every fragment of every rainbow
is another echo of light.
when will the final rainbow appear
and glisten at last,
in my soul?
The LORD has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your
Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’”
—God’s reminder to his people about his promise and their destiny
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve sometimes offered people cheap hope. I’ve made Jesus seem like a backslapping frat buddy rather than a war-hardened hero. I’ve peddled him like the peanut guy at the ballpark. “God! I’ve got some red-hot God here!”
I’ve held out the plastic, easy hope hyped by the preachers of a bargain-basement God when all the while, the hope God offers is raw and real and unvarnished. It rises through the centuries and reverberates in the hearts and souls of true spiritual pilgrims everywhere. This is not a cheap hope but a costly one. It’s a tearstained hope strong enough to comfort people who’ve watched their parents die, seen their dreams fade away, struggled with whether or not to have an abortion, or lived through a divorce. It’s a hope for the oppressed, the guilty, the haunted, the hurting, the forgotten, the abused, the mocked, the ignored, the lonely, and the overlooked. Workaholics and loudmouths and outcasts and spiritual fugitives like us.
It’s a passionate hope, a real hope, a battle-scarred and yet victorious hope. Only a hope like that could ever conquer heartaches this strong and wounds this deep and pain as fresh as today’s headlines.
After Cain and Abel, the Easter narrative spins off in two distinct directions, one of shadow, one of light. The two stories curl around each other, intertwining like yin and yang. Like an M. C. Escher painting. At first they look like they’re embracing each other, but when you look closer, you see that really light is chasing shadow toward an empty tomb.
The shadowy side of the saga is humanity’s descent into darkness. Choice after choice, generation after generation, evil has seeped deeper and deeper into the souls of everyday women and men.
The tale of light is the thread of God’s graciousness extended over and over to a people who turned their backs on him. When their wickedness got out of hand, he gave them 120 years to get their act together. But they chose not to. So then came Noah and the Really Big Houseboat. But when the great flood had receded, it didn’t take long for people to fumble the ball all over again.
They built a tower in honor of themselves, and God had to scatter them across the globe the hard way, obstinate people that we are. At last he chose a man of faith named Abram (later renamed Abraham). For reasons of his own, God decided to pour his promises into the world through this elderly, childless nomad. Both Jews and Arabs trace their ancestry back to Abraham. And in time, the Jews became the people of God’s promises.
God told Abraham, “I will bless you richly. I will multiply your descendants into countless millions, like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies, and through your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:17- 18). All the nations would be blessed through this nation and through one of Abraham’s descendants—a man with the power to restore hope to all of humanity.
Then God sealed his promise and instituted an intricate system of sacrifices to remind his people of his promises. Each lamb that was slaughtered, each dove that was slain, each drop of blood that was sprinkled on a desert altar was another arrow pointing into the future to the fulfillment of God’s promises: he would be with them, he would never abandon them, and in time, he would rescue them.
God had whispered his first promise to Adam and Eve in those early days of creation and rebellion. Now throughout the years he repeated it in a variety of ways to a variety of people. With each retelling through the centuries, the promise took on more clarity, more specificity, more wonder, more mystery.
A Savior would arrive . . . a serpent-slayer . . . a deliverer . . . a king whose kingdom would never end . . . a servant who would suffer for his people . . . a prophet who would speak for God . . . a priest who would offer the final and ultimate sacrifice . . . a man who would bring blessing to all the races of people on earth. Chapter after chapter of the Old Testament retells the tale, clarifies the promises, resounds the echo: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light—a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow” (Isaiah 9:2).
And each promise, each prediction, each prophecy shed more light and more mystery on this figure: He would be God; he would be a man. He would be a king; he would be a servant. He would be both a lion and a lamb, both a sword and a shield, both a conqueror and the conquered one. The prophet Isaiah called him, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). And the hope he would bring would not be cheap but as costly as life itself and as bright as the rising sun.
But how could this be? And who would this be? And when would he finally arrive?
They dreamt of him. They longed for him. They spoke of him from generation to generation. At mealtimes and around campfires and along lonely desert journeys, they told of him. Promises of his coming echoed through their days. Every ritual, every prayer, every prophecy was another reminder.
But he didn’t come. That’s the thing. Year after year they waited, but the promised one didn’t arrive.
touching the unseen
deep in the center of dawn
the echo returns.
floating on the edge of your words
i hear hope circling around my heart
“soon, soon, the savior will arrive.
soon, soon, the king will come.”
when will you arrive and show me
the way out of this maze
of myself? i’m feeling more and more lost
every moment i’m here.