“The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”
All men have a hope of some kind. Men and women without hope are surely to be pitied, for they have no reason to go on, no reason to live.
Hope is what keeps people going even in the worst of times. The hope of freedom keeps prisoners alive. The hope of walking again urges the crippled to keep trying. The hope of seeing one’s family again makes a child’s summer camp experience bearable. Hope is what we hold on to when don’t know what else to do.
Rope is something we hold on to, also. When people are in deep pits they yell out, “Throw me a rope!” When people want to repel down mountains, or clean the windows of skyscrapers, they put their trust in ropes.
When you think about it, what makes a rope useful? If you are not tying something up, but trying to climb, anchor a boat, or swing from a tree, what makes a rope useful is what it is tied to. In other words, you can’t climb up a rope that isn’t attached to anything. Throwing a rope to someone in a well is only helpful if someone on the other end attaches it to something.
According to one prominent lexicon*, the original Hebrew word translated “expectation” came from a word that meant “rope”. A rope is something tangible, something you can see; not a hope that is based on the unseen.
But do you know what a “dope” is? A “dope” is someone who has been “duped;” a person who has fallen for a trick. That is what we could call the wicked in Proverbs 10:28. They have put their hope in a rope that is attached to nothing.
Do you see the irony? The righteous put their trust in a hope that is unseen and based on faith. But the wicked say there is no God, they have no use for faith, and trust in something they can feel, something they can get their hands around. The only problem is when the wicked fall, they will discover a rope tied to nothing will not save. They’ve been duped by the evil one.
The hope of the righteous is grounded in faith, while the expectation of the wicked is tied to nothing. The atheist claims that there is nothing beyond this life, and holds to that rope with tenacity. The righteous hold to the Unseen Hand and follow a voice only heard through the Spirit.
One day the floor will fall out from under both the righteous and the wicked. He who says, “let me fall into the hand of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:13) will have his hope fulfilled. But he who holds to the “rope” of unbelief will surely be disappointed.*Gesenius, W., & Tregelles, S. P. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (872). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.