This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD's Passover. Exodus 12:11
After the Israelites cried out to God for help, God freed them. We know this story well. That is what God did, and in an amazing way; but that is not the part of the story I am writing about. The story I am writing about is the one in which the Israelites live in anticipation. We don’t know as much about this story before the Israelites are freed, nothing really, except what we deduce by comparison with our own experience. Moses did not ask God to answer the question “Why?” as did Charlton Heston in the film The Ten Commandments. The only information we have about this is us.
Our English word ‘anticipate’ comes from a Latin word ‘anticipare’, which meant to ‘take care of ahead of time’—or, literally, ‘taking into possession beforehand.’ Originally, ‘anticipation’ had to do with action and preparation, not the feeling of anxiety and waiting we associate with it today. So, we assume that the Israelites lived in a torturous state of waiting, always feeling and never acting, and for some, that is most likely true.
When God told the Israelites how to eat the lamb, God gave them a recipe of anticipation: how to get ready and what to expect. And what should they have expected? God. God was going to act, God was acting. The children of Israel were being told to take possession of God’s actions beforehand, to own—in a way—what God was about to do before God did it because they knew that God was already doing and would continue.
Scriptures’ instruction to live in a state of anticipation is constant: Abraham and Sarah, Noah building the Ark, Nehemiah and the walls, Ruth following Naomi, all through to John on Patmos. Our lives of spirit and faith are in constant conflict with our lives of flesh and culture, just as it was for the Israelites. Culture tells to “be afraid, be very afraid,” to “feel our way through,” and not to “count our chickens until they are hatched” (an oldie but a goodie). Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to “believe in God, believe also in me,” “I Am the Alpha and the Omega,” and that “all things are possible for God.”
We are worried about the reintegration, we are worried about the fighting, and we feel anxious about many things. God tells us that amidst the ‘varied changes and chances of this life’ he is always with us, even to the end of the age. God tells us to live our lives as if we have already received the gift of eternal life and to know that we are loved and precious—because we have and we are.
We may be living in a time where uncertainty and transition are the cultural norm, but we are also living lives of faith where the Holy Spirit is in action and the hand of God is constant. We must live lives of action, witnessing to the real presence of God in and through everything. Waiting on the Lord was never just waiting, it was anticipating the wondrous and the miraculous that we know in this moment, in the next.
Father Bill Burk†