Many Bible translations (e.g., the NIV) render the Hebrew word קוה (H6960, pronounced kä·vä’) as ‘hope’. Others (e.g., ESV, KJV) render it as ‘wait’. Strong’s offers the following definition: “1) to wait, look for, hope, expect… to wait or look eagerly for… to linger for… [or] 2) to collect, bind together”.
That second definition is particularly interesting in that it carries implications both for the gathering-together of God’s people (e.g., the Jews in Israel, Christians in the church, for a rapture, etc.) but also in the context of secular politics (e.g., pulling together a diverse coalition).
Remember the nearly ubiquitous ‘hope’ proffered by OBH last fall? (How could we forget?) Remember Jesse Jackson’s old campaign slogan (repeated ad nauseum), “Keep hope alive”? Both offered a kind of ‘hope’ that seems to have meant little more than than ‘trust me to deliver you… somewhere’, adding hastily, in the latter case, ‘it’s not about me’, (a concept much older than recent headlines would suggest).
One thing I find interesting is that both uses of the word lack a clear object for that hope beyond the politician himself. They are, in essence, Rorschach tests onto which anyone can paint their own hopes until those come into conflict with the vague hopes of someone else who voted for the same person.
I will assert that these are deliberate and highly effective methadone-fake substitute usages of the word. In a Biblical context hope has but one object: the Lord.
(To my utter horror the secular-political, hazy-vague, object-obfuscating use of the word began creeping into sermons at a church I was attending last year, providing the camel’s-back straw that led to my departure for a church that goes out of its way to keep the pulpit apolitical and focused on scripture.)
Here are some of the more prominent ways in which the word is used in scripture.
In a well-known passage with particular meaning for me (Isaiah 40:31) we read, in the ESV: “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
In Psalm 37:9, we’re advised: “For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” and later in that chapter, in verse 34, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”
And in Psalm 27:14, we’re told, “Wait for the Lord ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!“ It’s a command, stated twice for emphasis.
One of the usages I find most germane, but also difficult in the current political climate of growing distrust in secular government and elected leaders is found in Proverbs 20:22: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord , and he will deliver you.”
It’s tough because, for those who are God-centered (and even for many who aren’t but who have an innate, God-given sense of justice they ache to see fulfilled) there’s this tension between waiting (and trusting) that God’s justice will prevail in His time and His way… and taking action to hurry it along. Am I being called, we might ask ourselves, like the founders of this country sensed they were, to loose the chains of tyranny and protest in the streets… or does God have greater things in store for which we ought rather to pray and wait with eager, even joyful expectation?
It’s a balancing act as old as humanity. The Bible is filled with men (and women) who got impatient and ended up mucking things up both for themselves and for those around them. In fact that impatience seems characteristic of the big men (and some women) in the Bible, both good and bad: Adam, Abraham, David, etc.
When the source of injustice and tyranny seems to increasingly personify evil itself, the waiting for God to act gets even harder, even as it becomes more essential. Yet we must. Even when things slide over into outright blasphemy.
“During the second 100 days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first 100 days.” [OBH said], and: “My next 100 days will be so successful, I will complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest…”
…BHO’s remarks seemed to bring an extra degree of self-centeredness to the tradition. And they mocked God. That’s a new twist… [his remarks] even seem to have bothered some secularists, though they can’t say exactly why. The following discussion forum comment is typical:
…I thought at first that it was a reference to God in Genesis… but then I realized it didn’t much matter to me… there are bigger global worries...
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Despite gut-instinct misgivings over what amounts to outright blasphemy, many have resolutely put God in second place — if they believe in Him at all anymore. See Matt 24:12 — “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
Bigger global worries than God Himself? I don’t think so. Many forget: satan is smart; attractive; smiling; engaging; smooth; funny; the life of the party (until it ends); he’s a joker; he’s even been The Joker. Ever wonder why Heath Ledger couldn’t sleep after filming Dark Knight? Why he effectively ended up killing himself by accident in a tragically desperate effort to silence the demons he’d let inside so he could play that dark and lawless part, among others, so convincingly and chillingly?
I guess the meme wasn’t original with me, as the following posters reveal:
Absolutely chilling, particularly the second one. Yet we are told nonetheless, and quite emphatically, “Wait for the Lord ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” and with equal clarity: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord , and he will deliver you.”
By the standards of the early Christians enduring the persecutions of Rome, what we’ve seen so far is pretty tame. Abhorrent? Yes, no question (e.g., hundreds of thousands of additional taxpayer-funded abortions, the early wisps of euthanasia that could become quasi-mandatory in a social security crunch world drained of hope for earthly satisfaction and a long, tanned, shuffleboard retirement).
Are things likely to get worse? No question. Anyone who’s been reading here knows my views on that. Things are going to get very dark very soon — and far beyond most peoples’ imaginations. Those filled with the fake, political hope are liable to be crushed by it because there is no earthly, Godless remedy. It’s the end-game.
But there is a danger I’ve been seeing, more and more and it’s the motivation for this post. I’ve seen it on websites, in e-mails, and as I talk to people as upset about this man and this administration as I am. And if I’m honest, I’ve seen it in myself too. It’s a sneaky-creeping-satanic desire (brilliantly reflected in the Dark Knight movie, I thought, btw) for an earthly remedy on my time in my way to my standards for what that looks like. For it all to go back to the way it was (e.g., the ’90s, or the ’80s, or the ’50s, or some other idyllic, youthful idyll/idol). Even though those times and places weren’t even close to what God has promised us we can expect, we still want them because they’re the best/safest and most stable we know.
It’s captured brilliantly in Numbers 11:4-6, as the people grumble to Moses.
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
And again in Numbers 21:4-6:
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
I especially like that first one because it’s the only passage in the Bible that mentions garlic. A God who knows we don’t need garlic is a wise God. A God who gives it to us anyway in His time and His place because He knows we like it is a just and merciful, even joy-filled God. Garlic in heaven? Now that is something to wait and hope for.
Don’t count on getting an allotment of it it from the Federal Italian Food Czar though. You may be waiting a very long time.