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: