|The Hope That Never Fails
“If I lift up my eyes to the hills, where shall I find help? Help comes only from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2.
Hope. A very short, simple, yet powerful word.
The American Heritage dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is desired is also possible, or that events may turn out for the best.” To “give up hope” is to reach the end. To “keep on hoping” means there may yet be a chance, however small, that what is desired will come to pass.
How many great men and women heard, “It can’t be done,” and did it. Or, “It’s useless to try,” but tried and succeeded? If Abraham Lincoln had given up after his second business failure, we would have had no such president to guide this nation through a time of terrible tragedy. If Solzhenitsyn had decided to remain silent, “I am only one among millions,” who would cry out today against oppression and human suffering in his beloved homeland?
If any man in history needed hope, it was David of Israel—the young man who, more than three thousand years ago, wrote many Psalms like the one quoted above. God chose him to be king and sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him while another king, Saul, who had failed God, was still on the throne. David was greeted not by fanfare, but by hatred and intense persecution. He had often to flee for his life before Saul’s men. “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Psalm 42:3)
Yet this same man wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is the refuge of my life; of whom should I go in dread? (Psalm 27:1)
David could rejoice even in terrible times, and he lived through many, because he knew that the One in whom he trusted would never fail. He was realistic and knew exactly what he was up against, but found in God a sufficiency far beyond his own to meet every circumstance. The Psalms were not academic exercises; they are the story of his life. By this, he blessed his generation and has blessed everyone who has read his Psalms ever since.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want … yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:1,4)
In what will you, as a student at Yale, put your trust? What is it you seek from life? King David lifted up his “eyes to the hills,” mountains in Israel which, when he was on the throne, embodied the glory of his kingdom, and when he was facing persecution, were a place a safety to which he could fell. Yet David, in viewing those hills as written in Psalm 121, saw not something in which to trust, but a reminder that his life’s hope lay entirely in God.
Yet today men and women, many of them graduates of Yale, look to other “mountains,” albeit of a different kind, in which to find help and hope for their lives. By “mountains,” I mean the powerful institutions of government, business, science, law, etc. which have developed in our day to a magnitude far beyond anything David knew in his day. It is the safety of employment in these similar realms that many seek. People put their trust in the satisfaction and security positions in such fields afford. The temptation is to believe that somehow such institutions will go on and on and therefore remain safe places to be.
We do not live in a secure, predictable world, however. Henry Ford, a great industrialist, called history “bunk,” yet history tells us plenty about the frailness of nations and people that the continuity of day to day life can cause us to forget. John F. Kennedy did not wake up expecting to die that bright November morning. How many Indians would have thought a few months ago that their democracy would suddenly be made into a dictatorship by the elected head of their nation? The recent experience of Watergate in the United States demonstrates how far an attack against civil liberties can go without being detected.
If the victims of the Sahelian drought had known a few years ago that their rich lands would turn to deserts, they might long ago have left their homes for better territory. If King David’s hopes had been built upon his continuation as King of Israel, when his own beloved son, Absalom, led a rebellion that forced him off the throne, he would have been bitter, heartbroken, and in despair. On the contrary, because he trusted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he said, “If I find favor in the sight of the Lord, then he will bring me back again.” (2 Samuel 15:25) And the Lord did.
I remember when I was six years old and fascinated by a world so new and fresh to me. One day I climbed Blue Hill Mountain in Maine. Near the top, I wedged myself between two stones above a drop-off. Surveying the beauty of the land, sea, and islands below caused me to wonder, “Who made all these things and why?” It was as though my eyes were for the first time opening to see that there was more to life than my own little world of experience.
Most men and women become so absorbed in day to day affairs that they overlook more important, even eternal issues. If you do that, your world may one day collapse around you and you will not know what to do. If things are not kept in perspective, our eyes easily become focused only on the small affairs of self.
“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)
Let your eyes be opened, beginning now, to the truths of the Scriptures, eternal truths which circumstances and the passage of time cannot change. “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the time of trouble comes.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
As the years of your life go by, where will your help come from? Will what you put your trust in never let you down? Is your trust in your own resources and strength rather than in God? He has the answers to the needs and longings of every human heart. The answers are found in His Son, Jesus, who died so that we could live. As the disciple Peter said, “To whom can we go, Lord? You have the message that gives eternal life, and we have come to believe, yes more, we know by experience, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68) Hope built on the God of Israel “never disappoints us.” (Romans 5:5)
“I have been young, and now am old,” King David wrote near the end of his life, “yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
© 1973 The Yale Standard Committee