One of my daily scripture readings this week was Ezekiel 20. I was surprised by what I read.
God speaks through His prophet explaining the reasons for his judgement on the people of Israel.
He explains what he had done for Israel,
Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live. Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.
And then how Israel responded
They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness.
He keeps repeating this throughout the prophecy, again and again he says he gave Israel the laws and the sabbath, but they have continually rebelled in each generation by ignoring the law and desecrating the Sabbath.
What surprised me was the emphasis on the Sabbath, how important keeping the Sabbath holy, not desecrating it, was to God. It caused me to reflect on is it as important to me? To the church?
I considered what does it mean to keep the Sabbath? Is it just about not shopping on a Sunday, and spending a whole day at Church or at least focusing on God? All I have read over recent years have convinced that is not what it is about.
Israel whilst in Egypt were slaves, they had to work every day to survive. They were now free. However, it is not straightforward to live in that freedom, their only experience was as slaves. Hence the Sabbath, a day when you no longer work. A day when you live in freedom, no longer wanting or needing to earn money, or status or respect or anything else we work for. A day where you celebrate that you are no longer a slave.
Israel did not live in that freedom; they were unable to celebrate what God had done for them. That was what was so important to God, that they no longer lived as slaves but as people living in the freedom won for them by God. That is what this prophecy and others means when it gives such an emphasis on the Sabbath.
This brings me back to how important is it to me? To us? Do I live in the freedom that Christ has won for me? Am I able to celebrate that or am I continually drawn back to live as a slave? Do I feel I have to spend all the time working for money, status, respect, value etc? Embracing Sabbath is an indication, a sign that I am living differently to those caught up in the madness, the slavery of our world.
God thinks this is important. I need to ensure I do too.