’s a name for Hope. Jesus. That’s why we will stand to sing with the angels … Glory to the newborn King. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus, our Hope and King, now and forever. Amen.