O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption. Psalm 130:7 NASB
Hope – How long will you hope? How long before you run out of patience with the Lord? How long before your once-exuberant expectation turns to disappointment, then discouragement, then anger? How long before you exercise the statute of limitations clause on God’s goodness?
The psalmist connects the fifth verse with this verse (see the previous investigation of yahal in Psalm 130:5). But now the subject is no longer the individual. Now Israel must hope in YHWH. The shift is important, as we will see.
Some translations use the English “wait” rather than “hope.” We know that the Hebrew covers both of these ideas and perhaps we should remind ourselves that hope is exhibited in waiting. What hope requires is patient, expectant endurance; precisely that attribute lacking in so much of our approach to the Lord. God answers according to His purposes and men rarely if ever force His hand. That’s why the rabbis pray, “HaShem, grant me the softness of heart to accept whatever You provide.” To hope is to learn contentment.
Job provides us with the answer to the question, “How long?” “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him” (Job 13:15). How long will Job wait? Until death. Actually, do you really have any other choice? You could insist that God answer you in your timeframe, but do you really have control of the situation? No, you don’t! So you make a choice, but the choice isn’t about the time required for God to answer. The choice is about your attitude while you wait, while you hope. Job is right. We all wait until death – if necessary. But notice that Job does not take this to mean that he does nothing! He argues his ways before the Lord even though he knows that answer is entirely in God’s hands. Perhaps if we learned to argue more and wait longer we would discover something important about the biblical view of hope.
And now the shift from individual to corporate. Why does the psalmist change the subject from “me” and “my” to “Israel”? Because he introduces us to the term hesed, a Hebrew word without equal that cannot exist alone. The psalmist is not hoping, waiting for his personal relief because he knows that there is no true relief, no true rescue unless the community is delivered. Forgiveness is a corporate affair. Why? Because forgiveness entails hesed and hesed demands community. No one can experience fellowship with YHWH without hesed; without relational, reciprocal, transitive action (Go look up hesed). My hope must be enlarged because it is not my hope. I am who we are. Private hope, private waiting on God, removes the required context of hesed. God is together the God of Israel. So what about you? Are you waiting for God like a good Greek individual, or is your hope in YHWH so involved with His others that you can’t survive without them?
Topical Index: yahal, hope, wait, hesed, Psalm 130:7