True Hope You Can Take to the Bank
Edward M. Keazirian
(M.Div. ’83, Th.M. ’93), Th.D.
In recent years, our nation has experienced more than a seven-fold increase in bank failures. In such uncertain economic conditions, one might be advised to seek a more heartening metaphor than a bank to express the security of our hope.
We might consider Ben Franklin’s proverbial “death and taxes” as an alternative to the banks for expressing dependability, certainty and permanence. However, in a culture that confuses true hope with wishful thinking, optimism, positivism and other attitudes about the future, even the certainty of death and taxes falls short of the security of the hope we see proclaimed in Scripture. Death and taxes have their temporal limits, but true hope trumps even death and taxes because true hope is eternal.
The best working definition of biblical hope that I have ever heard is simply “faith extended into the future.” Like our faith, our hope is grounded in the unchanging and absolutely trustworthy character of God. And like our faith, our hope is based on three expressions of God’s faithfulness: God’s word, God’s action and God’s promises.
Abraham epitomizes faith because he believed and obeyed God when he had nothing more to go on than the word of God. When God said, “Go,” Abraham trusted and went. In the same way, Abraham also stands as the archetype of hope. Because he was fully convinced that God could do what he promised, Abraham never wavered, but in hope–against all the evidence, humanly speaking– he believed he would become the father of many nations, just as God had promised. His faith fueled his hope, so that what he knew of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness in the present became his assurance for the future as well. Abraham lived with the expectancy–the hope–that he would inherit all that God had promised him. Although he did not see his hope completely fulfilled in his lifetime, we are told that he saw and welcomed those promises from afar. Even death did not quell his hope, for he was convinced that God could raise the dead if necessary in order to fulfill his promises.
Long before Jesus ever addressed the doubts of Thomas, Abraham was blessed and honored for believing without having seen. For Abraham, hope is vindicated not on the basis of what he has seen, but because of what God is. True hope is rooted in God. This is a foundational theme of hope throughout Israel’s scripture, but it is especially evident in the raw expressions of the soul in Job and the Psalms.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long (Ps. 25:5).
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD (Ps. 31:24).
. . . I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good (Ps. 52:8–9).
Whether the psalmist’s hope is in the LORD or in his name, the meaning is the same. His hope is rooted in the being, character and reputation of God, for the name embraces the very essence of the person. Therefore, true hope–that sense of confidence and expectation that good things will happen in the future–depends on the reality that God is sovereign, in control of all that happens and thus able to direct all circumstances and events for the accomplishment of his purposes; that God is good and loving, certain to purpose only what is good and loving for all creation; that God is compassionate and merciful, sensitive to and patient with the limitations of His children in understanding, accepting and submitting to His purposes; that God is righteous and just, committed to vindicating the innocent and punishing the guilty, righting the wrongs that people have suffered, and restoring what was lost or stolen in the unfolding of His purposes from beginning to end; that God is trustworthy, faithful to keep His word and to fulfill His promises; and that God is true, consistent in word and deed with all the perfections of His nature.
Therefore, the godless—those who forget God—have no hope. Just as reeds depend on the water of the marsh for life, so hope must be rooted in God to survive (Job 8:13). When we are cut off from God, whether by our own initiative or God’s, all hope is gone (Job 27:8), for hope not only resides in God, but also derives from God.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge (Ps. 62:5–7).
Because God protects and delivers, we can rest securely in Him, regardless of our circumstances. Whether our physical security, our emotional stability or our public reputation is threatened, God provides refuge and stability. We must not forget this. So much of our experience in life seems contrary to what we would expect of a sovereign, loving God that we are tempted to doubt God, to see ourselves as victims of evil, injustice and ignorance rather than beloved children of a sovereign God. Indeed the evil one is there at every turn in a crisis to sow seeds of doubt and to ask “has God really said…?”
Job exemplifies this struggle for all believers. As strong as his hope is—stronger even than death itself—he nevertheless experiences the silence of God in the crisis. And it seems as though he were uprooted and cut off from all hope, no better off than the wicked and cut off by the very God whose character he trusts more than his own life.
Though He slay me, yet will I hope in him (Job 13:15)…. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; He has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; He uproots my hope like a tree (Job 19:8–10).
However, because God is the guarantor of true hope, Job’s hope does not fail. Despite all the contrary circumstances swirling around him, Job can still affirm, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25–27).
Though true hope is focused on the future, it sustains us in the present. We know that no matter what happens, our hope will endure. It will transcend death and it will ultimately prove to be redemptive simply because it is guaranteed by the God who fulfilled His promises to Abraham—and indeed to all who believe—through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that, dear friend, is a hope even better than anything you can take to the bank.
As we eagerly await in hope the ultimate consummation of all that God has initiated in word, act and promise, let these affirmations of the psalmist be our own:
We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield (Ps. 33:20).
But, as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more (Ps. 71:14).
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption (Ps. 130:5, 7).
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever (Ps. 146:5–6).