Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. — Proverbs 13:12
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi in Great Britain, once wrote, “to be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair…Judaism is the religion, and Israel the home, of hope.” This is one of six devotions focusing on this attribute of faith that has sustained the Jewish people for millennia. To learn more about the Patriarch Abraham and a life lived with hope, download our free Bible study.
Perhaps you can remember as a child having a parent promise to take you to the zoo, or the park, or a ballgame on the weekend, and then after a week of eager anticipation, having those plans change. Perhaps you can still remember the sting of that disappointment. Even as adults, we experience the pain of broken promises, changed plans, or reversals in our hopes.
Those kinds of situations can be heartbreaking, especially if the promise was something important to you. That’s why the book of Proverbs says “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). When we get our hopes aroused, the disappointment is greater than if the promise had never been made.
In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter to an active Zionist in England stating that the British government would make an effort to facilitate the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This letter, known as the Balfour Declaration, was approved by the League of Nations in 1922 as part of the British Mandate over Palestine.
It was a statement that elicited great hope and a long-awaited outcome for the Jewish people. But in 1939 the British government reversed its position, stating that it did not endorse a policy of turning Palestine into a Jewish state. Imagine the great disappointment caused by this reversal!
Nonetheless, events had already been set in motion. The hope of a Jewish homeland was kindled, and the Jewish people pursued it until it became a reality. The United Nations General Assembly approved the creation of the State of Israel on November 29, 1947. Six months later the British occupation of Palestine ended and Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948. This marked “a longing fulfilled” for many thousands of Jews everywhere.
The promises of man will sometimes fail us, “but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). That’s why the prophet Jeremiah warns us: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength . . . But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:5, 7). It’s interesting that Proverbs 13:12 refers to a longing fulfilled as “a tree of life,” because Jeremiah says that the one who trusts in God “will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream . . . and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).
Truly, all of our longings, our hopes, are fulfilled in God. He never fails us. So when others are slow to keep their promises or disappoint us with broken ones, hold on to hope. But remember that our hope is not in man, but in the God who keeps His promises. We can place our confidence in Him.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President