Friday, August 8, 2014

"They have profaned my Sabbaths" (Ezek 20)

This verse from Ezekiel 20 serves as a kind of refrain why the Lord poured out his wrath on Israel leading to their desolation and exile (Ezek 20:13, 16, 20-21, 24). "They have profaned my Sabbaths." Also at the end of 2 Chronicles, a telling summary of what had happened to the Israelites for the duration of their exile in Babylon is that the land (of Israel) kept its Sabbaths (or sabbatical years) [2 Chr 36:21). Why is it so difficult for the Israelites to keep the Lord's Sabbaths from the weekly Sabbath, sabbatical year (7th year) and the two years on the 49th and 50th year? From the time of the wilderness, the Lord had already begun to teach his people to trust him for their daily provision. When on the normal days they collected too much, the manna became stale and they had to collect the manna daily for six days. But on the sixth day, double portion was allowed and it did not go stale so that Israelites could rest on the Sabbath, 7th day and ate the portion collected on the 6th day. When they went out on the Sabbath to collect manna, there was none as the Lord rested from all his works on the 7th day and did not shower the manna on the Sabbath. Similarly on the 7th year, the Lord had promised (Lev 25-26) that he would provide double portion so that when the land rests on the Sabbatical year and the Israelites rest from their labour they are provided for with the double provision of the sixth year. The commandment coupled with promise of the Lord obviously was not heeded by most Israelites. They did not trust the Lord to provide for them. They did not rest on the sabbatical year (7th year) but tilled the land yearly because they lacked trust in the Lord to provide for them. In fact, Lev 26:10 is telling - one Sabbath principle is that we clear out from the old that is to eat from what is stored and clear the old for the new ("You will be still eating from the previous year and will have to clean out what is stored from the previous year to make room for the new" NET). But most people only know to accumulate and they never stop accumulating as Ecclesiastes writes that they are some who will make much money and gather much possessions but not enjoying them and not knowing who they will leave their fortune to. How do we keep our Sabbaths now as Christians?
I am not saying we are returning to the Law or Old Testament but the sabbatical principle still holds. In fact, as in most OT precepts it has been intensified and heightened by Christ's teaching. Now we can even sell everything and follow Christ and blessed are they who have experienced the truth of following Christ without the care for their financial well-being. Even if not everyone is called to sell everything, the sabbatical principle still applies to all. Perhaps we can consider taking longer breaks from work to study Scripture or go on a 6-month's mission work in a Third World country. We will have to use up some of our savings but as we clear out the old, new blessings will pour from the Lord. The refrain that "Sabbath unto the Lord" means we keep the Sabbath unto the Lord, doing His will, fellowshipping with Him, worshipping Him, resting in Him, waiting upon Him. In the past few days, I have learned the truth of waiting on the Lord. Today, I read from Isaiah that no eye has seen, no ear has heard nor heart perceived what the Lord has in store for him who waits on Him.

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