We’re starting a series called, “Men and Women of Hope”. Terry is going to be bringing to you stories of biblical characters who face, not unlike ourselves, who face some really difficult, very difficult circumstances, not only in their personal lives, but in the lives of their nations.  Many of us recognize that we are still living very much in a climate of fear. We’re seeing some loosening up of restrictions and we’re beginning to get out and about a little bit. Some of us are going back to work, but nonetheless, there’s a great deal of anxiety and fear about what we’re going back to and what our society is going to look like and our culture is going to look like. And so Terry is going to bring to you the first of these messages of hope in the life of Noah and Noah we’ve decided is kind of the patriarch of social distancing.

The story of Noah appears in the early chapters of the book of Genesis. Noah was called by God to prolong civilization. God was very upset with his generation and decided to destroy them, but Noah was the one who kept civilization moving forward. Noah was on the ark for one year and 10 days, 375 days on the ark. Can you imagine what it might have smelled like on the ark? Can you imagine with all those animals and everybody else? You know there’s one question burning itself in the mind of Noah and that is, “How long is this going to last? God told me to save civilization, to build an ark, but he didn’t tell me how long we’re going to be on this thing and how long it’s going to take going forward.”

Noah became quite creative. He released a bird to find out if the water had receded and if the ark was on dry ground. He released a raven from the ark. The Raven goes and doesn’t come back. A little later he tries a dove. The dove goes and comes back, but the dove is all shaken up. They wait another week and send a second dove out. All day long Noah waits for some notification. “How long are we going to be here? How long are we in this place? How long is it going to take?” Just around the evening time, he heard the cooing of a dove outside of the window on the ark. He opened the window and there was a dove. Amazingly, in the mouth of the dove there is an olive leaf. Obviously, the dove had found a grove of olive trees somewhere. It meant the water had dried up.

Noah looked at this dove, and one thing he knew for sure was the olive branch meant hope. Seeing that dove with an olive branch in its mouth was a sign of hope. God had done that for Noah to give him hope. And I would suggest that we, too, have all experienced hard times when we were in circumstances like the flood when things were difficult. We didn’t know if we would even make it. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve had a lot of different things happen recently, like a financial collapse, loss of jobs, etc. But one thing is for certain: God hasn’t forgotten us. He, like he did for Noah, will send a dove toward with an olive leaf of hope in its mouth. And that olive of represents God’s answer to our situations.

Believers, remember this: in the world today, with everything in a disheveled shape right now and things are messed up, God knows our address. He knows who we are. He knows who I am and he’s given us that great verse in Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah says, “I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” To give you a future and a hope. The dove with the olive leaf is on its way saying, “God has a future and a hope for you. It’s coming.”

We can encourage others to hope. It’s so important that we understand this. And parents particularly have a great influence on their children by encouraging them and telling them that they’re doing well. It lifts them up. I remember my father never told me that he loved me till I was 33 years of age. I was on my way to Africa the first time he told me. That experience is written in my brain. I know the color on the wallpaper in the mobile home, in Minneapolis, where my father said, I love you. These things are important.

I love the way Jesus handled a situation in the temple when the Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They threw her into the dirt on the temple floor. And they said to Jesus, “The Law of Moses says, ‘stone her!’ What do you say?” And Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” Whoa! This totally turned them upside down. When the Pharisees because they had nothing left to say, Jesus said, “Woman, where are your accusers?” And she said, ‘No man, Lord.” And then he turned to her with a word of hope and he said, “Neither do I condemn the, go and sin no more.” What an encouraging word from Jesus! He was like the dove carrying the olive leaf when he spoke those special words.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We can have so much hope that our lives will overflow with goodness. That’s what it means to abound. When God’s hope bubbles up in our hearts and minds,it helps us know we will overcome all trials and circumstances. God bless you. Dare to hope, in Jesus’ name.