Challenged to Hope Again and Again

Yael Eckstein  |  September 6, 2020

Young boy sitting down with a kippah on.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. — Psalm 27:14

In honor of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, and his lifework helping Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, I offer you one of his devotional teachings from the beloved Psalms.

Hope is a word that we toss around a lot, but I’m not sure that we always fully understand its meaning. It’s not until we’ve lived hope – until we have been in a dark situation where we needed to find the light of hope in order to continue – that we can really know what the word means. Moreover, there are different levels of hope. There’s the basic hope of having faith that things will be all right. And there’s another level of hope when things haven’t turned out the way we had hoped they would, and we are challenged to be bold enough to hope again.

Imagine that someone is suffering from an illness. At a certain point, they have hope that their health will improve, but then they receive a bad medical report. Is it possible to hope again? Is it possible to believe that God will deliver them from their troubles or give them the ability to withstand them?

Or maybe someone is facing difficulties with their marriage. That person hopes things will get better, until their spouse delivers some very unwelcome sentiments. The words are hurtful and discouraging. How is it possible for that person to have the strength to hope again?

This secondary, more challenging hope is what Psalm 27 is describing in the last line, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” In Hebrew, the word defined as “wait” is kavei, which literally means “hope.”’ In the Jewish tradition, this verse reads, “Hope to the LORD, strengthen your heart, and hope to the LORD.” Why does King David write “hope to the LORD” twice? Because there is the first time that we hope and then the second time. After the first hope, we must strengthen our heart so that we can hope again.

In Isaiah 38, we learn that King Hezekiah had become very ill. We can imagine that Hezekiah, a righteous king of Israel, certainly hoped and prayed all through his illness that God would heal him. Then the prophet Isaiah visited him and delivered a most devastating message: “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (Isaiah 38:1). Hezekiah’s hopes were shattered!

Yet, the Jewish sages teach that Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, “I have a tradition from my grandfather David – even if a sharp sword rests on your neck, one should not refrain from praying for mercy.” Hezekiah continued to pray, and he was healed!

Friends, never give up hope, even when your first hopes have been dashed. The challenge for us is to hope again and again. Strengthen your heart and dare to believe – our God will deliver us according to His timing and good plan.

Your turn:

Where in your current situation do you need an extra dose of hope today? Pray the words of Psalm 27 and dare to hope again!

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