Life is getting increasingly difficult for so many people. Covid is still around but we now have the added challenge of cost of living increases which are causing some to struggle to make ends meet. In this context I have been reflecting on the manna, special bread, given in the wilderness as described in Exodus 16. There were special rules for gathering it, you could only gather enough for the day (no surplus) except the day before the Sabbath when twice the amount could be gathered because there would be no manna available on the Sabbath day.
24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” Exodus 16
What I have been pondering is the obvious importance given to Sabbath, taking time off from work and resting, even in the most extreme of circumstances. Being in the wilderness having to collect white stuff falling from the sky seems extreme to me, yet even so God insists on taking time off to rest. Why was this so important, why did it trump everything else?
I think it was because God wanted to instil in his people the importance of living in a different way than they had lived in Egypt. In Egypt their whole lives were built around work, no respite, they had to make bricks every single day of their lives. They had been miraculously set free from slavery and the sign of that was a day each week when they didn’t work but rested and appreciated all that God had done for them. He showed that they didn’t need to work because he gave them enough provision without having to work every single day. He didn’t give them surplus, but he gave them enough.
Having been used to a slave mindset where everything was about work God knew how important it was that they learnt to live in the freedom he had won for them.
I have been pondering this because I believe we still battle with a slave mindset and can find it difficult to take time off. To take a day a week, then extended times at other times (the equivalent of the Jewish Festivals) when we stop working and trust in the provision of God. To set aside time to appreciate God and His creation. In challenging economic times, the battle is even harder.
Thorough out my childhood the phrase 6 to 2 was important, it was the shift that my father would work every Saturday and Sunday in addition to his normal Monday to Friday work. This paid for our holidays we were told. Looking back to my childhood I wonder if my father got it right. Working 7 days a week meant we didn’t have the time with him we would have otherwise. My brother and I missed out; I think my father missed out too.
It is not just my father, I think many of us struggle to relax and take time off, to not think about work but to rest. To celebrate the provision of God, to recognise that we are no longer slaves but free people, to trust his provision. I suspect the lesson God was trying to teach the children of God in the wilderness still needs to be learnt. Not least by myself.
There are different reasons we struggle to take time off, to relax. It can be economic, we think we need to work crazy hours to make ends meet or to have the lifestyle we desire; it can be that we get our identity from work and from success in the workplace, this drives us on; it can be a wrong view of what serving God is like, thinking he is a master like Pharoah constantly demanding from us.
Whatever the reason I think that God wants to release us into the freedom that he has won for us, and to do this we need to win the battle to rest. To trust that God’s way is the best way.