When we use the word ‘hope’ today, we usually mean that we ‘wish very hard’ for something to happen, although you might have varying degrees of intensity to your wishing. “I hope it doesn’t rain.” “I hope they put chicken on sale.” “I hope to get married one day.”
The Bible use of the word ‘hope’, however, is vastly different. Hope in the Bible is the same as expectation or assurance, knowing that something is going to happen. It isn’t just a strong wishing, and hoping that by mere wishing you will force something to happen. No, it includes a knowledge of the past character of the One in whom you hope and an assurance that they will act in the same manner going forward into the future.
“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” (Psalm 119:49)
The word hope is translated in the KJV from not one but several different Hebrew words, and I found it interesting when I did a bit of study on those words. One in particular means an expectation, and is not only translated as ‘hope’ in some of the Psalms, but is also translated as ‘line’ – as in the line that Rahab let down out of her window, her expectation that the spies would fulfill their promise and spare her life.
Another Hebrew word that is often translated as hope has a secondary meaning of ‘collected mass’ or ‘gathering’ and is used when describing different types of woven cloths used in the tabernacle. This same word is translated when it is speaking of “Hope of Israel” or “Hope of our Fathers” giving the idea of a collected mass of hopes, of years of fulfilled promises that lend hope to a trodden people.
Generally speaking, the word ‘hope’ has the idea of trust, security, refuge, confidence, expectation. Putting your ‘hope’ in something is trusting in something with your very bowels, literally using your very life to believe in that thing.
The opposite of hope is to have despair, to be despondent, to have no future.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated ‘hope’ means any expectation – whether good or evil. It is something that is counted on coming, something that is reckoned on.
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)
As Christians, we have hope because of our faith in Christ. Because we trust in Him for our eternity, we have hope that He will perform all that He has promised. Because we believe what He has said, we have hope that He will not leave us as we are, but change us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Because we know He always keeps His promises, we have hope that He will always give us the things that are best for us, to bring us to that end of Christlikeness, and not primarily the things that will just make us happy. A wise parent knows that sometimes a child must do things that are not fun in order to learn and grow their character, and so it is with our wise Heavenly Father.
What does this mean for a single girl? You can hope that you will one day get married, have children, have a house of your own, but those things are not exercising the Biblical use of hope. It is better to reword those statements into things you can have confidence in – I hope (expect) that God will bring me to marriage if that is what is best for me and His purpose for my life. I hope (expect) that God will bring me children when the time is right, according to what He knows of my future. I know that God loves me and wants the very best for me, and based on His history of never letting me down, I hope (expect) that He will give me exactly what I need for today, whether that includes marriage or not.
Putting the emphasis on the things in which we can Biblically hope for (expect), we are putting our thoughts into things that are true and honest (Philippians 4:8), not just in fanciful imaginations.
We have switched things in our world – we put the hope before the faith. We think that by really, really, really wishing for something to happen, we can work up the ‘faith’ to believe what God has said. But it is the opposite of that in the Bible. It is when we have faith in God, in the things that He has said, that He gives us hope, that confidence that He will do what He has said.
I like it best the way that Charles Spurgeon has put it: “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened.” That is, when we see what love has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ, we can have faith and proceed through life trusting in God, and it is then that we can see a small glimpse of what God has in store for us – that is true, Biblical hope.
“Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:” (Psalm 146:5)