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Biblical Definition of Hope

This is a study on Hope, a form of trust. To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial that is in the future. We look to two places for definitions: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

There are several Hebrew verbs in the Old Testament that can be translated “to hope” in English. One of them, qawa denotes “hope” in the sense of “trust, ” as when Jeremiah addresses God, “Our hope is in you” (Jeremiah 14:22). In the Old Testament believers are encouraged to wait for God “hopefully.”

God promises that those who wait for Him will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). God can bring about the realization of one’s hopes. Twenty-seven times qawa comes into the Greek Old Testament as hupomeno, “to wait,” “to be patient,” “to endure.” Where suffering is present, the term indicates that the individual is bearing affliction patiently while hopefully waiting for the Lord’s deliverance. Psalm 40 and Psalm 130 are psalms of thanksgiving that recount the suffering of an individual whose hope was realized.

(Psalm 40:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “I waited patiently for the Lord;”
(Psalm 130:5-6) – “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. he turned to me and heard my cry.”

In the New Testament, hope is primarily “eschatological.” This is a good term to learn. As a Christian, you will find it often as you study God’s Word. The term relates to the death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. The only sure hope in our world is Jesus: when He returns, believers who have died and those still living will both be given imperishable bodies like that of the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). That is our hope!

Hope is the proper and only appropriate response to the many promises of God. Abraham serves as a prime example. Even though he was old, he had confidence that God would fulfill his promises. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4:18). However, the most significant part about hope is that hope leads to joy (Romans 12:12), boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12), faith, and love (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope is the doorway that leads to eternal comfort. It is through hope that we encourage one another with the knowledge of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Hope is also the pathway to comfort in our present world.

Happiness depends on ourselves,” says Aristotle, calling happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. That is the world’s view of how to be happy, it is all about, you, selfishness. Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. He would argue that happiness is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. We can find further evidence of the importance of happiness because it would be enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence where it is stated, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are clearly defined as every person’s inalienable rights.

Merriam Webster defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Whereas joy is specifically stated, even in the dictionary, as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” Joy, however, is rooted in who God is. Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Our God is fair, compassionate, and all-knowing. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Job possessed the wisdom to know God’s character, and a strong faith to hold onto what he knew to get him through difficult times and the hope of a life everlasting.

Did Aristotle get happiness right? Is it really balancing two excesses? Our Bible tells us that the root of happiness should be based on the hope for eternal joy. Furthermore, joy is not a balance between “two things” but a full commitment to “One person.” Jesus did not come to help us get along, or teach us to take care of the poor, or to restore “social justice.” Jesus did not come to make us happy. God had already sent many before Him with the kind of advice we need to hear. There was no point in His personally coming down merely to repeat what had already been said. No, Jesus came for a different reason. Jesus came to show us the very nature of God and to remove your sin and guilt in life. Jesus came to point your journey toward the path of Truth and eternal Hope. As the Apostle John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4). Yes, Jesus came to bring you Joy! Jesus came to bring you Hope! There can be no real Joy without hope and no real Hope without Jesus.

Example of Biblical Hope

One of the top Biblical stories about hope is no doubt the story about Abraham and Sarah found in Genesis. It recalls that God includes Abraham and his wife in a plan to populate the promised land. Sarah (originally named Sarai) was one of several women in the Bible who were unable to have children. Sarah’s story was doubly distressing for her because God had promised them both that they would have a son. God had appeared to Sarah’s husband Abraham when he was 99 years old and made a covenant with him. He told Abraham that he would be the father of the Jewish nation, with descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky:

(Genesis 17:15–16) – “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’”

However, after waiting many years without successfully bearing a son, let alone a child, Sarah convinced Abraham to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar, to produce an heir. That was an accepted practice in ancient times. As Sarah grew older, she had given up hope. The child born of that encounter was named Ishmael. But God had not forgotten His promise. Three strangers (angels), disguised as travelers, appeared to Abraham. They repeated God’s promise to Abraham that Sarah would bear a son. And, despite Sarah’s age, she conceived and gave birth to a son. They named him Isaac. Isaac would become the father of Esau and Jacob. Jacob would have 12 sons who would become heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah would come David, and finally Jesus of Nazareth, God’s promised Savior for us all.

At times, Sarah doubted God. She had trouble believing God would fulfill His promises, so she plunged ahead with her own solution. Waiting for God to act in our lives is never easy and it may be the hardest task we will ever face. It is also true that we can become dissatisfied when God’s solution does not match our own ideas and expectations. The story of Sarah’s life teaches us that when we feel doubtful or afraid, we should remember what God said to Abraham:

(Genesis 18:14) – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Sarah waited 90 years to have a baby. Certainly, she had given up hope of ever seeing her dream of motherhood fulfilled. Sarah was looking at God’s promise from her limited, human perspective. God, however, used her life to create the nation of Israel. Sarah’s story should remind us that waiting may be part of God’s precise plan for us.

Ideas to Explore

Doctors know that hope affects our ability to lead a normal life, even to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living a productive life. Hope is our energy in life, our fuel for living. This should be a time to create an exercise about how people can “increase their hopefulness.” While we hope for the future ahead, hope requires a foundation for the “here and now.”

Hope must be real to be effective It has to be based on something tangible. It is not possible to fake optimism and pretend to be happy. Hope recognizes our interdependency with our families, church, society, and environment. Hope must also be based on God! To support a hopeful world is to also support hope in others and ask that others do the same for you, surrounding yourself with people working to create a hopeful world with you. Use this opportunity to create an exercise that makes hopefulness tangible now, not just in the future. Hope can be all the little things we do each day to make our lives or to contribute to hopeful living of others. Start everyone off with creating a list, an audit of sort, of what it takes to be part of a hopeful world. What are the “things” that must be present and done regularly:

  • Health
  • Productive work
  • Supportive relationships
  • Having a place for God in your life.
  • What else can you think of?

Now consider doing a demonstration for your group – Materials Needed: This material list is complex so please read carefully:

  1. A clear glass container at least one quart in size with a large opening.
  2. A pitcher of water; Enough large rocks to fill the glass container.
  3. Gravel to fill in the spaces between the rocks.
  4. Sand.
  5. A pail with more large rocks, enough so each group member can receive one rock; and
  6. A whiteboard or easel.
  7. All this material can be purchased at a building supply (stones, gravel, sand in the garden section) and super center (glass container, pitcher, and pail). All should be very dry, so the gravel and sand pour freely.

This demonstration does not require a high component of discussion and can be used if the group is new or young. You will be trying to decompose the typical Christian response to priority setting, “God must be first.” The idea of God first, however, is more complex. You will begin your study on hope by doing a demonstration.

The Demonstration

Begin to fill in the glass container with large rocks. Place them carefully into the container until it is full. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” The response of your group is not important, just move to the next step. You do not have to tell your group what you are doing. In fact, a little mystery at this point is good.

Start pouring in the gravel. Your choice of the size of the rocks, gravel and sand should be such that the large rocks leave air pockets. The gravel then fills them in. Shake and tap the container. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” Their response is not important.

Next, start pouring in the sand. Your choice of the size of the gravel should be such that the gravel has left air pockets and the sand filters into the remaining spaces. Shake and tap the container. To make all this work, the rocks, gravel, and sand should be very dry. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” Again, their response is not important.

Now, pour in the water slowly. When you can no longer pour in any more water, ask the question, “Is it full?Yes, now the jar is full!

The setup for the discussion

In each progressive step, more and more of your group should have become skeptical and realized that you could keep on packing more into the glass container. At the end, after all agree the jar is full, take one more large rock and ask someone in your group to put it into the container. It should be so full at this time, that one more will not fit without major disruption.

What is the Point?

Now ask the question, “What is the point of this demonstration?” Let the discussion go for a while. Silence is OK so are answers like:

  • There is always room for packing more into your life.
  • You can take on so much you eventually can fill your life.
  • It is an example of (my) life, etc.

The discussion itself does not really matter until they begin to get to the point of your demonstration:

The container represents life. The rocks, gravel, sand, and water represent the choices we make and the priorities we set in life. All make big choices, some important choices, and some trivial choices. God lets us do that in life, that is what “free will means.” The moral of the story, however, is that to fill the container (life) to the maximum, you must put the big rocks in first.

Ask your group the question, what are the big rocks of life?

  • Education
  • Family
  • Career
  • God (while this is a key point, do not offer it as an example unless someone in your group does)

What is the gravel of life?

  • Cars
  • Friends
  •  Clothes

What is the sand of life?

  • Recreation
  • Sports
  • Hobbies
  • Crafts

What is the water of life? Note: You are not looking for Biblical answers here, like “Jesus.” Use worldly things.

  • Movies
  • TV
  • Music
  • Books
  • Video games

The moral of the story so to speak is that God wants to be one of your big rocks and He wants each of us to put Him into our life first, before we fill our life with the other things (rocks, gravel, sand, and water). The example shows that you have plenty of room for other big rocks, gravel, sand, and water but if we wait until our life is full, it is extremely hard to find room for God. God provides us with the opportunities in life, but God expects to be the first rock in our “life’s jar”. Hope, therefore, must be built upon a foundation of God. For hope to be eternal, it needs a strong foundation, the kind only God can provide. Now give everyone a “God Rock.”

Example of Historical Hope

When 56 men signed the Unanimous Declaration of the United States of America, there were over 40,000 British soldiers waiting in ships off the shore of the Colonies. There were already thousands of British soldiers marching in the streets. King George III was ready to snuff out the pending revolution and hang all those who signed. Each signer, however, had hope in the freedom that God gives to each person and in the formation of a new country, a country whose foundation was set upon the “God Rock.” Only one of the signers was a minister. He was the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration on July 4th, 1776. There were other signers who had graduated with Theology Degrees from seminaries, but John Witherspoon was a practicing Church of Scotland Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (1768–94; now Princeton University) where he trained many leaders of our early nation.

John Witherspoon was born February 4, 1723, in Gifford, Scotland. He received the finest education available to a bright young gentleman of that era. John attended the preparatory school in Haddington Scotland. He proceeded to Edinburgh where he attained a Master of Arts, then to four years of divinity school. At this point he was twenty. In 1743 he became a presbyterian minister at a parish in Beith, where he married, authored three noted works on theology. He was later awarded a Doctor of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews, in recognition of his theological skills. It was only through a protracted effort on the part of several eminent Americans, including Richard Stockton and Benjamin Rush, that the colonies were able to acquire his service. In colonial American, the best educated men were often found in the clergy. The College of New Jersey needed a first-rate scholar to serve as its first president. Witherspoon was at first unable to accept the offer, due to his wife’s great fear of crossing the sea. She later had second thoughts, and a visit from the charming Dr. Rush secured the deal. He emigrated to New Jersey in 1768.

Upon his arrival at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, Witherspoon found the school in debt, instruction had become weak, and the library collection did not meet current student needs. At once he began fund-raising locally and back home in Scotland, added three hundred of his own books to the library, and began the purchase of scientific equipment, many maps, and a “terrestrial” globe. He also firmed up entrance requirements. These things helped the school be more on par with Harvard and Yale. His most lasting contribution was the initiation of the Scottish Common-Sense Realism, which he had learned by reading Thomas Reid and two of Reid’s contemporaries, Dugald Stewart and James Beattie.

Witherspoon believed that common sense could be cultivated in his students or deduced through the development of a moral sense, an ethical compass instilled by God in all human beings and developed through religious education (Reid) or civil sociability (Hutcheson). As a Christian, Witherspoon saw the impossibility of maintaining public morality or virtue in the citizenry without an effective religion. In this sense, the temporal principles of morality required a religious component which derived its authority from the spiritual. Therefore, public religion was a vital necessity in maintaining the public morals.

Dr. Witherspoon enjoyed great success at the College of New Jersey. He turned it into a successful institution and was an extremely popular man as a result. He also wrote frequent essays on subjects of interest to the colonies. While he at first abstained from political concerns, he came to support the revolutionary cause, accepting appointment to the Committees of Correspondence and Safety in early 1776. Later that year he was elected to the Continental Congress in time to vote for R. H. Lee’s Resolution for Independence. He voted in favor, and shortly after voted for the Declaration of Independence. He made a notable comment on that occasion; in reply to another member who argued that the country was not yet ripe for such a declaration, that in his opinion it “was not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.” Witherspoon was an active member of congress, serving on more than a hundred committees through his tenure and debating frequently on the floor.

In November 1776, he shut down and then evacuated the College of New Jersey at the approach of British forces. The British occupied the area and did much damage to the college, nearly destroying it. Following the war, Witherspoon devoted his life to rebuilding the College. He also served twice in the state legislature. In the last years of life he suffered injuries, first to one eye then the other, becoming totally blind two years before his death. He died on his farm, “Tusculum,” just outside of Princeton in November of 1794, a man much honored and beloved by his adopted countrymen.

Witherspoon is buried in the Princeton Cemetery. From among his students came 37 judges, three of whom made it to the U.S. Supreme Court; 10 Cabinet officers; 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 U.S. senators, and 49 United States congressmen. When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in 1789, 52 of the 188 delegates had studied under Witherspoon. Dr. John Witherspoon died November 15, 1794.

Ideas to Explore
  • Do you think that Witherspoon could have accomplished what he did in his life if he were not a hope-filled person?
  • What do you think Witherspoon’s source of hope was?
  • How did Witherspoon keep his “hope” up?
  • Do you think we would be a free country, America, if it were not for hope? Why or why not?
  • Is there ever an age that you should give up hope?

Example of Historical Hope Occurring in Florida

What could be more hopeful than to leave the country of your birth, sail across the Atlantic and start a new business and a new life? Do this in St. Augustine before the American Revolution in 1768! Florida was just a swampy mosquito-infested British colony back then. St. Augustine was its capital and central to the city was the Castillo de Marcos, a coquina rock fort built by the Spanish in the late 1600’s. John Hewitt was an expert builder and contractor in England, but he purchased a 1,000-acre property near Pellicer Creek in what is now Flagler County. This location is approximately 1,000 feet from the interchange of Route 1 and Interstate 95 (exit 298) and sits back into an overgrown woodland. Only a small sign marks the simple dirt road that takes you to the site. The Florida Agricultural Museum is responsible for its care and keeping.

Archeological sites surround us with our rich State history. However, many of them are now empty of physical artifacts and only hold placards of historical excerpts to stimulate one’s imagination. This is just one example of how a simple woodland area, virtually unknown to all that drive near, can teach a lesson that is desperately needed in our country today. For teachers, you are about to use one of Dr. Albert Ellis’ principal theories: “To understand behavior, we need to understand one’s beliefs. To understand one’s beliefs, we need to know the situations that formed them.

Prior the American Revolution, Old Kings Road, was constructed by the British in 1767-1772 from Georgia to the new colony of Minorcan settlers in New Smyrna Florida, a journey of some 106 miles. This early roadway was located near what was to become Hewitt’s Saw Mill. It is likely that many passed by the working mill including the residents of the failed colony in New Smyrna. They were known to have travelled up Old Kings Road in 1777.

In Florida, there were no lumber mills constructed with earthen dams and flowing water in the 1700’s. John Hewitt dream was to change that fact. First, he would dig a large collection pond was dug using slave labor. Then let the slowly flowing water from Pellicer Creek fill the pond. When the pond was sufficiently full a series of water gates regulated its flow to a power system driven by ‘flutter wheels.’ Such a sawmill was the highest example of pre-revolution technology. This slash mill with its up-and-down steel saw was said to be capable of cutting 500 to 1,000 feet of lumber per day, far above that possible with pit saws worked by slaves. This was a highly sophisticated, hydraulic system for its time with a complex system of levers and gates to regulate the movement of water energy and the logs to be cut with the up-and-down blade.

During the period just prior to the start of the Revolution and the eight years of war itself and the period after the Treaty of Paris, over 20,000 people, still loyal to King George III, were driven from their own land in the southern colonies. They did not want to give up their British citizenship and there was no discourse that seemed to work with their neighbors. It was leave or more likely escape to East Florida. East Florida was considered the 14th colony. Florida would remain loyal to King George III throughout the revolutionary conflict. The influx of loyalists also brought slaves some of whose owners were killed in the revolution. Florida, both while under Spanish control and then British control allowed all people to live, have homes, work, and prosper. This included the numerous local Indians who called the St. Augustine area home. The East Florida Colony became a melting pot of cultures.

Needing places to house the growing population, many homes in old St. Augustine would be constructed with John Hewitt’s lumber. Because St. Augustine was packed with escaping loyalists, there was a great housing shortage. He did much construction during the twenty-year British period including the steeple for St. Peter’s Church and the State House. It is not known exactly when the Mill was abandoned. Researchers believe the structure which was two stories high with a nearby colonial era house was destroyed during the Patriot War 1812-1813.

During the Seminole War which began in December of 1835 records show that General Hernandez established a food cache at the old mill site to feed both Indians and the accompanying desperate slaves who had either been taken by Indians in raids or escaped from the burned plantations to join with the Seminoles. It was said they were starving and needed food to reach the safety of Fort Peyton to the north on Old Kings Road. It was also likely that Seminole leader Osceola and his group camped near here as they arrived for a white flag parley with the Army General. World attention would again be focused on St. Augustine when Osceola and his group were captured and imprisoned under a white flag of truce.

History must never be used to justify hatred, bigotry, to demean others because of their opinions. The hope of patriots and the hope of loyalists clashed in Florida. History is meant to be used to expand learning, to avoid repetitive errors and to guide the path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This simple story shows that you can take a short walk in the woods and reflect on one of the most critical issues in society today. The lumber mill is a real story based on the disruption caused when a nation (or soon to be nation) failed to learn what our first amendment really means. Freedom of speech does not and never will mean that one opinion has permission to crush the discourse of others. If we are to save our nation, future generations must learn how to disagree in peace. That is what our founding fathers created, a republic, based on individual rights first and democracy second. A republic whose foundation was built upon God.

What happens when we so damage a relationship that it can never recover? Just read the story of the East Florida Ranger Colonel, Thomas “burnfoot” Brown, a lifelong loyalist. His skull was fractured, he was tied to a tree where he was roasted by fire, scalped, tarred, and feathered. This mistreatment resulted in the loss of two toes and lifelong headaches. Who did this to him? His neighbors in Augusta Georgia. Colonel Brown would survive, go on to St. Augustine and form the East Florida Rangers. This was a group of 400 soldiers and over 150 local Indians who would keep the patriots from ever reaching St. Augustine and the Castillo de Marcos. The East Florida Rangers would protect what John Hewitt’s mill was creating.

Here in Florida, John Hewitt’s property tells the story of the East Florida Rangers, you can teach about Chief Osceola and his people who camped nearby, you can teach about the “Trail of Tears.” Everyone in this historic story had hope, their hope was not all the same, not all placed their hope and faith directly in God. Yet, without hope, Florida’s history would have no value. Without God’s providential blessings, the freedoms we all enjoy would be very different today.

Field Trips – Hope – for the State of Florida

The Florida Agricultural Museum was established in 1983 by a group of concerned agriculturalists and historians at the request of Agricultural Commissioner Doyle Conner to help preserve this important part of Florida’s heritage. Originally located in Tallahassee, the museum was part of the Division of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

In 1992, it was designated the “Museum of Agriculture and Rural History of the State of Florida” under Florida Statute. In 1997, the Florida Agricultural Museum moved to its new home on 460 acres in Flagler County. All the Museum’s buildings were moved from their original locations and renovated with grant funds provided by the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources.

In addition to preserving Florida’s agricultural past, the Museum is also active in the conservation of heritage livestock including rare Florida Cracker cattle, horses, and sheep. The Florida Agricultural Museum provides a fun and educational experience for all ages. Flagler County and the St. Augustine area lead the state in historic sites. Only 25 minutes from downtown St. Augustine, the Florida Agricultural Museum is one of Flagler County’s most popular attractions. The museum does offer volunteer opportunities to individuals and groups.

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    NIV New International Version Translations