“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares YHWH, “plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Hope - Did you know that this famous passage in Jeremiah is connected to Paul’s remarks about transformation in Romans 12? Probably not. When we read this verse, we don’t think like a rabbi. We think like good Greek Christians. We imagine that God has a special plan for us; a plan that will prosper us in the future. Because we want to be prosperous, we hope that what God says is true. So, we wait for our ship to come in. With that kind of interpretation, we might as well be waiting for a ship in the middle of the desert.
Rabbi Paul saw a different connection. The Hebrew word for hope in this verse is tiqwah. It is not the usual word for “hope.” Fifty times in the Old Testament, the word for “hope” is qawah. It is the picture of what comes from being nailed down over the horizon; something assured in the future. That makes sense, but tiqwah is a little different. It has some peculiar characteristics that parallel Paul’s comments in Romans. You see, there are two roots spelled exactly the same way (T-Q-W). One of these roots is connected to qawah but the other is connected to qaw, and the word tiqwah that is connected to qaw doesn’t mean something that is nailed down in the future. It means a measuring line. It’s used in Isaiah, 2 Kings and the Psalms to describe a standard of measurement. Here’s the critical piece of detective information. This word is translated in Greek as metron.
Do you remember our examination of the “measure of faith” that God gives every person (Romans 12:3 on August 25)? Don’t you think that Paul knew that the Hebrew word for his choice of metron was tiqwah? Don’t you suppose that Paul also knew that tiqwah had two different meanings depending on the context? Is it possible that Paul used the fact that tiqwah meant both “hope” and “measure” to provide a subtle reminder to his Greek/Hebrew audience that God’s standard is directly tied to the hope that God gives? Don’t you think that maybe this all points to Yeshua?
Just think about it for a moment. It’s no accident that Paul chooses metron to describe the measure of faith. Remember that this implies that God provides a measuring standard, not that God supplies a quantity of faith. Now, if tiqwah is the same as metron, then wouldn’t the reader who knew Hebrew also realize that the same word speaks about what is nailed beyond our horizon? Doesn’t this suggest, at least a little bit, that God’s measuring standard and God’s provision of hope are both tied to something beyond our vantage point? So, when Jeremiah uses tiqwah as the word for “hope,” he not only speaks of completely human expectations for this life; he also gives us a glimpse of something beyond us. And Paul tells us that if we really want to exercise the gift that God gives, we must do so according to that standard that lies beyond our horizon; a standard that is exemplified in the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
It’s not quite enough to have great plans for life here and now. God’s plans don’t stop when the lights go out. God’s standard is set in eternity, not in the present realm of redemptive actions. If we want to use most productively what God gives, we will set our sights on eternal measures. This is something we can take with us. And that gives us hope.
Topical Index: Transformation