We’ve come a long way in this self-isolating lifestyle … too long for many of us … too comfortable for others. We’ve hammered out new bridges between us and others, we’ve learned new skills, and we’ve become creative in building our old lives at a much smaller scale, as, at the end of the day, we've had to fit it into a house or a screen. We’ve changed in the way we function and we all wonder how many of these changes will last beyond our small-box living, when much will go back to normal. Crises like this have the power to produce new ideas of what’s normal in a society and defame the old ways, but they also offer the chance to reset ourselves to some extent and refresh some of our values. Crises become beneficial, if not necessary, in this latter aspect in a society that takes no breaks voluntarily.
As I was going through my yearly Bible reading plan, I was taken this week through the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Believe it or not, when you are in isolation, even these books become excitingly interesting and intriguingly relevant for today. J This was especially true when I was reminded of the command for the Sabbatical Year in Leviticus 25:1-7. According to this, each seventh year of life in Canaan was meant to be a year-long Sabbath, imposing a rest or a reset that would have valuable and necessary implications at the theological, economic, social, and agricultural levels in Israel. No, it was not a crisis, but a God-ordained year of refreshment; thus, a precise parallel between our context and the Sabbatical Year (Seventh Year) would be erroneous.
However, I believe there are helpful characteristics of the year-long rest that could impact our approach to our own crisis. I am certain that there are lessons that God wants to teach us from this passage that go beyond temporal and cultural frames and that we must find at all times at the core of our Christian living, but they become even more imperious today as we are in a context that has already signaled long-lasting implications at all levels of life. Thus, in the next few articles, we will observe seven lessons that we should learn from the Seventh Year commanded by God in Leviticus 25:1-7. Through these lessons, I trust that we will all allow the Word of God to produce changes in us that will first be relevant in the way we approach this period of time, but will also last for the years to come.
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord." (Leviticus 25:1-2)
Resting in the Lord is a command (vv. 2,4,5)
There is not enough space here to discuss the complex theme of rest in the Bible, but it is appropriate to note that a multi-faceted rest was designed and commanded by God all throughout the Scriptures. God himself offered the example of rest (Genesis 2:1-3), which for Israel, was later regulated by the Law in the seventh day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11) and the seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-7). This was a shadowing of what was going to take place under the New Covenant, where the Law would be written in the hearts of God’s people (Jeremiah 31:33) and rest would become a constant in Christ (Matthew 11:28-39; Hebrews 4); all with the expectancy of an eternal rest in the presence of God himself (Hebrews 4:9).
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
The rest that the Bible talks about is in one regard a disconnection from the self-concerned, daily rhythm in order to refocus on God. Rest, in this way, is meant to refresh all levels of life through a more proper understanding and commitment to God. On the other hand, rest is a constant state of mind that gives one the understanding that God has ownership and control over one’s whole life. However, it is not hard to observe that we live a life in which it is progressively harder to find rest of any sort. Rest is a luxury that not many of us can afford today, while others mistake real rest for a degrading state of passivity and sloth.
We need rest in these times! Ironically, most of us are sitting around much more than before, but finding less rest. We have a slower life, but a much faster heartbeat under the stress of what tomorrow may bring (or take away) or the anger that we nourish towards our leaders. Perhaps we have been looking for rest in the wrong places, and disillusioned, we find ourselves today tired of our situation, alone, and resentful – so resentful that often even the short interactions that we might have are taken over by bursting frustrations. We lack rest and we will not find it even in a perfect economy, perfect leadership, perfect lifestyle, or perfect company, because the rest that we ultimately lack can only be found in God.
Church, where is your rest today? What do you wish was different today in your surroundings that could give you rest? Who are you blaming for your lack of rest? How are you seeking it? Let us all understand that we are commanded to find rest, and find it in the Lord. Let us all quit looking for rest in the wrong places or think that a simple change in circumstances could assure us rest, because the truth is, if we cannot find rest in the Lord today, a better tomorrow could only give us a false sense of rest, hindering us from what the unchanged God of today has promised to offer us.
May our song of social isolation and beyond be David’s Psalm 62, “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” (v.1), and our message for this hopeless world be the message of Isaiah, “You will keep in perfect peace the mind [that is] dependent [on You], for it is trusting in You.” (Isaiah 26:3). May we all find rest in God's character and His promises.
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
[End of Part I]