Sunday, January 10, 2010

Enforced Sabbaths

Leviticus 25-26. God gives the people he has redeemed the gift of his laws, accompanied by rich promises of blessing. Included in these laws is the institution of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath year.

After the blessings of obedience come the punishments of disobedience. Notable in these is the 'enforced' sabbath of the land:
Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it. (Lev. 26:34-35)
I wonder how often this happens in our own lives: we push and push and refuse to rest in God (and even to rest literally!), and then, by physical limitation or circumstance, are forced to rest. This may work in the life of a student, when breaks punctuate the relentless pace of the semester, but is it really the way we are meant to live? What does it mean for our spiritual life?


  1. I thought I should add a note: I am not suggesting that God brings hardship into our lives in order to make us rest. The rest is 'enforced' rather because of other things; it is perhaps, in some way, the positive outcome of the results of disobedience. At least that's what it seems to have been for the Israelites.

  2. Mmmm. I can definitely relate to the thoughts expressed in your post. These past couple of years especially, the truth has resonated a little more strongly in my mind: not only did God command the sabbath for His own glory, but for our good. I remember hearing of a debate held on my campus; a couple close friends attended, and one came out of it lamenting the fact that the Christian hadn't addressed the atheist's attacks that included things like, "The Bible tells you not to pick up sticks." Aside from numerous contextual problems with such a statement, my friend made the point that this rule against picking up sticks on the sabbath was not to stifle human activity, but precisely to protect human activity. That is, sometimes we need to just stop picking up the sticks and take a break - then when we resume picking up sticks, we'll be ready to do a better job of it.

    Forgive my preoccupation with the stick discussion, but something about the simplicity of it draws me.

    In response to your comment on your own post, I think I will push the line a bit and suggest that sometimes God may even bring hardship into our lives in order to make us rest. Often it is not the overtly evil that distracts us from God, but the good gifts He has given us. But if we accept these good gifts to the exclusion of Christ as holding first place in our hearts, then O may God rescue us from missing out on that ultimate good!

    I end with the authoritative John Donne (;D): "Therefore that He may raise, the Lord throws down."