There is a cloud of apathy, anger, and angst that seems never to go away these days for so many people. Smiles, joy, and peace just don’t seem as common as they once did. An underlying tone in many conversations I have is a sense of hopelessness. For a couple of minutes, let’s reconsider what it means that instead of hopelessness - we are people of hope.
Hope is a beautiful word. It represents the possibility of a positive outcome, a light at the end of a dark tunnel. It is very significant in the Bible. However, hope in the Bible is different from its everyday use – it is far better!
Today, most often, hope is expecting something to happen, but not being entirely sure it will. It is more like a wish. Webster’s Dictionary defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or to be true.” This definition is based on doubt and uncertainty, but biblical hope is knowing that the desired outcome will happen. It’s not wishful thinking, but a solid reality. When God speaks of a future hope, it is as good as done already.
Hope in Hebrew
Two main Hebrew words are translated as "hope" in the Old Testament. The first word is yachal, and it appears about 48 times in the Old Testament.
According to Strong’s concordance, yachal means to wait or to be patient. Yachal is most often associated with waiting on God; it may be waiting on his word, promises, or actions, such as in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” But sometimes yachal is used when waiting continually or enduring, such as in Psalm 71:14, “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.”
The second word is tiqvah or qavah. Tiqvah means cord or attachment. It is the word translated "hope" in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Tiqvah means to expect, and it is related to the Hebrew word qavah, which means to wait for or look eagerly.
In conclusion, "hope" in the Old Testament means to wait for something with expectation and anticipation that it will happen. It is often accompanied by joy and pleasure, and it’s related to God. It is as if there is a cord attaching the hope to its completion.
Hope in Greek
The word "hope" in the New Testament is from the Greek word elpis. According to Strong’s Concordance, elpis means expectation, trust, and confidence. It comes from the root word elpo, which means to anticipate (with pleasure) and to welcome. Elpis is an expectation of what is guaranteed.
Elpis first appears in the New Testament in Matthew 12:21, “and in His name, the Gentiles will hope.” The word "hope" in this verse comes from the verb form, which is elpizo ["trust" in some versions].
Elpis appears over 50 times in the New Testament and is used in anticipation of future events that are certain to come. "Hope" in the New Testament means looking towards the future with assurance. It is also accompanied by joy and pleasure, and it’s related to Jesus.
Putting it all together
Biblical hope is confidently expecting that something will happen and waiting patiently for it with joy and pleasure. John Piper puts it this way: “Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.”
Our hope’s foundation is from faith. Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” We cannot have one without the other. Hope is looking expectantly towards the future based on our faith in God in the present and His faithfulness in the past. When we have hope, we can navigate those turbulent waters without despair. We can have joy and peace despite our circumstances because we know we have a God that works all things for our good. As Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Friends, what an opportunity we have right now to share Jesus. The world seems to be dominated by darkness, but light will always conquer darkness. Jesus is the Light of the World! May our lives and our congregations shine as beacons of hope!
Nick Mundis - Director of North American Mission