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In the Old Testament, there are two main Hebrew words translated as “hope.” The first is yakhal, which means simply “to wait for.” Like in the story of Noah and the ark, as the flood waters recede, Noah had to yakhal for weeks.
6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark
7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.
8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.
9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.
10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark.
11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.
12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
- Genesis 8:6-12 -
The word “wait” in this passage is elsewhere translated “hope”. Put yourself in this story, how would you describe Noah’s waiting/hoping? Try to define the nature of this hope.
The other Hebrew word is qavah, which also means “to wait.” It’s related to the Hebrew word qav, which means “cord.” When you pull a qav tight, you produce a state of tension until there’s release. That’s qavah: the feeling of tension and expectation while you wait for something to happen.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
- Psalm 130 -
In this Psalm in the ESV, yakhal is translated hope and qavah is translated wait. Describe the state of the person writing this Psalm.
In what or in whom are they hoping? What is the basis for their hope (vv7-8)?
Have you ever had a time in your life where this Psalm would have described your cry? In what or in whom did you place your hope at that time? Why?
In the book of Hosea, the prophet condemns Israel for their idolatry, and after the detailing the judgment they will receive he speaks of their restoration.
14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.
15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (Trouble) a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
- Hosea 2:14-15 -
What is the basis for their hope?
God could turn this “valley of trouble into a door of hope,” like the day when Israel came up from the land of Egypt. God had surprised his people with redemption back in the days of the Exodus, and he could do so again.
As you think about your own life, how does looking back to what God has done in the past give you hope for your future?
The New Testament writers similarly ground our hope for the future in God’s actions in the past. Look up the following passages and try to outline the following:
1. How our present situation is described
2. For what we are hoping
3. The basis of our hope
1 Peter 1:3-7
Think about your own life. How would you answer the three questions above? Try to be specific and honest. How does the gospel speak into our hope?
1 Peter 3:15 says we need to be prepared to give an explanation of our hope to those who do not believe. Having done this study, how would you explain your Christian hope in the midst of your current circumstances?