Sabbath Year

The Sabbath year is a wonderful thing. How nice it would be to take a vacation for a full year, every seven years. I can just imagine all the fun things I could do with a whole year off. That’s a blessing that is just unheard of in our day. But taking a whole year off requires faith and, in today’s economy, a lot of faith. The Sabbath year is like the tremendous blessing of not having to be anxious for anything but trusting in the Lord for everything. How wonderful it would be to enjoy such perfect peace. But that’s another treasure that takes faith to enjoy. I wonder if the Israelites really practiced the Sabbath year. But I can imagine if they did how many of them would be racked with anxiety that whole year. They may have had faith enough not to plant their fields a planting time. Perhaps it was social pressure that kept them from planting. After all, if no one else was planting and it would look like they had no faith if they did plant. So they didn’t plant their fields. But as the months went by they may have gotten restless. Fears that their food supply would not last might have crept in. They may have gone out and quickly planted a few rows of vegetables. What a big thing it would be: to trust God for a whole year of provision. It’d be like God calling you to be a missionary in a foreign land and having to trust God for financial provision, not just for yourself but also for your spouse and children and every other financial obligation. But the difference is that those who go away as missionaries normally have a somewhat greater faith than those who do not. In the case of the Sabbath year, God was commanding the entire community trust Him for a whole year every seven years. I often find it difficult to just rest a single day per week. I can hardly imagine an entire year.

But the crux of the matter, the secret to thriving in the Sabbath year, is to trust what God promised: “I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a bumper crop, enough to support you for three years” (Leviticus 25:21Open Link in New Window). Well, then, I guess the Sabbath year doesn’t require that much faith after all. If God provided me a $200,000 in the sixth year, and it was sitting in my bank account, I think I’d be able to obey Him enough to not work for the seventh year. That means that in the seventh year, the Sabbath year, the people had already received the extra blessing. They had already received a bumper crop and they had already reaped the harvest. Their granaries were topped off and their wine cellars were full. God had already provided. At that point, they didn’t even need faith. Their food supply was already in hand; they could see it with their eyes and feel it in their stomachs, each and every day. But I wonder how often the Jews kept the Sabbath year. I wonder if they still do it today. I wonder.

I wonder how the Sabbath year applies to our lives as Christians. In a sense, God has already commanded the blessing in our lives. He commanded that His Son be executed for our sakes so that we may receive the bounty of God’s forgiveness and redemption. Now we have the blessed Holy Spirit living within us. He is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance of eternal life (Ephesians 1:14Open Link in New Window). Jesus proclaimed: “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing” (John 6:63Open Link in New Window). The war has already been won for us. Sin and death is defeated and we can now rest from our striving. We lay down our heavy burdens and accept the light burden of the Lord. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28Open Link in New Window). He wants to us to enter into His rest. He wants us to have not only a year of Sabbath, but to enter an eternal Sabbath .

What are our heavy burdens? They may be sins. They may be other desires that block us from enjoying full fellowship with God. They may be our religious effort to please God in our hopes that we can earn His favor. That’s like the Israelite who went out into the fields to plant vegetables in the Sabbath year. He didn’t fully believe that God’s bountiful harvest from the sixth year would last until the harvest of the eighth year. So he went out to plant more crops. We’re like that when we try to do religious works and expect those things to redeem us more than the powerful blood of Jesus, which God has already provided. But God knows that we are of little faith. That’s why Jesus continued gently by saying, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29-30Open Link in New Window). He wants us to surrender our sins and religious works and sit at His feet, resting and listening to His teaching, just like Mary did (Luke 10:42Open Link in New Window). He wants us to lay down all our burdens and enter into His forever Sabbath. But that yoke he talked about is a yoke of submission. It’s about bending our neck and letting Him put His yoke upon it. That is the only way we can truly learn from Him. That is the only way we can trade our heavy burdens for His light burden. There is only one way to the Father and that’s through the Son. And the only way to learn from Him is to humble ourselves and submit to His yoke, His Lordship. Psalm 25Open Link in New Window says that the Lord “leads the humble in what is right” and that “friendship with the LORD is reserved for those who fear Him.” Our only responsibility is to fear God, to trust Him and to humble ourselves before Him. Then he not only teaches us to way to true peace and rest, but also extends His friendship and love to us as well.

Sabbath is a wonderful thing. Lord, please teach me to enter into Your eternal rest. I humble myself before You. I desperately want to learn from You and be free from all my wicked ways. I want to please You and honor You. Lord, You know that I can’t do this with my own strength. I can only trust in the power of Your precious blood. Lord, please let Your blood cover me. Help me to trust in the power of Your blood and to cease my striving. 

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