The word "hope," as used in the Scriptures, means to have a confident expectation of something. The way the concept of hope is used in the rest of the world has nothing to do with Biblical hope. Worldly hope has to do with wishing for something and hoping that you get it. Biblical hope is not vain wishing - it is a confidence in something or someone that lets you know that you WILL be receiving something. With this definition in mind let us look at today's proverb.
The hope of the righteous is gladness. What is the "hope of the righteous?" That hope is that God, Who has spoken and revealed Himself and His ways in the Scriptures, will be true to His Word. The first and foremost area where this is true is in our salvation and the confident expectation that we have of being able to stand before God in the judgment. God has done what is necessary to pay for our sins. In the time of the Old Testament this was through the covenant promise that God made to Abraham. Abraham was made righteous before God by faith - as He believed God. This is what Paul presents to us in both Galatians and Romans. Those promises were further defined as the sacrificial system was put into place under Moses. The blood of those bulls, goats, and lambs were a sign of a more perfect sacrifice to come. Jesus Christ fulfilled that sacrifice when He died on the cross and paid the price for sin - forever! As a result of what God has done - the confident expectation of the righteous (those made rightreous by faith) is gladness! We are overjoyed at God's grace given to us in Jesus Christ. We are delighted at the salvation God has given to us in Him.
The second half of this proverb reminds us of the wicked - and their ignoble end. The expectation of the wicked perishes. Two things we should see here. First the wicked does not hope, the expect things. Their expectation is based on what they think they have earned. The wicked rely on their works or their religious system - which will be based on a false understanding of God. They feel that they have worked hard for their salvation - and therefore they deserve something for it. But their expectation will fade and die. There is nothing to it - and nothing they will gain from it. This is the second thing we need to see here. Their expectation perishes. That is because their expectation is in themselves. They will perish - becasue what they have done will never stand before a holy God. It is a sad reality - but it is a sure one.
What are you relying on for your eternity? Are you looking to yourself and your own religious works? If you are - both your works and you will perish. There is no hope for such a person, because they remain in their wickedness. All they will see in the day when they stand before God's judgment is His wrath. The wise man finds his righteousness not in himself - but by faith in Jesus Christ. That person will know a gladness that will never end. Hope in Jesus Christ - for that is a hope that will never disappoint.