July 14, 2011

Friday after the Third sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 102, Judges 7:16, Lk. 7:36
Evening - Ps. 116, Neh. 13:15-22, Acts 15:31-21

Commentary

The Jewish people have seen a wonderful revival among them. They have seen the Holy City go from a decaying ruin to a secure fortress with royal protection. They have seen the Faith of the people revived, and they have seen the people return to God and to His Covenant. There has been much confession and repentance of sin, for as they heard the Law read and expounded they became mournfully aware that their ancestors had turned away from God, and their people had rejected the Covenant. They found that it was not only their ancestors who had sinned against God; they themselves were guilty. They had forsaken God. They had rejected the Covenant.

Their repentance was not in word alone. They matched their words with their deeds, keeping both the letter and the spirit of the Law of God. They rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They offered the sacrifices in faith. They kept the feasts and the fasts according to the Covenant God had made with their forefathers. They returned to the Bible and made it their rule and guide in life again. The revival is almost complete, but not quite. The first verses of Nehemiah 13 show that some of the priests were allied with the enemies of God and were giving the Levites' portion of the tithes to Tobiah (1-10). This was remedied by Nehemiah (11-14).

In tonight's reading we see that the Jews still had problems with the Sabbath. The Sabbath is about much more than going to "church" or refraining from work and worldly amusements. It was about honouring God, trusting Him to provide for physical needs, and finding joy in Him.

It honours God by devoting a full day to His service. Everything else is set aside to seek and honour God on the Sabbath. It recognises Him as God, as Lord, and Master and Owner of all things, especially the lives and property of the Jewish people.

It trusts God by putting their prosperity into His hands. Instead of spending the day working on their homes and earning a living, they spend the day with God. This means they are trusting Him to provide for them. Instead of working the farms and crops, they trust them into the care of God for the Sabbath. This also means they are seeking God instead of following an endless pursuit of the world's goods. Working seven days a week would enable them to cultivate more land, raise more crops and flocks, make more money, and become more prosperous. Devoting the Sabbath to God meant they had to be satisfied with less money, and live a simpler life. It also showed them that some things are more valuable than more money, and the Sabbath Day was reserved for those things; for God, worship fellowship, and family.

Keeping the Sabbath instead of spending it as "a day off" for personal pursuits and worldly amusements is also an act of faith which finds its joy in God instead of worldly things. It is not a day to play; it is a day for God. The joy of the Sabbath was the worship and service of God. These are lessons the Church of today desperately needs to learn and practice.

Nehemiah could force the Gentiles to stay away from Jerusalem on the Sabbath, but he could not make the Jews honour the Sabbath in their hearts. That had to come from within them by the grace of God.