We often use the word “hope” in our language today to communicate wishful thinking. We hope for something we long for but are uncertain of getting it. “I hope I get the job!” Or, “I hope I get a good report from my doctor!” We use the word expressing speculation and always with an undercurrent of uncertainty. “It may happen, then again, it may not. But I’m really hoping it does!”
Unfortunately, many of us bring our common use for the word “hope” when we read the Bible — the Word of God. The Bible tells us again and again to put our hope in God. In fact, hope is a major theme throughout the Bible. But when we read the many passages about hope, we carry our understanding of the word into the verse we are reading which produces a sense of uncertainty. “I hope God will come through for me — but I’m not fully assured He will.”
This is why having a good concordance and/or digital Bible rprogram is important for disciples who want to go deeper into the study of God’s Word. Studying key words in their original language isn’t just for theologians, pastors and teachers. Digging into the original meaning of key words used in the scriptures offers a rich and rewarding understanding of the Word of God. For example, take the English word for “peace.” We commonly define peace as meaning an absence of hostility or calmness and serenity. Hopefully we all are praying for peace in the Middle East.
Many mothers long for some “peace and quiet!” However, in the Hebrew language (the original language of the Old Testament) the word “peace” (shalom) expresses far more than just an end to violence or serenity. It means an abundance of God’s blessings in every dimension of one’s life! “Shalom!” is a common but meaningful greeting or farewell used among the Jewish people for thousands of years. It’s like saying, “May the Lord bless every area of your life and fill you with His presence!” It’s so much more than just an end of conflict or calmness of emotions.
In the original Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word translated in our Bibles as “hope” is the word “elpis.” “Elpis” expresses something very different than our common use of the word hope. Elpis (hope) means having full assurance of the future, and an assured anticipation of that what you are hoping for will most certainly happen. Unlike our word hope that expresses wishful thinking, the Biblical word for hope expresses certainty of our hope coming to pass.
Think of the many passages of hope in the Bible keeping in mind the original meaning of what hope expresses. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His Word, I put my hope!” This is not wishful thinking in the face of uncertainty. Instead, God is telling us that we can count on His Word to come to pass in our lives and what His Word tells us or promises us will happen! We can count on it! It is certain! Biblically speaking, when we put our hope in God, it means that God will come through for us — always!
You may be reading this right now and you’ve been praying, asking God for something really important. Maybe it’s about your job or lack of one. Maybe it’s about marriage difficulties or problems with your children. Maybe it’s a health issue, or emotional troubles. And with all the will power you can muster, you’re hoping God will answer. But every time your pray, deep down, your hope feels more like wishful thinking because in the back of your mind you’re uncertain God will come to your rescue.
This is why we have to put away our understanding of hope, and replace it with “Biblical” hope. The kind of hope that God gives to us and wants us to have — a hope that is certain in God. I pray that Biblical hope — God’s hope — resonates with your spirit, and move us all from “wishful thinking” to certainty and assurance in God and His Word.
I also pray that God’s promises to us found throughout the Bible, God’s Word, will take root in our lives and build a strong foundation of faith and trust in God. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. Romans 15:13
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The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.