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Between Despair and Hope

Our pain is real, but so is the presence of God.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Living in the In-Between". See series.


This is our final sermon in our series on Deuteronomy. We have been in between the wilderness and the Promised Land, waiting and listening. We have discovered the importance of memory for our imagination. Today we encounter one of the last invitations for living in transition.

Deuteronomy is painfully realistic.

Deuteronomy has a strikingly sad ending. This is the last book in the Torah—a section of the Bible the entire thrust of which is organized around the promise of land for the people of Israel. Yet the promise is not fulfilled. Deuteronomy ends with the hope of entering the land, but not with the actual fulfillment of that promise. This is like having the Gospel stories leave out the resurrection of Jesus.

Added to that, the greatest prophet Israel has ever known, who has guided God's people for 40 years through the immense pressures of the wilderness, dies without entering the Promised Land. It is a harsh and difficult ending for both the reader and the characters in the story. We've been asked to wait in between, we've waited, and now we're ready to have the promise fulfilled. Instead, the Torah comes to a close with the nation of Israel still seated on the banks of the Jordan, grieving the death of the greatest leader in their history.

One thing that strikes me about this ending is that it makes Deuteronomy an incredibly honest book. In many ways, it reflects our experiences in life. For a lot of us, life doesn't wrap up into a nice, neat bow with a happy ending. This is not like a sitcom—where all of life's conflicts and troubles are wrapped up in 30 minutes. No, Deuteronomy presents us with the harsh realities of life and of living in between.

We have all moved through deep suffering and great ...

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Shane Hipps is lead pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church and author of The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church (Zondervan, 2006).

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Sermon Outline:


I. Deuteronomy is painfully realistic.

II. God promises his presence in the midst of our pain.

III. We should anticipate God's presence.