Simplicity Series #44
Sabbath Series—Part 4 continued

The Sabbath Reveals the Providential Care of God

 

In our previous three posts we have seen how the weekly Sabbath reveals the love and grace of God, and how the seven annual Feasts/Sabbaths reveal the redemptive plan of God. Now we turn our attention to the annual Sabbath, or the sabbatical year.

The Sabbatical Year

“And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.”
Leviticus 25:1–4

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, and the seven annual feasts/Sabbaths, Israel was to observe a sabbatical year. Imagine: no field work, no planting or harvesting—just a year of rest and observance of the goodness of God. Like all the Sabbaths, this was a time for physical and spiritual renovation, and focus on gratitude to God for His grace.

The natural human inclination would be to question how the people would survive for a year without planting and harvesting. The answer is twofold: first, while they could not plant and harvest, they could gather for their daily needs what grew of its own accord (Lev. 25: 5–6). Also, God promised to provide a bumper harvest on the sixth year to carry them through the sabbatical year (v. 18–22).

Therefore, the sabbatical year was a test of faith in the providential care of God. As we will see, the Israelites failed in this regard. They simply refused to believe in the super-abundant grace of God.

The Sabbath Year Enforced

Israel’s failure over the years to observe the sabbatical year had severe consequences. Speaking of the Babylonian captivity, the author of Chronicles relates it to Israel’s refusal to keep her sabbatical years.

“And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers … because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people … therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans … And those who escaped from the sword he carried away into Babylon … to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11–12; 29:10–11; Dan. 9:2), until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
2 Chronicles 36:15–21

Since Israel entered the land, they had ignored God’s command regarding the sabbatical year. For 490 years, they failed to observe the sabbatical year, thus adding up a debt of 70 years. This is a perfect example of what God has given for blessing being turned into cursing by the rebellion of His people. Because they gave the land no rest, the Lord gave them no rest, but the land rested.

In each of the Sabbath observations, there is a three-fold theme that runs through them: rest, reflection, and rejoicing. Consider that every male was to attend three feasts in Jerusalem each year: the Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deu. 16:16–17).

If a man came to Jerusalem for Passover from afar, it is unlikely he would return home, only to come back for Pentecost. This means he would be in Jerusalem for roughly sixty days each spring. Then it would be also likely, if he were to attend Tabernacles, he would arrive on the Feast of Trumpets, so as to take in the entire “holy days,” making at least another three-week celebration in the Fall.

That adds up to almost three months out of the year dedicated to spiritual celebration! And that doesn’t include the weekly Sabbaths. Remember that I said in the first post, “The Lord loves a good party.” But these times were designed to illustrate the spiritual rest enjoyed by those who live by faith.

The Providential Care of God

The sabbatical year was an opportunity for the children of Israel to trust in the faithfulness of God to supernaturally provide all their needs. We observe their failure in this area, and yet how often do we doubt His ability, not only to “supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phi. 4:19), but also to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20).

As we learn about the Sabbath rests of ancient Israel, we need to consider that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

For the Sabbaths of Israel not only reveal God’s plan of redemption, but they also show the face of our Redeemer. The seven annual feasts point us to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (Psa. 22; John10:10–11). The sabbatical year reveals Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd, who provides every need of the sheep (Psa. 23; Heb. 13:20–21). In our next study, we will see our Lord as the Chief Shepherd, who is coming with power and glory (Psa. 24; 1 Pet. 5:1–4).

We will consider one of the greatest lessons of the Sabbath-rest in our next post. It will reveal to us how God in His grace is able to even overcome our failures of the past, and how He is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25; see also Joel 1:4). In other words, God is not only able to turn what was given for blessing into cursing, He is even more able and willing to turn our cursing into rich blessing.

See you next post. Keep resting!
Gene



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