Scripture: Nehemiah 13:15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys; and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day; and I warned them at that time against selling food. 16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of merchandise and sold them on the sabbath to the people of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17 Then I remonstrated with the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the sabbath day? 18 Did not your ancestors act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.”
Observation: One of the main challenges for God’s people throughout their history was their tendency to mix with people of other nations, with non-Jewish people. Why was this a problem? Because Gentiles brought with them faith practices of their own, practices that went counter to the will and ways of God. In this instance Nehemiah rebuked the nobles of Jerusalem who not only allowed work/commerce to be done on the Sabbath, but often participated in it themselves. To remedy the problem, Nehemiah ordered that the city gates be closed completely on the Sabbath to ensure commerce and trade would not take place.
Application: If you read this blog regularly you know that I’ve been learning the practice of Sabbath as a discipline during the season of Lent. Sabbath is when we take one day in seven and give it to God. It’s a day of rest, but it’s also a time to intentionally focus on my connection to God. So I generally spend much of the day in scripture, prayer, worship, renewing fellowship, and so on. So far it has been a great blessing to me. I’m looking forward to another day of Sabbath tomorrow.
One of the greatest challenges to successfully keeping the Sabbath is doing so in a world that does not honor Sabbath. So far as I can tell, Sabbath was never intended to be an individual activity. It was a communal experience of the nation of Israel signifying their core identity as children of God. There was lots of support and lots of accountability in that communal experience. Today we basically have neither. There are days when I wish, like Nehemiah, I could shut down the world to keep the Sabbath with me, but that’s obviously out of the question. So this morning I’m praying to the Lord to give me grace that I might keep the Sabbath anyway.
What parts of your Christian life force you to go against the grain?
Prayer: Heavenly Father teach your children to live according to your will and your ways. In other words, teach us how to live against the grain of culture. Apart from you, and the power of your Spirit, we cannot do it. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.