Hope implies an expectation of something good. When you and I hope for something, we have at least a slight expectation that it will happen. When it comes to our faith, hope is the confident expectation that what God has promised will come to pass, and the strength of our hope rests in His faithfulness alone.
There have always been seasons of hope and expectation in the history of Israel, and they have often been sandwiched in the midst of troublesome times. We've seen this in the story of Ezra-Nehemiah and we see it now.
We have been in a season of expectation, not only in 2020, but right now on the biblical calendar. This is a time referred to as the counting of the Omer. It is the span of days between Passover and Pentecost (Hebrew = Shavuot) when God reminds His people to count 49 days until the day of the wheat harvest, which would occur on the 50th day. On that day, the Jewish people were then to bring an offering to the Lord of the first fruits from their harvest (Leviticus 23:15-22). It was a time of waiting and expectation for the harvest yet to come. Tonight, at sunset begins that appointed time on God's calendar, and this should fill our hearts with hope and expectation!
But why? As Believers in Jesus in the 21st century, how can counting up toward a wheat harvest festival hold any significance for us?
Traditionally, Shavuot commemorates the day God gave His teaching, instruction and commandments (The Torah) through Moses to His people Israel (Exodus 19-Leviticus). In unity, the people were gathered together at the base of the mountain when the awesome presence of the Lord descended on Mount Sinai in fire, and the people were covered in a blanket of smoke as His presence ascended like the smoke of a furnace. The mountain shook as God drew Moses to climb it in order to cut a covenant with His people, setting them apart for Himself as He is set apart, and then Moses came down to speak God's words to His people. The people waited for Moses to come down from the mountain with God's words for them.
We also remember Shavuot as the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and power upon the disciples (Acts 2). That too was an awesome day. After waiting and counting the Omer, on day 50, the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the place where they were waiting with expectation for the "promise of the Father," though they didn't know exactly what to expect. Tongues like fire rested on the heads of those who were gathered in unity, and then, suddenly, new, unlearned languages poured forth from their lips, as they declared the praises of Adonai to the Jews from many surrounding nations who were gathered in Jerusalem for the pilgrimage Feast of Shavuot! A great harvest followed, though this time, not of wheat, but of people, just as Yeshua, Jesus, had promised!
Those are two examples of significant events that occurred on Shavuot. Perhaps we've just uncovered another melody and harmony line in God's prophetic song. But what about the 3rd voice? Where is the string of notes that rounds out this piece and brings it to its peak, its fulness, a beautiful conclusion?
We are living in unprecedented times, and none of us knows what tomorrow holds. I can hardly keep straight if I'm supposed to stay inside except to go outside and if I go outside, should I wear a mask and gloves? Yes, a mask, but that will only protect others if I'm sick and gloves yes, but if I touch something that has COVID on it and then touch something else that someone else eventually touches and then gets sick, will my efforts have been in vain? Such a balagan! (Hebrew for chaos or a state of extreme confusion or disorder)
And so, how in the world with all this craziness, how are we to be thinking about what God might do on Shavuot this year? Well, it just might be worth our while since we're in a holding pattern of waiting. And, after all, we are called to lay aside the distractions of this world and set our minds on things above where we are truly seated with Him in heavenly places (Luke 8:14; Colossians 3:2-4).
Let's review what we know about significant events in the history of our faith that have occurred on appointed days on God's calendar. The death of Jesus happened on Passover. His resurrection? On first fruits. His ascension? During the Counting of the Omer. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Shavuot. Doesn't it make you curious about what might be in the mind of our awesome God during this season, and in particular, as we approach this Shavuot 2020? Could we be entering the future time spoken of by Paul in Romans 11 when all Israel shall be saved, the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled and the return of Yeshua nearer than when we first believed? Yikes - that's a lot to ponder! Still, the Jewish people at the base of Mount Sinai couldn't possibly have pictured what God would do for them on a certain Shavuot in the future either, I'd venture (Acts 2). So, is it any wonder why we would have a hard time seeing it now?
As we return to God's story of hope and expectation found in Ezra-Nehemiah, let us listen ever so intently and so that we might zoom out from the small brush strokes our Creator has used since the beginning of time to view the broader picture of His story, the full measure of His song. May we glimpse the unbridled object of His affection and the great lengths to which He will go to recapture the love and obedience of the human heart. Who knows, we just might find another reason to have high expectations in this season.
Prayer: Abba, today, please plant in me an expectation for what You plan to do in this season. Please prepare my heart and ready my spirit for this season’s harvest and for Your return, revealing to me the role you have for me to play in it.
- Has your heart become discouraged and your spirit dull as you've waited for the promise of your Father? Ask the Lord to come heal those places of your heart today and give you eyes to see what He sees, the overarching plan of how He is causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Write down for the record how He encourages you to raise your expectations and set your eyes on Him.
- How can you reach out to someone today – a neighbor, stranger, friend or family member – and encourage them to put their trust in the Hope of the Scriptures and the Author of their pages? There is no promise God has given to His people Israel and to the Nations that has not or will not come to pass. This is good news and can give others a sure expectation of the future when they put their trust in Him!
Click to learn more about what the significance of Shavuot/Pentecost and why it's important for Believers in Jesus in the 21st century: https://www.jewishvoice.org/read/blog/between-passover-and-pentecost-waiting-expectation-w-pastor-mike-rabbi-joshua