The Bible—the Book That Gives Hope
SHE had been a patient in an Indonesian sanatorium for years. With the death of her husband she lost all courage. She felt it hopeless to carry on and so began making plans to commit suicide. Upon learning of this, one of the nurses told a Christian witness of Jehovah, who was also a patient, about it. He called on this woman and tactfully tried to interest her in the Bible hope.
At first she was unwilling to listen, but with kind perseverance the Witness was able to interest her in studying the Bible. Within three months she had an entirely different outlook on life. She was now filled with hope and joy. She is still in the sanatorium, but today, instead of contemplating suicide, she is busy telling other patients about her Bible hope. In fact, she is conducting four Bible studies with other patients.
Just what is the nature of the Bible hope that made such a change in her life? We will see as we examine this matter, for there is no doubt that the Word of God, the Bible, when properly understood, is really the Book of hope. That is one of the main reasons why the Bible was written: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” Most fittingly the Author of the Bible is called “the God who gives hope.”—Rom. 15:4, 13.
THE NEED OF HOPE
Time and again the Christian hope is referred to in that part of the Bible known as the “New Testament” or the Christian Greek Scriptures, some fifty times, in fact. How important that hope is to Christians is also indicated by the words of the apostle Paul as found at 1 Corinthians 13:13. There, in discussing the subject of love, he lists hope along with the all-important qualities of faith and love, saying: “Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three.” Yes, hope deserves to be placed with faith and love.
The worldly-wise Greeks of ancient times did not share the apostle Paul’s appreciation of hope. They disparagingly referred to it as “the food of exiles,” and as “man’s curse.” Apparently modern worldly-wise men likewise do not attach much importance to hope, for neither the Encyclopedia Americana nor the Encyclopædia Britannica in their extensive alphabetical indexes give any listings for “hope,” although they do for “faith” and “love.”
But without hope many despair. The very word “despair” comes from two Latin roots, de, meaning “lacking; without,” and sperare, meaning “to hope.” So people without hope despair. A desperado is a desperate criminal, one who is without hope.
Without hope man is prone to turn to loose conduct. History records that when the German philosopher Nietzsche lost his faith and hope in God he not only sneered that “hope is the worst of evils,” but turned to riotous, loose living. Even as God’s Word notes, those without hope often say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.”—1 Cor. 15:32.
Illustrating the difference that hope makes in one’s life is the experience of certain young man who was an inmate in a New York state mental hospital. He was under constant medication, denied any privileges or freedoms and given no education. He was little more than a vegetable, slumped over, with nothing to say and completely unconcerned with himself or his future.
Then one day his older brother, who had but recently come to understand and embrace the Bible hope, called on him and endeavored to share with him his newly found hope. Although this young man had no knowledge of the Bible, the truth from it at once appealed to him and had a remarkable effect on him. After only two months of discussions with his brother and other Witnesses who visited him, he was able to get along without any medication. Soon he was carrying himself erect, developing pride in his appearance and even began talking to other inmates about this Bible hope. His brother, who had brought him this hope, was able, after much effort, to effect his release from the mental institution. He is now learning to read so that, among other things, he can study the Bible on his own. Both brothers are now regularly attending meetings where the Bible hope is featured, and their progress is apparent to all.
Not without good reason does the Bible set so much store on hope. Hope is not a luxury. It is not something expendable, something we can just as well do without. It is a necessity. Hope is essential for the health of both mind and body.
GOOD FOR THE LITERAL HEART
That hope is as beneficial for the literal heart as for the figurative heart is reported on by Dr. Frances Dunbar, an authority on psychosomatic medicine. For patients suffering from angina pectoris, a heart affliction marked by sharp jabs of pain in the chest, “the reestablishment of a hopeful attitude is one of the chief therapeutic tasks.” In fact, in no other group of patients is hope said to be so important as in these.
What hope, and in particular the Bible hope, is able to do for heart sufferers can be seen from the experience of a heart patient in Italy. She was bedridden, for her doctor had strictly forbidden her to exert herself in any way or even to get out of bed for any reason whatever. Then one day a Christian witness of Jehovah called on her and persuaded this heart patient to have a regular study.
As she made progress in understanding the Bible and its wonderful hope of everlasting life in a new system of things, her physical health also began to improve. Soon she was able to get out of bed and even do some of the housework. All this surprised her physician, who began to wonder whether she was taking some medicine unknown to him. When he learned the facts of the matter, that it was the Bible hope that was helping his patient in a physical way, he said: “Without a doubt the best medicine for the heart is the study of the Holy Bible.” Today she is zealously preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to her neighbors from house to house, her heart now being equal to such activity.
WHY THE BIBLE GIVES HOPE
Why does the Bible give such strong hope? Because it is the Word of the one true God Jehovah, who cannot lie. As the apostle Paul shows, Christians rest their faith “upon the basis of a hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting.”—Titus 1:2.
The Bible gives hope because everything that God has promised has come to pass, and that exactly on time. Thus, by his prophet Jeremiah God foretold that the land of Israel would lie desolate for seventy years while his people would serve the king of Babylon. And when those seventy years were fulfilled, those Israelites who were hoping in God were not disappointed. God had liberated them and, right on time, they had arrived back in their homeland.—Jer. 25:11; Dan. 9:2; Ezra 1:1-4.
God’s promise also proved true as to the coming of the Messiah. At Daniel 9:24-27, God caused his prophet to record that “from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks,” or sixty-nine weeks of years. And secular history verifies that from the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah (455 B.C.E.) until Jesus came as the Messiah (29 C.E.) exactly sixty-nine weeks of years, or 483 years, passed. Yes, Jesus the Messiah appeared exactly on time to fulfill the hopes of his people.—Luke 3:15.
The fact that these prophecies and others like them have been fulfilled gives strong assurance that the rest of the prophetic promises of God will be fulfilled. It is even as Joshua recorded regarding the experience of his people Israel: “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” Because of this, Christians today can echo the sentiments of King Solomon at the time of the dedication of Jehovah’s temple: “Blessed be Jehovah, who has given a resting place to his people Israel according to all that he has promised. There has not failed one word of all his good promise that he has promised by means of Moses his servant.”—Josh. 21:45; 1 Ki. 8:56.
BIBLE HOPE NEARS FULFILLMENT
A careful study of God’s Word reveals that it is having fulfillment also in our day, giving us hope of early deliverance from the terrible conditions of today. Jesus Christ foretold that the end of this system of things would be marked by international wars, widespread food shortages, earthquakes and increasing lawlessness. More than that, he said that the generation that saw all these things would also see an end to this wicked system. Can you appreciate what that means for you?—Matt. 24:3-34.
Do you grieve and fear because of the constant wars between nations, bringing untold hardship and loss of loved ones? Then do not despair, but be comforted with the hope that God will cause all wars to cease, even as he promised: “Come, you people, behold the activities of Jehovah, . . . He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” Of the Kingdom reign of his Son, Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” we are assured that there will be an “abundance of peace until the moon is no more,” and that of the abundance of its peace “there will be no end.” Just think what that will mean! No more high taxes to pay for costly war budgets, no more wanton destruction of life and property!—Pss. 46:8, 9; 72:7; Isa. 9:6, 7.
Are you inclined to become discouraged because of bodily aches and pains? Then take hope, for these also will be done away with by Jehovah’s Kingdom rule, even as he has promised: “He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.” What a prospect! No further need for doctors and nurses to treat ailments and undertakers to bury the dead! They will all have to find something else to do!—Rev. 21:4.
Have you lost a loved one in death? Then take hope in God’s promise “that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” As Jesus himself promised: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” Then instead of people growing old and dying, people will be returning from the graves and be restored to the health and vigor of youth.—Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29.
What can all this mean for you? It will mean that if you survive the end of this old system of things that Jesus spoke about, you will never need to go down into death.—Isa. 25:8.
But what if you should die before God’s kingdom brings in that new system of things? Then Jesus’ comforting words to Martha at the time of her brother’s death will apply to you: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”—John 11:25, 26.
STRENGTHEN YOUR HOPE
While by means of his inspired Word Jehovah God has furnished ample reason and basis for hope, it is up to you to strengthen your own hope. How can you do so?
First of all by feeding regularly on the Book of hope, the Holy Bible. Read a portion of it every day. To get the most benefit from its pages, however, you will do well to take advantage of the aids God has provided to assist you to understand the Bible. These aids are published by the Watch Tower Society and are brought to you by the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. The magazine you are reading is one of these.
To strengthen your hope you should also want to associate with others who have this strong, sure hope, thereby heeding the apostolic command ‘not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together.’ This you can do at the Kingdom Halls and other meeting places of Jehovah’s witnesses. Important also is bringing your personal life in line with the righteous principles set forth in the Bible, for you cannot have strong hope unless you are living in line with those principles. That means to heed the prophetic command: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Heb. 10:25; Zeph. 2:3.
God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is indeed the Book of hope. The evidence leaves no doubt about it. God simply cannot lie. What he foretold would take place in the past always has come to pass. Therefore you can have strong hope that all his promises regarding the future of this earth and mankind he also will fulfill. He has both the desire, the ability and the means to do so. What a blessed assurance!
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Hope is essential to our well-being. Is your hope well founded?