Year of RELEASE
Number 7 in the Bible is a very significant number and it has been coined by early church fathers as God’s number. It signifies a number of completion, restoration, of release, of regeneration, of REST! Interestingly enough, science shows that the average age of a cell is 7 years and that our body cells completely regenerate every 7 years. Not a coincidence I believe! The cycle of sevens in the Scripture begins with the Creation account where God breathes into existence with the power His Word all of creation. After 6 days of exhaling life on the seventh day, He rested. He breathed in His good work.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The cycle of sevens still exists today. We mark our calendars with a cycle of seven through our weekly seven days which originated from this pattern - Sunday through Saturday.
The Jewish people in the Old Covenant in the time of Moses when they were delivered from slavery in Egypt, were commanded by the Lord to keep the seventh day “holy” or set apart and that they should observe what we now know as “Sabbath” or in Hebrew “shavat’ which literally means to stop. It’s a day of rest.. to seize from work. God commands REST. Isn't that wonderful?! So important that it made the top 10 list of God's laws in Mt.Sinai.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Don’t you love that? Aren’t you glad that our God is not a brutal taskmaster? He commands rest. Why? Because He is a God of rest.
(Take note restfulness is not equivalent to laziness)
Rest is called rest because work was done. This is the rhythm of life... the balance and healthy rhythm of work and rest. Of breathing in and breathing out. REST and FREEDOM The command to practice the Sabbath was a sign for the people of Israel that they have been released or set free from slavery. They were slaves in Egypt and slaves don’t have a day off. God tells them to rest because they are NO LONGER SLAVES. If you are not resting, you are a slave. To rest is to breathe.. some of us are barely breathing… because we are all just caught up with the fast pace, high demand and daily grind of modern life. Have you ever heard the expression: “I need to catch my breath!”? THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THIS MODERN LIFE THAT IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO HUMAN FLOURISHING AND THE RESTORATION OF OUR SOUL. More and more, it’s getting harder to find rest. Some of us, no matter how much amount of sleep you get, no matter how expensive your bed is no matter how much entertainment is available to us, no matter how many holidays we take, you still feel tired...restless… Saint Augustine in one of his recorded prayer:
“Our heart will remain restless until it rests in You…”
There are two tendencies that have come into play in our modern lives. First is that, in our secularised Post-modern/Post Christian society, God was removed from our work and God was removed from our rest. The second tendency is, in pursuit of the "American Dream" and the pressure of the materialistic and capitalistic society we have been brainwashed with, people have overworked and had no regard for rest. Either of the two are detrimental.
I don’t need to give you the statistics of mental health issues that has so significantly risen in the past 2 decades. Thanks to the contribution of social media and the internet to the dramatic escalation of these trends. A lot of the deaths and sicknesses recorded over the last few years are stress-related and problems that arise out of these 2 tendencies. But as Christians, we are called to live differently. These are 3 reasons why God commands the discipline of rest and why we should keep it.:
1. Rhythm of Creation
God has woven Sabbath into the rhythm of Creation. Look at the plants and trees and all creation. There is a rhythm of bearing fruit and generating an internal source to bear it. Animals follow this rhythm and there is morning and there is evening... There is a coming in and going out. We were meant to work but we were also meant to rest. Why do you think God created our bodily systems to shut down through sleep? We are designed to be asleep in approximately a third of our lives. This rhythm is God's wisdom and a reflection also of His nature. Even Jesus slept on a boat and oftentimes withdrawn to a quiet place to rest.. to pray to commune with His Father.. to enjoy creation.
2. Sign of Redemption (Slavery to Freedom)
The cycle of sevens include the Sabbath Year (7th Year - The Year of Release) and the year of Jubilee
Exodus 13:17 says:
It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
3. Act of FAITH and TRUST
Why are we struggling to stop. A lot of us are working non-stop because we are fuelled by either fear (of not having enough) or by pride (of proving to be enough).
But the practice of REST is an act of LETTING GO.. of believing that even if I seize work today, God will still take care of me. We are commended by God to stop and pause to focus on Him. Give God the opportunity to take care of you!
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy...
Sabbath is a gift… and it is a form of worship. I know we might ask: AS A NEW COVENANT BELIEVER ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE SABBATH LAWS STRICTLY? The answer lies in the question; WHAT DID JESUS DO WITH IT? When JESUS begins His public ministry it was approaching the year of Jubilee (The Sabbath of the Sabbaths).
Leviticus 25 8 “‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.
Tha Sabbatical Laws in the Old Testament ultimately point to JESUS and while He was fulfilling His mission on earth, He claimed that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
JESUS is OUR SABBATH. Our restlessness ends when we come and yield to Him.
From that point on JESUS went to fulfil the exact same things He said He would..
- proclaim goodness to the poor
- proclaim freedom for the captives
- to open the eyes of the blind
- to set the oppressed free
- to proclaim the year of Jubilee
Interesting enough, Jesus and His disciples, under the scrutiny of the Religious Leaders at that time, always found themselves criticised and in trouble for “breaking the Sabbath laws”
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
We are to keep the principle of rest as divinely designed and woven by God to His creation. Whenever we do it we honour Him and we do good to ourselves. REST is God's gift to us. But the strict rules and ceremonies of the Old Testament and the unnecessary layers of policies added by the Pharisees in the first century no longer need be applied. JESUS is OUR SABBATH and we come to Him - in His Presence no matter what day it is to receive rest.
Matthew 11 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (release/freedom). 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,
We might ask why do we hold our Worship Services on a Sunday rather than on a Saturday?To be honest, it doesn't really matter what day we go to Church. Followers of JESUS in the first century doesn't have a "Sunday Service" because they gathered EVERYDAY and as much as they can to celebrate their salvation and disciple those who are new to faith. Unfortunately, we have made Christianity a religion and we have boxed worship to Sundays only. On the DAY OF ATONEMENT in the year of Jubilee - The Sabbath of Sabbaths, Jesus raises a glass of wine and took bread…
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The Sabbath was a sign pointing to what JESUS is going to do on the cross! He will set captives FREE and CANCEL ALL OUR DEBTS!
Sabbath was meant to show us we are weak, enslaved and in debt and we needed rescue. So He came... to be Our Saviour! JESUS died on the Passover. On the Sabbath day His body RESTED on the tomb. And on the eighth day - the First Day of the Week He resurrected to inaugurate the start of the New Creation…a Creation that will perpetually experience His Release - to those who will let Him!!!
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: 1. What has been you favourite holiday experience so far? Why was it memorable? 2. What have you realised and learned in this Sunday's message?
3. What is Sabbath? (Refer to Leviticus 25) 4. Why did God command Sabbath rest to the Israelites? 5. What's the relationship of Sabbath with JESUS? 6. What is the essence of Sabbath according to Jesus? 7. How is it relevant in our lives and why is RESTING in HIM important for us practice?