Can you recall that experience you feel when you’re anticipating a future which is better than your present? That feeling can be exciting and full of tension. That feeling is what many have come to call hope.
Hope is a state of anticipation for a future one believes would be better than their present. Hope is critical and a healthy feeling and drive for humanity. Especially when it comes to making a great future out of your present.
Hope is also a very important concept in the Bible. Let’s dive into that.
The Bible View of Hope in Ancient Hebrew
There are two main Hebrew words for Hope in the Old Testament and they are both interesting. These words are Yakhal and Qavah. Let’s start with first word.
What is Yakhal?
Yakhal simply means to wait for something or someone. Let’s check that out from the Bible.
Noah and Yakhal
In the Book of Genesis, we read about a terrifying flood in the days of Noah. This was due to humans seeking to rule the earth on their own terms, Sin creeped into the world and brought forth death and chaos.
God told Noah to build an ark and gather his family and different species of animals into it to save them from this flood.
After the flood had calmed down. Noah sent out birds to help him scout if the waters have calmed down enough for him to finally get down from the ark. One of these birds was a dove. On his second try, this dove brought him an olive leaf.
This filled Noah with excitement. Finally, Good news! He decided to wait for another seven days to try the dove once more. The Bible calls that waiting Yakhal. Noah was filled with the excitement of hope to finally feel the ground and see the new world.
Then he waited (Yakhal) yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again.
What About Qavah?
The other Hebrew word is Qavah which also means to wait. It has a literal meaning which refers to the binding or twisting of a cord or rope.
Qavah is related to the Hebrew word Qav which means cord. When you pull a qav, what happens? You create a state of tension. When you keep pulling it tight, this tension builds up until there is a release, when the cord (qav) finally breaks or is let go. That is what Qavah means.
Qavah is the feeling of tension and anticipation that builds up as you wait for something or someone.
Farmers and Qavah
The prophet Isaiah writes about God as a farmer who plants vineyards and qavah for their grapes.
He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with the best vines. In the middle he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited (qavah) for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were bitter.
Isaiah 5:2 NLT
What Does The Old Testament Say About Hope?
So what does the Bible say about hope? Hope in Biblical Hebrew is about waiting or tense expectations. In the story of the Bible, one question will arise. What were the ancient Hebrews waiting for?
The prophet Isaiah gave us a clue:
At this moment, the Lord is hiding his face from Israel, so I will QAVAH for him.ISAIAH 8:17
The hope Isaiah had and spoke of was the hope for Good himself. He wasn’t the only one. This kind of hope can be found throughout the Book of Psalms. They appear over 40 times. In almost all of them, what people are waiting for is GOD.
Let’s check out an example:
I wait (qavah) for the Lord , my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope (Yakhal).
My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope (Yakhal) in the Lord. For with the Lord, there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He will redeem Israel From all its iniquities.PSALMS 130 : 5-8
Hope in a Person
The Biblical Hope is based on a person. That person is God. Now, this is different from optimism.
Optimism is about choosing to see in a situation how circumstances could work out for the better. However, biblical hope is not based on circumstances.
Even if they can see that all evidence proves the situation not getting better, they would still choose to hope anyway. This is because they base their hope on God and not on the circumstances.
Hope in God
At the time when the Israelites were being persecuted and sent on exile by foreign kingdoms, the prophet Hosea decided to choose hope. He believed that irrespective of how terrible the situation was, God will give Israel a door of hope (Hosea 2:15-23).
He believed that just as God surprised them and freed them from slavery in Egypt, when they had lost all dreams of an escape, He can and will do it again for His people.
Old Abraham with his old and barren wife Sarah, hears God’s word and against hope, hoped for the bright future of being a father of nations just as God said He would make happen (Romans 4).
Why do they base their hope in God?
It is because God’s faithfulness inspires them to hope for a bright future.
If He did it before, He can surely do it again, therefore they can place our hope in Him. By hoping in God, you look forward by looking backwards, trusting in God’s character and track record of faithfulness.
Hope in the New Testament
The early followers of Jesus cultivated a similar habit and understanding of hope. This time around, the hope that Israel and all of humanity was waiting for – a glorious and beautiful life where there is no sin, death and evil of any kind – this Hope was in Jesus.
They believed that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection opened a NEW DOOR OF HOPE for Israel and all humans everywhere.
The apostle Peter said that the resurrection of Jesus opened a living hope where people can be reborn (born anew) into new and different kinds of humans full God’s special kind of life and free from holds of sin.
This kind of hope is what is called in Greek as ELPIS.
JESUS OUR ELPIS
The apostle Paul more than once, called the gospel (good news) about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as the ELPIS of glory.
All the hope we have studied up till now lead to a person called Jesus, in and through whom the hope towards God is fulfilled in full.
What’s more amazing is that, this hope is not just for humans. Paul made us aware of the truth that what happened to Jesus in his death and resurrection into new life is just a foretaste of what God is going to do to all of His creation (Romans 8:18-25). Because of this new door of hope that Jesus opened up through his resurrection, humanity and all of creation will be set free from pain, suffering, sin and death.
This is what biblical hope is all about. It’s not optimism based on circumstances.
Many would call it weird. But, It is a decision to look beyond the present circumstances. It is a choice you make to look unto God in and through Jesus, and trusting in his character, power and faithfulness of the past to bring about that promised future of glory and beauty of humanity and all of creation.
Christian hope looks back to the risen Jesus in order to look forward into the future of His new life and love spreading and filling everyone and everything. That’s what the biblical hope is all about.