Word Study on Hope

In a world filled with despair, we need this gift of God more than ever.

Hope is a gift of God (Rom. 15:13), of Jesus (1 Tim. 1:1), and of the Spirit (Rom. 5:5 and 15:13).

All three persons of the Trinity distribute this gift to anyone who seeks them.

Basic definitions

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the most frequent noun for hope is tiqvah (pronounced tick-vah and is used 36 times in the OT), and it means, simply enough, “hope” and “expectation.” One verb is yaḥal (pronounced ya-khal and is used 44 times). It is translated as follows: “to wait, to wait for, put hope in, hope, wait expectantly, expect, looking.” (Goodrick and Kohlenberger, The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan, 1999).

The New Testament is in Greek, and the verb for hope is elpizō (pronounced ehl-pea-zoh and is used 31 times in the NT). BDAG is the authoritative Greek lexicon for the NT, and it defines the verb thus: “to look forward to something, with the implication of confidence about something coming to pass, hope, hope for. It is to “put one’s confidence in someone or someone,” like a promise or God himself. Earliest Messianic Jews (Jewish Christians) looked forward to or hoped for the deliverer of Israel, for example (Luke 24:21). “The most important sense of this verb is the firm conviction that because of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, we can have confidence as we face the future … The sense of confident expectation is used when the NT writers speak about hoping in God” (Mounce, p. 340).

Another definition of the verb from BDAG: “to look forward to something in view of the measures one takes to ensure fulfillment, expect.” We can hope to see someone in the future, or we will make an effort to guarantee someone else’s hope or confidence in us.

The noun is elpis (pronounced ehl-peace and used 53 times). “The majority of the NT writers invest elpis, “hope,” with the nuance of ‘confident expectation,’ or ‘solid assurance.’ Mounce goes on to say that this definition of hope comes from the Old Testament, where hope is synonymous with ‘trust’ (Mounce, p. 340). BDAG says of the noun, “the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence, respecting fulfillment, hope, expectation.” It can also mean “hope, expectation, prospect.” Silly illustration: a prospector is someone who looks for gold, expecting to find it. We can place our full hope in Christ’s return. He is the basis or foundation of our hope.

What do the Scriptures Say?

In light of those definitions, let’s look at Scripture that say God is the source of our hope, top down.

The following verses are by the NIV. If you would like to see the following verses in many translations or in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.

Jeremiah lived during a time of extreme national distress and struggle. He highlighted hope in the next few verses.

Although our sins testify against us, do something, LORD, for the sake of your name. For we have rebelled; we have sinned against you. You are the hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress … (Jer. 14:7-8a; cf. 17:13)

Once in a while a blogger will tell us that we cannot claim the promises in the Old Testament because they have an historical context that no longer applies to us. However, the New Testament teaches us that all the promises of God are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ (2 Cor. 1:20). Here is a great promise in Jeremiah. If God gives hope, he must have it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jer. 29:11)

After Judah sinned, Jeremiah still proclaimed this attribute of the Lord, so vital to us:

… The LORD, the hope of their ancestors. (Jer. 50:7b)

Hope comes through the love of God through the Holy Spirit:

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

The next verse is a great promise, for it includes the power of the Spirit.

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. (Rom. 15:13)

Christ in us is the hope of glory, implying that he himself is hope. The context is that the Jews were commissioned to present the church to Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul, a former Pharisee, was called to do proclaim Christ:

To them [Jews] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)

If the Father gives hope, he must have it. He must be it. He is what he has.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thess. 2:16-17)

Paul was commissioned by God and Jesus, our hope (1 Tim. 1:1). So clearly hope is an attribute of Jesus.

How do I get to know God more intimately?

God is hope. He is not despair or discouragement. He does not even have those vices—impossible!

He is omniscient or knows all, yet he is full of confident expectation about his world. He knows the end from the beginning. And knows in his being that he wins. His will shall ultimately prevail. He shall win and defeat all enemies of his highest creation—us humans.

Most of the verses about hope, however, tell us humans to have it. Those verses are from the bottom up. Yet, it is still a gift of God. Without God initiating hope, we would have no hope!

The clearest verse about hope being given by the Spirit from God the Father is this one:

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

God’s hope flows out of his love, which has been poured out in our hearts through the Spirit. We Renewalists can relate to the work of the Spirit in our lives. Once we get the revelation that God loves us, it is easy to put our hope in him, to wait expectantly for the answer, to expect him to show up and show out.


Works Cited

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