“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:27)
Israel’s Shabbat practice looked backed to God’s rest on the seventh day of creation while looking forward to the perfect and finished work of Jesus at the cross. In the present age the believer can rest in the perfect and finished work of Jesus now through faith. In the Age to Come, Shabbat Shalom will be enjoyed by all of restored creation, including the nations.
By resting one day in seven, Israel declares the economic realm will not be the determining factor in their lives. They can take one day off in seven because God is the provider and will provide abundantly even if one seventh of life is given to worship, fellowship, and celebration. Of course, with the other designated times, it is much more than one seventh. When we add in Sabbath years, we see Israel was called to an extraordinary level of faith in God’s provision instead of working in bondage to the economic realm. The Sabbath is proclaimed as a covenant sign for a way of life that honors God.
Sabbath rest is a sign of the will of God for all peoples. It is God’s intention that all be liberated from the bondage of slavery, both literally (externally) and spiritually (internally) from the soul bondage that destroys our peace and happiness. The Sabbath is a foreshadowing of the Age to Come and the universal Promised Land where all will live in the peace and rest of God. The Hebrew word shalom is a key term, defined as wholeness, peace, and well-being. By being reconciled to God and living by the power of His Spirit, we enter into the rest of faith (Hebrews 4). The Sabbath foreshadows one day all nations will enter into God’s rest. Sabbath observance is an intercessory action for the sake of all nations, releasing the power of God to move history toward this goal. —(Daniel Juster, The Irrevocable Calling)
The practice of Sabbath has always been a controversial topic. Many argue over how and when a new covenant believer should practice Sabbath. I’m actually not going to answer that for you. Rather, I’d like to delve into what is God’s heart on the matter. Sabbath practice, historically, is not limited to one day per week. It includes the numerous festivals, such as Passover and Tabernacles. In addition, there is the Sabbath year, which is called Shmita, which in Hebrew literally translates to “release.” Just as God instituted a day of rest on the seventh day, so too did he declare a year of rest, one out of every seven. This year of rest is consecrated to God, and Israel had to depend on His supernatural grace for their very survival, just as they received manna in the desert. God promised to perform a miracle of abundance, so that the harvest in the sixth year would be enough to sustain them through the seventh while the land lay fallow and was replenished. This was meant be a perpetual witness to God’s role as provider.
During the Sabbath year, slaves were set free (Exodus 21:2-6), all debts within Israel were cancelled (Deuteronomy 15:1-6), while the land was not to be ploughed or harvested at all, but whatever grew naturally could be consumed by the poor (Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7). What a beautiful picture of God’s grace: supernatural provision and release from all captivity, debt and poverty. These are but types and shadows of what we may enjoy today under the new covenant with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In addition to all this is the year of Jubilee, to be celebrated every 50th year (Leviticus 25:8-13). Here is a double portion of rest and blessing, since the 49th year is a multiple of 7, Israel would rely on God’s supernatural provision for two years in a row, both the Shmita on year 49 and the year of Jubilee on year 50. Note that Israel never really practiced Jubilee faithfully. In fact, there is no historical evidence that Jubilee was celebrated at all, not even once. So why did God institute it if Israel was never going to do it? Because all Scripture is God-breathed for our instruction. The rest of Sabbath, the release of Shmita, the supernatural abundance of Jubilee is all to foreshadow and model what we have in this magnificent soteria provided by our Lord Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. Yes, Jesus declared it in front of his hometown synagogue when he read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Oh, hear the Lord’s voice in your heart. He has declared Jubilee long ago and He is waiting patiently for His people to take it, to possess it, to walk it out. Not just one day per week, or one year in seven or one year in fifty. Perpetually. Agree with the Spirit inspired words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It was now when Jesus declared it in the synagogue at Nazareth. It was now when Paul repeated it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, my friend, I’m here to tell you the time is now for Sabbath rest to be your daily experience, for the release of Shmita to free you from all bondage and debt. The supernatural abundance of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor, is upon you. Don’t let His grace to you be in vain, take it now by faith in Jesus’ name.