The past week or so I have been thinking a bit about Psalm 119 and was struck by the apparent connections between Hope and the promises of God. So for example the Psalmist writes 49 “Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. 50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Then repeatedly through the Psalm the Psalmist looks to God in hope to deliver him “according to His promise”;
- 58 I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
- 76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
- 81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. 82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”
- 116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
- 123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise.
- 154 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
- 170 May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
I love that sense of trust that oozes out of this Psalm; you really get the sense that hope is being called into question and yet when that happens the Psalmist leans back on the foundation of his hope, namely the promises of God. We know that this is his foundation because the Psalmist writes that 62 “I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil” and the later on writes 140 “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.” Oh that we could also say that the promises of God have been thoroughly tested in our daily lives. Joshua says something similar;
“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” Joshua 23:14
Hope it seems is twofold but by nature its foundation is in the promises of God. It is based on the person and promises of Jesus Christ. First there is a ‘temporal hope’ for the here-and-now which is based on God’s promises for us now and then second there is the ‘eternal hope’ which is based on God’s incredible promises for the future. In both instances (which in themselves are inextricably linked in any case) the promises of God are at the fore. A number of Christian writers on the subject of hope also place the certainty of the promises of God as the bedrock of our hope;
“Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will.” John Piper
“Christian hope is quite different from secular optimism. It is a confidence in God, kindled by the promises of God.” John Stott
“So ‘hope’ means confidently stepping out on God’s promises and being assured of His trustworthiness, even though we can’t see how His promises will be fulfilled or when they will be answered. Hope is knowing that God will be faithful to keep His Word, no matter what we see or what we feel. Hope is knowing that God will do exactly what He has promised in His way. It’s the patient, disciplined and confident waiting for and expecting the fulfilment of all God’s promises in His timing.” Nancy Missler
If the promises of God are so important to our hope what exactly are they and how can they help us to set our hope on the Lord? We don’t have time to even scratch the surface of this question but here are a few promises to get us thinking.
- For the here and now (our temporal hope) God promises every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3), peace when we pray (Phil 4:6-7), life to the full for all who follow (John 10:10), comfort in our trials (2 Cor 1:3-4), salvation for all who believe (Rom 1:16-17), to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), to be blessed and be a blessing to others (Gen 12:2-3), that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart (Deur 4:29, Jer 29:13), that God will draw near to us if we draw near to Him (James 4:7), to never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5), to be with us through trials (Isaiah 43:2-3), to complete the work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6), to supply all our needs (Matt 6:33, Phil 4:19) and to be with us always (Matt 28:20) and that is to name but a few.
- For the future (our eternal hope) we are promised that Jesus will return for us (John 14:2-3), that when Jesus returns we shall be made like Him (1 John 3:3, 1 Cor 15:51-52), that those who have died will be raised before us (1 Thess 4:14-15), that we will spend eternity with Jesus (John 17:3), that we will be raised and given resurrection bodies (1 Cor 15), that our inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade (1 Pet 1:4), that the creation itself will be liberated from bondage (Rom 8:18-25) and that there will be no death, mourning, crying or pain in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:1-4). Again this is by no means an exhaustive list!
It is important to note that we must be careful to differentiate between a “specific promise” applicable to a specific situation (e.g. 1 Kings 9:5 or Luke 2:35) and a “general promise” applicable to all (e.g. Matt 28:20 and Phil 4:7). Within that some promises are clearly conditional (e.g James 4:7, 1 John 1:9) upon some action of our own and there is I think also a case for God to give us “personal promises” which are specific for us but based on something that itself may have been a specific promise (e.g. Acts 14:6 which cites Isaiah 49:6 and results in the action taken in Galatians 2:9) but that is a another debate.
I hope that you get the idea that we have a rich treasure-trove of promises to delve into and which if taken to heart can give us a confident and sure hope. Could you say in the words of Joshua that “Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed”? I hope so for I can certainly testify that God has been faithful to me and my family even through the big challenges and pressures of the past couple of years. So “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23)