Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
–Psalm 20:7 NIV
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD.
–Isaiah 31:1 NIV
Modern connotations of hope look more like “uncertainty associated with a desired outcome,” which is little more than wishful thinking.* This wishful thinking usually shows up in phrases like, “I hope you get to feeling better.” Or, “I hope everything works out alright.” In the same way, this kind of hoping can stray into things like thinking that if we try hard enough, work at something long enough, are smart enough, then we can actually reach our desired outcome.
Without realizing it, the focus of our hope becomes more about us and our abilities than about God and His purposes. That’s when our hoping really reflects a self-centered form of prayer—not God-centered prayer. Rather than vocalizing the tough questions lament invites us to ponder, wishful hoping is like praying with our fingers crossed. And then God becomes little more than an all-powerful entity we need to please in order to get what we want.
There is nothing wrong with wanting good instead of bad. My friends want vindication or some form of mediation if the accusations are real. They want to make things right but have been denied that opportunity. If their hope was more “wish,” then it would be natural to assume they did something to make God upset with them or that they were not faithful enough and so deserve this bad outcome. That kind of hoping (wishful thinking) is about their ability to please God enough, or even please their boss enough.
Horses, chariots, and superpowers of the day seem more tangible and reliable than a God we cannot see or fully comprehend. Looking to our own efforts, or something we can actually see and measure, feels more reasonable than waiting on … God.
ACTION: Take some time to review your story. Where do you sense misplaced hope? Have there been moments, looking back, when trusting something more tangible than God made all the sense in the world? Can you remember what you felt as you acted in certain ways that were little more than wishing or relying on “horses”? Knowing what you know now, what would you change?
*Jeffrey Lamp, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, © 2000 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., “Hope”.