Read Genesis 8:6-12 (note the mention of 40 days of waiting). After the earth suffers long under humanity’s violence, God resolves to wash away corruption while preserving Noah and his family. The rain pours down, and for months Noah sways back and forth in an ark. He needs to yakhal (wait) in the middle of animal waste and landless seas. So what assurance is Noah waiting to receive? And how does the dove deliver that assurance?
Read Psalm 130 aloud together. The psalmist is sure that if God preserved a record of sin, everyone would be washed out—it’s a scary thought. What specific things about God bring the psalmist relief? What does he yakhal (wait) to receive from God?
Keep Psalm 130 in mind. What do you think the psalmist would do if he did not wait on God for healing and forgiveness? How do you think despair might lead to violence and corruption? Consider how the process of forgiveness removes corruption while preserving life. How is this similar and different from the flood and Noah’s long wait on the ark?
Read Luke 2:22-33 and pay special attention to details about the setting. Then, check out Leviticus 12:1-8 and note the mention of 40 days of waiting (33+7). Why do Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Simeon go to the temple that day? What is Simeon waiting on God to do for Israel?
Let’s examine a few key verses, starting with Luke 3:15-16. Who does John the Baptist say the people have been waiting for? Now, read Luke 3:21-22 and compare the message that accompanied the Spirit (appearing as a dove) with the message of Noah’s dove. What similarities and differences do you notice?
How does the arrival of Jesus bring relief and assurance? Take time to discuss this and any other themes, questions, or key takeaways from what you learned together.
Tim: So let’s say you want to describe the feeling of anticipating a future that’s better than the present. You might be giddy or excited or maybe unsure, but most of us know that experience. We call it hope. It’s a state of anticipation, and it’s crucial for healthy human existence, and it’s a really important concept in the Bible. In fact, there are many words for hope in the ancient languages of the Bible, and they’re all fascinating.
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.1
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. The prophet Isaiah depicts God as a farmer who plants vines and qavahs for good grapes.2 Or the prophet Micah talks about farmers who both qavah and yakhal for morning dew to give moisture to the land.3
Hope in the Old Testament [01:06-01:46]
So in biblical Hebrew, hope is about waiting or expectation, but waiting for what? In the period of Israel’s prophets, as the nation was sinking into self-destruction, Isaiah said, “at this moment, the Lord’s hiding his face from Israel, so I will qavah for him.”4 The only hope Isaiah had in those dark days was the hope for God himself.
You find this same notion of hope all over the book of Psalms where these words appear over forty times. In almost every case, what people are waiting for is God. Like in Psalm 130, the poet cries out from a pit of despair, “I qavah for the Lord...Let Israel yakhal for the Lord, because he’s loyal and will redeem Israel from its sins.”5
Biblical Hope [01:47-02:42]
Biblical hope is based on a person, which makes it different from optimism. Optimism is about choosing to see, in any situation, how circumstances could work out for the best. But biblical hope isn’t focused on circumstances. In fact, hopeful people in the Bible often recognize there’s no evidence things will get better, but you choose hope anyway.
Like the prophet Hosea, he lived in a dark time when Israel was being oppressed by foreign empires. And he chose hope when he said God could turn this “valley of trouble into a door of hope,” like the day when Israel came up from the land of Egypt.6 God had surprised his people with redemption back in the days of the Exodus, and he could do so again.
So it’s God’s past faithfulness that motivates hope for the future. You look forward by looking backward, trusting in nothing other than God’s character. It’s like the poet of Psalm 39 who says, “and now O Lord, what else can I qavah for? You are my yakhal.”7
Jesus as Living Hope [02:43-03:38]
In the New Testament, the earliest followers of Jesus cultivated this similar habit of hope. They believed that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was God’s surprising response to our slavery to evil and death. The empty tomb opened up a new door of hope, and they used the Greek word elpis to describe this anticipation.
The apostle Peter said that Jesus’ resurrection opened up a “living hope” that people can be reborn to become new and different kinds of humans.8 More than once, the apostle Paul says the good news about Jesus announces “the elpis of glory.”9 In both cases, this elpis is based on a person, the risen Jesus, who has overcome death.
And this hope wasn’t just for humans. The apostles believed that what happened to Jesus in the resurrection was a foretaste of what God had planned for the whole universe. In Paul’s words, it’s a “hope that creation itself will be liberated from slavery to corruption into freedom when God’s children are glorified.”10
So Christian hope is bold, waiting for humanity and the whole universe to be rescued from evil and death. And some would say it’s crazy, and maybe it is. But biblical hope isn’t optimism based on the odds. It’s a choice to wait for God to bring about a future that’s as surprising as a crucified man rising from the dead. Christian hope looks back to the risen Jesus in order to look forward, and so we wait. And that’s what the biblical words for hope are all about.