"When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of strong men perishes"
This is a very interesting proverb speaking to the temporariness of the desires of those who live outside of God's moral boundaries. They may get what they want, but what they want is so fleeting. It never outlives them. And in many cases, it does not even last till they themselves die.
The word wicked is the word in the Old Testament for the person – man or woman, young or old – that lives outside of the Ten Commandments. They don't just sin and then try and live a moral life. These people continue to practice and engage in sinful acts over and over again. They steal and keep stealing. They commit adultery and keep being adulterous. They blaspheme and keep slandering God. They rebel and continue rebelling from authority. They wound and harm people – even murdering them – and they keep getting what they want that way. They covet other people's goods and take action to seize them. This is the definition of the wicked person. Our society is making more and more people who live in this way. They refuse to respect God's boundaries or even their own society’s boundaries.
The word translated expectations in the NASB is really the Hebrew word meaning hope. The rough idea of this phrase is that the person who lives outside of God's moral boundaries hopes for more selfish things to go their way; and when they die, all they hoped for comes to an end. They don't hope for good things that live beyond them. They don't strive for those things that others will carry on after they are gone. Even if others carry on with their traditions, it will be only for their own selfishness and not reflective of honor on the original wicked person.
So, as the proverb says, the wicked person has no enduring hope. What they have here is all they get. There is a strong desire in American culture today to get this kind of live-for-now focus to be the dominant view of everybody. Some do not realize that this is the wicked person's perspective. They live constantly for the moment with no thought for the future or eternity. It is the righteous person who builds for the future that will outlive them. It is the righteous person who builds for endless time in eternity.
There will be times when you are doing the right thing when there is no payoff right away and, sometimes, even in this life. It is just the right thing to do. If you want to build a lasting legacy, don't follow the road of wickedness. That is only a temporary stop in a pleasurable place before being herded on the path of loneliness and pain. If all you live for is yourself and the now, then you will have nothing to show for your life when it is over.
If, however, you are constantly doing good things for others and glorifying God with your words and actions, then you are building up a true reward and a lasting legacy. I want to stand before Jesus on judgment day having been forgiven by Him for my sins with a whole pile of selfless acts and good works that bring honor to His name. I do not want to be empty-handed with nothing to show for my life except a lot of memories of selfish and sinful pleasures that profited nobody but me.
and the hope of the strong men perishes
The same idea of hope and the future is repeated in another person who will lose what he built his life around. In this case it is the muscled person who built his whole life around being strong and muscular. That is not where your body is going. There will be a time when no matter how strong you were, you will not be very strong.
Think through what the proverb is saying. It is trying to point out the temporariness of what the world says is all-important. Notice the two items that Solomon, under God's inspiration, picks as temporary – the very things that every society highly values: the pleasures of a sinful life and the power of strength and violence. Every young man and woman is taught to value these things. They internally are drawn to and impressed by these things. But the proverb teaches us that we should not be impressed by these actions and qualities.
What is interesting, also, is that this proverb does not say what will last; but it is trying to get you to think about building your life for and on something that will last – by not mentioning them. It gets you to question: What should I aim at with my life? What should I invest my time, energy, and money in? What should I try and get the most of as I live my life? It is interesting that the answers are not in this proverb, but they are throughout the book of Proverbs and the whole Bible.
The answer is given in the two great commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength and thy neighbor as thyself.
What should we aim at? What should be try and build a whole pile of? What should we invest our time, energy, and money in? Relationships – especially with God and also with the other people God puts in our lives: parents, mate, children, church members, workmates, community, finances, friends. When we are going through life, it is the quality of our relationships that determine the quality of our life. At the end of our life it is the quality of our relationships that determine the value of our relationships. The hope of the righteous is that those who are important to them would be able to live out their dreams and prosper and that God would receive worship and glory through the world that He created.
How much time are you investing in stuff that doesn't matter? How much time have you spent investing in the relationships in and around your life? When a person has a near-death experience, they always realize that every day is precious and the people in their lives are the most important.