There’s so much in this chapter to talk about! Perhaps we should have a series of Sunday School discussions sometime about Leviticus 23 and the festivals God gave his people. There is much here for us as Christians.
Today, I’d like you to think about the Sabbath, the “festival” that begins them all and the one that marked every week of an Israelite’s life.
The Sabbath started at creation, when God rested for his work on the seventh day (Genesis 1-2). The idea was to enter into a permanent Sabbath with humanity, enjoying the fruit of God’s labor. This Sabbath was intended to be a time of celebration and joy, relishing in the good things of God.
That rest was fractured by sin, and God entered into a new kind of work. It was not the work of creation. Rather, it was the work of redemption – or, perhaps, of new creation.
The seventh-day Sabbath, then, was the sign that the people of Israel were in a covenant with the God who was making all things new. You’ll notice there was no Sabbath mandate until Mount Sinai, when the covenant was firmly established and the people were set in motion toward the Promised Land, the land of rest.
The Israelites were to stop their ordinary work each Saturday. They were to gather to celebrate their place in the covenant with God. And, it seems, they were to look forward to the time when God would complete his work of redemption, when they entered into rest in the Promised Land.
In the end, Israel never was able to enter into that rest on their own. Their sin stopped them. Read Psalm 95, for example.
And so Jesus brought the rest that the people of Israel never were able to enter into by their works. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
This is one of our cherished promises as people who follow Jesus. We follow the one who gives us rest.
And so as Christians, we enter into the rest of Jesus Christ by putting our faith in him. He gives us “rest” from our works. That is, we no longer work for our salvation. He gives it to us freely by grace. All we do is follow him.
Christians do not celebrate a Sabbath rest every Saturday because we are living in the Sabbath rest of Jesus every day of the week.
Another good passage to read today would be Hebrews 3-4.
Part of our “Sabbath” is to remember we have been given eternal life by grace. There is no “work” we must perform in order to go to heaven or to experience the full and blessed resurrection of the dead. We’ve ceased from those works.
Think today about this gift Jesus gives us. What would like be life if we weren’t living in this “Sabbath”? Pray about this, and give God your gratitude.