Hope is a wonderfully motivating force. It was recorded of Abraham that “against hope he believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations” (Rom 4:18). Here are two kinds of hope. The first is human, but the second is derived from clear spiritual discernment and is predicated on a promise supplied by God Himself. From a natural perspective Abraham was in a hopeless position. He could never become the father of a multitude in his present condition; but once he contemplated the One who made the promise he was able to rise above that sense of hopelessness. Faith was able to link itself with a specific hope and this became the driving force that led to a full persuasion.

Hope is both a verb and a noun. “We are saved by the hope” (Rom 8:24—the Greek contains the definite article giving precision to Paul’s point). It was not just any hope. It was very specifically termed “the one hope of the calling” (Eph 4:4­ once again note the definite articles). When Paul stood before his Jewish brethren he styled it “the hope and resurrection of the dead”, “the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers”, “the hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 26:6,7; 28:20).

It is this last quote which so beautifully unveils one of the cornerstones of our precious heritage­ our link with Israel. We know that “as concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sakes” but, paradoxically, at the same time they “are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom 11:28).

A Paradox

This incongruity sums up what may seem an anomaly to many. How is it that Israel can be both an enemy and beloved? The answer lies in the fact that God has two views of His people and both perspectives are so carefully balanced. In relation to the question of eternal life they are blind and as a nation will remain so until the return of the Redeemer from heaven. In relation to the promises that God made to Abraham and David, though, they are still His people and the land is still His land (cp Joel 3:2,3; Ezek 38:16).

Our hope is a Jewish hope because as a community we view Israel from this same paired perspective. They are spiritually blind but not unloved. They crucified the Son of God yet their future destiny is united with the redemption of the world and our hope is inextricably allied to that imminent restoration (Rom 11:15). It will be the honour of the saints to rule over the restored tribes of Israel.

Rooted in the Prophets

What is so wonderful about the phrase “the hope of Israel” is that it was not something just coined by the apostle without due thought. On the contrary it was drawn directly from the Old Testament.

The first occurrence of the expression can be found in Jeremiah 14:7,8 where the prophet offers a prayer on behalf of his people Israel—“O Yahweh, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?”

Drought and famine had worked their evil upon the nation. Everything looked hopeless. It seemed as if God would allow His people to be utterly destroyed. Even the promise of forgiveness looked bleak. Now it was in this context that Jeremiah selected a distinctive attribute of the Father when he pleaded on behalf of his people. He addressed Yahweh as “the hope of Israel” because he sought to lead Judah to an appreciation of what hope can achieve.

Here “the hope of Israel” comprehends more than just the promises made to the fathers; it embraces Yahweh Himself. He is the foundation and source of those promises. To espouse the hope of Israel as a doctrinal certainty involving the ultimate redemption of Israel, is to espouse the source of that hope. We ought to remember that the God of Israel who preserves that nation is the same God who will preserve us. If natural Israel were asked to depend upon the hope of Israel for their forgiveness and redemption, how much more should the Israel of God do the same.

They were desperate times indeed. Even Jeremiah began to question the very basis of that hope. “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion?” he asked. “Remember, break not thy covenant with us”, he pleaded (Jer 14:19– 21). As “the hope of Israel” God will never sweep away the underlying foundation of the hope of the promise made unto the fathers.

The second occurrence of this terminology can be found in Jeremiah 17:13 where we are permitted to hear another of Jeremiah’s personal prayers. The chapter commences with a graphic picture of Judah tattooing their iniquity with the point of a diamond. Their sin was indelibly written in their deepest sub­conscious and could never be erased. He notified the prophet that it is the condition of the heart that is so critical. In most cases it manifests itself in deceitfulness, where men trust in their own strength and seek refuge in idolatry (v5,6). There are some who are like a flourishing tree besides the fountains of waters. They trust in Yahweh “and [are those] whose hope Yahweh is” (v7,8). Despite these rare exceptions, however, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (v9).

Source of Healing

As Jeremiah contemplated this wisdom he was constrained to pray: “O Yahweh the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Yahweh the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Yahweh, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise” (v13,14).

He saw his own heart riddled with the same cancer and sought healing and redemption from Yahweh, the hope of Israel. God’s response was to command Jeremiah to stand before the nation and condemn their legalism and stiff-necks and offer them the hope of reigning as kings in the kingdom of God (v19–27). The hope of Israel heals when His people are obedient to the hope He offers them.

Before we examine how all these contexts find convergence in Paul’s visit to Rome and the statement he made to the Jews, it is important to appreciate the events that surround the first occurrence of the Hebrew word for hope (tikvah).

Tikvah

Israel had just come into the land after hearing a wonderful discourse from Moses, the man of God. He had told them of a law that required them to destroy every Canaanite in the land (Deut 20:16– 18). And yet when the spies came to Jericho (a veritable cesspool of iniquity, just like Rome in the first century) they were confronted with a woman whose faith was outstanding because she had heard the Word of God (Josh 2:10,11; Rom 10:17).

She appealed to them to do unto her as she had done to them. They had tarried with her for three days and she had manifested mercy and truth. Now she sought mercy and truth in return (Josh 2:12,14).

The spies were faced with a dilemma. Which principle would prevail—the law which sought her death, or grace and truth through which she was seeking life? To their credit these men offered her life and instructed her to “bind this line of scarlet thread in the window” (Josh 2:18). The Hebrew word for “line” is tikvah which is translated elsewhere as “hope”. That line represented both Jew and Gentile being bound by a promise (“an oath”— v17,20), a promise of saving hope that was dependent on the victory of Israel over her own people (v14).

Many years later Paul stood in a similar city—a city which will one day be overthrown by the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15). He arrived virtually unnoticed by the world and even the ecclesia. Luke records that when he landed at Puteoli in the bay of Naples “we found brethren and were desired to tarry with them” (Act 28:14). The brethren had to be sought out—there was no familiar welcome.

Linked by a Chain

The apostle was isolated from the other prisoners and “after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together” (v17) and told them of his plight. He informed them that he was bound by a chain because of his beliefs and that chain represented his unbreakable connection with the hope of Israel (v18). He was telling them he was connected to people like Rahab through a common oath. He was alluding to his status as another Jeremiah, connected to Yahweh with unswerving trust in Yahweh as “the hope of Israel”.

Indeed it was from this position of hope that he spoke the gospel to his people. It was not a message of legalism and bondage. It was a message of hope and life. Like Rahab, he appealed to higher principles. Like Jeremiah, he stood in the gates and proclaimed the hope of a future kingdom.

His final words cement the connections with Rahab and with Jeremiah 17:14. He told them that they were unworthy to be part of that chain and link with the promises of God. Just as Isaiah had predicted they were beyond help, lest they “should be converted and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (v27,28).

And this is where we stand today. We are Gentiles united by a common hope and a common promise. We are linked together with so many diverse people stretching back to the days of the patriarchs because our expectations are identical. We ought not to be distracted by other hopes which would seek to minimise Israel’s involvement in the purpose of God.

We must remember that we are united with the destiny of this people, not as political Zionists, but as the Israel of God who give the Hope of Israel “no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa 62:7). Jesus himself boldly proclaimed, “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Our hope is Jewish; our inheritance is Jewish; our king is Jewish. As a nation this people are “the apple of his eye” (Zech 2:8). Let us appreciate the hope of our calling and hold on to this hope firm unto the end.