Most of us have probably heard the song by John Lennon entitled “Imagine”. The words of this song has caused a lot of controversy over the years and may indeed be the main reason why Lennon was shot dead by Mark Chapman in 1980, when Lennon was only 40 years old. Chapman claimed that he was a born again Christian and therefore he could not come to grips with Lennon’s well-known statement that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”. Nobody should be “more popular than Jesus”, he said. Having been a devoted fan of Lennon before, Chapman referred to Lennon’s song “Imagine”, in particular, and critisized Lennon for telling people to “imagine no possessions” when Lennon was enjoying his millions while others, like Chapman himself, were struggling financially and “believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around (Lennon’s) music”.
The words of the song “Imagine” seem almost like a challenge NOT to believe the truths of Scriptures: “Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try, No hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people, Living for today… Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace… Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world…” And then the invitation to those listening to this song, to join Lennon and others who think like him: “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one”.
Scripturally speaking, we are currently in the time slot between Pesach and Shavuot. For the people of Yisrael in the days of Mosheh, this was the time slot between Mitzraim (Egypt) and Sinai. The time between the eating of unleavened bread and receiving the Torah of Yahweh, which was considered to be the bread of life. When still at Mitzraim (Egypt), their vision was limited and their hopes were shattered. Their lives were characterized by bondage, oppression and even hopelessness and depression. But Pesach and the time after Pesach, up to the time when they received the Torah at Sinai, was a time of hope and expectation. The receiving of the Torah at Sinai was never understood or experienced as something that brings a yoke and a burden upon people – this kind of understanding only came much later when the Christian pioneers tried to bring about a wedge of suspicion and a wall of separation between Christianity and Judaism.
It is quite interesting that the Torah commands that the days between Pesach or Unleavened Bread and Shavuot should be counted – even though it is a known fact that there are exactly 50 days between the Day of the First Fruit Wave Offering (which falls in the Week of Unleavened Bread) and the Day of Shavuot. Why should we bother counting if we know it is going to be exactly 50 days? Because there is something more in counting, than just counting! One of the words for “counting” in Hebrew is “chashav”. Dictionaries explain the meaning of “chashav” as follows: “To count, to consider, to think, to value, to compute; but also to purpose, to devise, to plan, to invent, to fabricate and to imagine”. Noticeable here is the word “imagine”. There is something special in the counting of the days between Unleavened Bread and Shavuot. It is not only about the counting of THIS day. It is also about the imagining of some day or days that are still to come. It is part and parcel of the Torah and the teaching of Scriptures as a whole, to understand the dynamics of thinking about the future, considering the purpose and the plan of life, valuing and computing the dimensions of hope that gives meaning to life and imagining the things yet to come.
The concepts of “imagining” and “devising” and “fabricating” are often used in a negative sense in Scriptures, and in that sense we are not encouraged to make use of these practices. These concepts are often used in these sense of plotting and planning evil against others. Here are a few examples:
Ps 35:4 Let those be ashamed and blush who seek my life; let those be turned back and abashed who plot evil to me.
Ps 140:2 Men of violence have devised evils in their hearts; they stir up conflicts all day long.
Neh 6:2 They said to me, “Come, let us meet together in the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to do evil to me.
One dictionary provides the following definition of the word “imagination”: “The faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses”. Now here is something that is worth looking into! Ideas, images and concepts (that may be real!) that are not within reach of the normal senses, at this very moment. Is this not what the author of the Book of Hebrews was talking about when he said “And belief is the substance of what is expected, the proof of what is not seen (Heb 11:1) … in belief all these (like Noach and Avraham and Sarah) died, not having received the promises, but seeing them from a distance, welcomed and embraced them, and confessed that they were aliens and strangers on the earth” (Heb 11:13)? In a sense imagination is the capacity to visualize and it makes one hopeful, and even confident, of a reality that is not part of our experience at this very moment, but an experience that is based upon the promises of the Almighty. This kind of imagination refuses to let the senses dictate or determine the limits of what is possible. It also refuses to let the senses determine the limits of what is real. It chooses to allow Yahweh and his Word to determine what is real and what is not real. Just listen to these words from Tehillim (Psalm) 10:2-4: “In arrogance the wrongdoer hotly pursues the poor; they are caught by the schemes which they devised. For the wrongdoer boasted of his cravings; and the greedy one cursed and despised Yahweh. In the pride of his face the wrongdoer does not seek Him, in all his thoughts there is no Elohim!” May it not be said of us that in our thoughts and in our imagination there is no place for Elohim.
In this regard one may think of Taóma (Thomas), one of the 12 disciples, who said that he would never believe unless he could see the nail marks on Y’shua’s hands and put his hand in the wound on Y’shua’s side. Y’shua’s answer to him was this: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. There are times when we clearly need to use our imagination in order to grasp fully what Scriptures are trying to convey to us.
In 1 Cor 2:9 the apostle Shaúl (Paul) makes an amazing statement: “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor have entered into the heart of man what Elohim has prepared for those who love Him”. Once again it becomes clear: our senses should not have the final word. What Elohim has prepared for us often goes far beyond the boundaries set by our senses. Let us, as believers and even as wannabe believers, therefore use our imaginations – not to imagine a world without heaven or hell or a world without wars and religions or a world without possessions, like John Lennon imagined in his song – but let us imagine those things set before us by Yahweh the Almighty, based upon the integrity and the truthfulness of the Rock of Ages, even if these things cannot be seen with the naked eye. Let us use our imagination to hope upon and to pray for and to delight and find courage in those many words of promise in Scriptures – words about the resurrection that lies ahead, words about the kingdom that is to come, words about the righteousness and prosperity and salvation that Yahweh promised to bring about, words about an inheritance set aside for the righteous ones that cannot be compared to anything this world has ever seen!
Rom 8:18-25 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the esteem that is to be revealed in us. For the intense longing of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of Elohim. For the creation was subjected to futility, not from choice, but because of Him who subjected it, in anticipation, that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage to corruption into the esteemed freedom of the children of Elohim. For we know that all the creation groans together, and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only so, but even we ourselves who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we ourselves also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For in this expectation we were saved, but expectation that is seen is not expectation, for when anyone sees, does he expect it? And if we expect what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.