Monday, October 8, 2012

Exodus 23:10-13 Remembering the Sabbath and Honoring God

"For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops,
but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.
Then the poor among your people may get food from it,
and the wild animals may eat what they leave.
Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work,
so that your ox and your donkey may rest
and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.

Be careful to do everything I have said to you.
Do not invoke the names of other gods;
do not let them be heard on your lips."

Exodus 23:10-13 (NIV)

First I thought that this section was about several different things:  farming practices, concern for the poor, keeping the Sabbath and honoring God alone as God.  However, it is actually more about one thing:  honoring God.  These diverse ideas all come together for the Israelites in this passage.

Farming practices  Although it may have seemed strange to the Israelites to have to let their fields lie fallow in the seventh year, God knew what He was doing.  Allowing the land to lie unplowed and unused would prevent the soil from being depleted of its nutrients.

Social Concerns  Leaving the fields unplowed allowed the poor to be provided with sustenance.  They could gather any food which grew in the fallow fields, while still retaining some dignity in the process.  Even wild animals could benefit from the leftovers.

Sabbath Rest  The Israelites were required to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath day.  This day was set aside to remind the Israelites that God was their Creator, and that He was the One who provided them with life and everything which they needed.  This was also a day of rest for man and beast alike.

Honor God Alone God was constantly reminding the Israelites that He was the only true God.  They were to carefully follow the laws which He had given them.  The names of other so-called 'gods' were not even to be spoken.  I suppose that this is because God has already told them that He is the only God, so the idea of other 'gods' was blasphemy.  He will not share His glory with them.  (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)  Also, if the names of these other gods were to come up in everyday conversations, perhaps it would lead others astray, for they might want to know more about these other 'gods' which the people around them worshiped.

Taken as a whole, this passage reveals that every aspect in the life of a believer in God comes together around Him.  If the Israelites followed the ways which God commanded, their fields would be productive, their poor provided for with dignity, wild animals sustained, and everyone (except the wild animals) would remain conscious of the fact that it was only by God's provision that they obtained their food.  The Sabbath would allow for rest for man and beast alike, and people would have a weekly time to reflect upon their Creator as the only true God.  Other 'gods' would not be consulted or even spoken about, lest God be blasphemed or anyone led astray.

That is the amazing thing about our God.  He is all-powerful and all-knowing, and able to lead us through the delicately interconnected aspects of our world in a way that not only brings glory to Him, but also is the best way for us to live a full, productive life.  No wonder Paul cried out in the New Testament letter of  Romans:

"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."
Romans 11:33-36 (NIV)

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