One interesting outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic was the resurgence in 2020 of the word ‘hope’. It was everywhere: shop windows, newspapers, social media. My favourite was driving past a bus stop and seeing the words ‘THERE IS HOPE’ in large print; as I got closer I discovered it was an advertisement for butter!
‘We’re going to be alright,’ we were told; ‘we’ve just got to have hope.’ Hope in what? And since then, through war, death, and existential struggle, was our optimism proved right?
Psalm 122 is striking for its tone of hope. These pilgrim songwriters have expressed dissatisfaction (Psalm 120) and fear (Psalm 121), and what gets them on their feet and moving onwards is hope, of a better future awaiting them at their destination. In Jerusalem they anticipate unity (v3-4), peace, love, security and prosperity (v6-9), all centred and founded on the rule of a just King (v4-5).
Who wouldn’t want these things! It sounds like the end of an epic saga, like ‘The Lord of the Rings’: through immense struggle, the fight is won, and justice and peace are secured for all. There is a reason why these stories resonate with the longings of our heart, and why hope is so inspiring. But how do we know it’s true, and where can we find a truly motivating hope today?
Christians believe that in the midst of great pain in our world, we have reason for great hope: that one day, there will be a world of unity, peace, love, security and prosperity, and all are welcome to participate in it. And we believe that this is not just wishful thinking, but grounded in reality, because of the one who secures it. The Bible presents Jesus as the true King who sits on the throne of David (v5): he was before all time began, so knows what is to come in the future; he defeated death and knows what is beyond it. All this is based upon the historical claim of his resurrection.
Secularism scoffs at this, but offers no credible alternative but pessimism. There has to be more. Our hearts long for hope, and we need it to get up and keep going. True hope can only be found in the person of Jesus.
PRAYER Jesus, I need hope! The world is such a mess; where can I find a reason to keep going? Show me today how you provide this. Show me that you are real, that you are in control, and that you are making all things new. Amen.
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
2 Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord –
to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.