In 1965 a young Jackie Deshannon sang a song that would become a classic “oldie.” The work of Burt Bacharach and Hal David rose to number seven on the charts in the United States that year. Some of you of a certain age may remember “What the world needs now is love.” I suggest the world still needs love. Although the use of the word may have become somewhat more complicated over the years, there is still a need for genuine compassionate caring, for unconditional love.
I am not a song writer or composer but if I consider what the world needs now I think hope would be high on the list. It is a simple four letter word that has huge impact on the human condition especially when hope is lost.
Since this is a Matter’s of Faith column it should be noted that the word hope is translated in 158 verses in the New International Version of the Bible; and hopeless in only one verse. That in itself is hopeful, right? I found it interesting that in Old Testament Hebrew there are 15 different words that are translated into English as hope; but most often those same words are also translated into other words such as trust or confidence. These concepts reflect Israel’s hope in the God of Israel to be their source of deliverance and blessing.
The central theme of hope in the New Testament is the coming of the kingdom of God and the role of Christ in that promise. Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah when describing the coming Messiah to bring this point into focus: “In his name the nations will put their hope” (Matthew 12:21 NIV). It is both instructive and comforting that there is no record of Jesus using the word hope; as fully God, there is no question in His mind about the future. Jesus does not need to have an expectation of His perfect kingdom, He already knows about its fulfillment.
In English, our word for hope may be used as either a noun or a verb. In New Testament Greek there are separate words for the noun and the verb. Without an object, hope is more of a feeling and feelings are transient and often change with circumstances. But when we can place our confidence in someone it changes; moves from feeling to assurance. Quoting from the writer of Hebrews “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 1:1 NIV).
It is a great understatement that we are in difficult, perhaps even unprecedented, times. The impacts personal, financial, and emotional are still being played out on a daily basis in our world. While I often hear “we hope things will be getting back to normal soon,” there is an undercurrent of uncertainty that flows from the loss of the illusion of control and even of self-determination. I think it was Erma Bombeck who suggested “Normal is a setting on the dryer,” it has little to do with what happens in life.
I claim no special insight into what happens next, but I know worlds have been shaken before, so as a source of hope I turn to Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romams 15:4 NIV).
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.