Romans 4:18 (King James Version)
Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
What kind of hope are we supposed to have? When my wife died, I was told to not lose hope. When the economy started going bad last year, we were told to have hope. Even our current President, Mr. Barack Obama, used the word Hope prominently in his campaign signs and slogans. We hope for a brighter tomorrow. We hope beyond hope. We hope for sunshine after the storm. We hope for a lot of things – a better job, a good spouse, a healthy child, a good turnout for church. We are hopeful people, but are we hoping for the right things?
In today’s verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we see that Abraham had some kind of hope in spite of rejecting another kind of hope. Or, as it is put in the New American Standard Bible, “In hope against hope he believed.” Abraham pitted his hope in the promise God had made against the worldly hopes and expectations of men. On one hand, Abraham undoubtedly believed his time to bring forth a child was long past, as it was for his wife Sarah. Most men around him probably felt the same, that Abraham was not going to have any heirs. Whatever hope the world may have had for Abraham was slim indeed, and probably not a hope for a natural-born son but that Abraham would give his property to a neighbor or a distant relative. Such is worldly hope, looking to the easiest path, the lowest possible outcome, the thing that could be achieved by men.
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
But Abraham’s hope was not simply that he would have an heir and thus see the Lord’s word fulfilled, but that God would fulfill His greatest promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3c) That is the hope Abraham brought to bear against the hope of the world: the hope in the blessing of all mankind, the hope of a descendant who would bring the salvation of God.
Hymnist and Anglican bishop Reginald Heber – better known for the hymn “Holy, holy, holy” – wrote about two different kinds of hope in his poem “On Heavenly and Earthly Hope”:
Reflected on the lake, I love
To see the stars of evening glow,
So tranquil in the heaven above,
So restless in the wave below.
Thus heavenly hope is all serene,
But earthly hope, how bright soe’er,
Still fluctuates o’er this changing scene,
As false and fleeting as ’tis fair.
For all its bright appeal, earthly hope changes and wavers, it fluctuates and flits about, a pale and fickle reflection of heavenly hope. Earthly hope is bound to earthly things, which are by their very nature temporary. Changing as it does with storm and wind and wave, such ephemeral hope could never keep us so constant, could never grow through perseverance, could never be of any substance for our faith.
But heavenly hope is constant and true, “an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19 NASB) keeping us firmly held to the promises of God the Father. Heavenly hope is fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Heavenly hope is not a hope for worldly things nor even worldly blessings, for although Abraham was blessed in his lifetime, the fullness of God’s promise was withheld from him until the coming of Christ. But Abraham was a prophet, and he knew that in time God’s covenant would be fulfilled. God not only promised this to Abraham, He also swore it on an oath, a covenant, and since God cannot lie, it must be so. (Hebrews 6:16-18)
This we have as a promise from Christ Jesus:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
To Christ is our faith to be anchored.
To Christ is our hope to be bound.
To Christ should we look for all treasures.
In Christ is salvation then found.
Brothers and sisters, do not fix your hope upon worldly things. Have the faith of Abraham. Against all worldly hope believe in heavenly hope, that your true faith may be accounted to you as righteousness. Hold fast to the one hope that really matters: that sure and steadfast hope of the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Heavenly Father, our hope rests in Your Son, bound to Your will for us in Him. Let our hope anchor us to Your righteousness, Lord God, holding us steady through the storms of our lives, keeping us on the proper course. May Your Son be the only light we seek, through cloud and darkness and trial and harm. Be Thou, Lord, the ever-fixed mark we seek in all our days and all our ways. Amen.