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Three Ways We Use the Word “Hope”

Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future — it expects it to happen. Read more

We use the word hope in at least three different ways.

  • Hope is the desire for something good in the future. The children might say, “I hope 
daddy gets home early tonight so we can play kickball after supper before his meeting.” In other words, they desire for him to get home early so that they can experience this good thing, namely, playing together after supper.
  • Hope is the good thing in the future that we are desiring. We say, “Our hope is that Jim will arrive safely.” In other words, Jim’s safe arrival is the object of our hope.

Hope is the reason why our hope might indeed come to pass. We say, “A good tailwind is our only hope of arriving on time.” In other words, the tailwind is the reason we may, in fact, achieve the future good that we desire. It’s our only hope. So, hope is used in three senses:

  1. A desire for something good in the future,
  2. the thing in the future that we desire, and
  3. the basis or reason for thinking that our desire may be fulfilled.

The Distinctive Biblical Meaning of Hope

All three of these uses are found in the Bible. But the most important feature of biblical hope is not present in any of these ordinary uses of the word hope. In fact, the distinctive meaning of hope in Scripture is almost the opposite of our ordinary usage.

I don’t mean that in Scripture hope is a desire for something bad (instead of something good). And I don’t mean that in Scripture hope is rejection of good (instead of desire for it). It is not the opposite in those senses. It is the opposite in this sense: ordinarily, when we use the word hope, we express uncertainty rather than certainty.

  • “I hope daddy gets home early,” means, “I don’t have any certainty that daddy will get home on time, I only desire that he does.
  • Our hope is that Jim will arrive safely,” means, “We don’t know if he will or not, but that is our desire.
  • A good tailwind is our only hope of arriving on time,” means, “A good tailwind would bring us to our desired goal, but we can’t be sure we will get one.”

Ordinarily, when we express hope, we are expressing uncertainty. But this is not the distinctive biblical meaning of hope. And the main thing I want to do this morning is show you from Scripture that,  biblical hope is not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.

Biblical hope not only desires something good for the future — it expects it to happen. And it not only expects it to happen — it is confident that it will happen. There is a moral certainty that the good we expect, and desire will be done.

Remain blessed! Rev David Rex Orgen

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