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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Exodus 23 : 1-13

“Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest.” “Six days you shall do your work; and on the seventh day you shall rest…” -Exodus 23:10-12

In today’s reading, Exodus 23:10-13 deals with Sabbatical laws rooted in the Fourth Commandment.  It is followed by a list of the annual festivals to be observed and then a promise that if the Israelites followed the commandments, YHWH would conquer Canaan for them, the Promised Land. It is important to recognize that this covenant is conditional, “But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes” (Exodus 23:22). So the giving of the land to the Israelites was dependent on them observing God’s commands and following particular agricultural practices.


God gave the command to Israel that they must allow the land to rest one year in seven. The word, “rest” means “to let lie” (a field untilled); or “to cease from anything.” It was not to be tilled or sown but whatever would naturally grow could be eaten.

This Sabbath for the land teaches several principles.


  • To allow God’s earth to return to its original uncultivated state, and so to glorify the God of nature. It was a practical exposition of Israelite’s faith in the God who would provide their needs, as was the weekly observance of Sabbath.

  • It shows that “the earth is the LORD’s and all its fullness” (Psalm 24:1). God owns the land and can therefore dictate the terms of its use.

  • We have a responsibility to the poor (Exo.23:10). Our abundance is to overflow to others.

  • God wants us to know that He is trustworthy; His law gives us security. We are to trust and obey.

  • We are stewards of the land the Lord has blessed us with; He wants to teach dependence on His providence, and to observe His faithfulness in sending us enough to last us while we take the break according to His instruction


Exo 23:12 emphasizes the need for the household and the domesticated animals to rest for their refreshment. It speaks of resting, sitting down, to take a breath, or setting oneself down anywhere to take rest.

  • Of course, the divine example of this is found in Gen 2:3, where God was refreshed in the sense of taking delight and satisfaction in His work.

  • We still need to “catch our breath.” Workers still need a rest and we all still need to guard against the temptation of greed. 

  • “By resting in the Lord and being freshly reminded of God’s priority, we catch our breath and are renewed. . . . The sabbath is thus presented as the means to the health of the community.” (Unknown)

Coming to the New Testament, the Sabbath day has changed but not the essential design of the day. “Like much else in the Old Testament, the essence remains, while the structure changes” (Campbell). The particulars have changed but not the principle. Our Sabbath is when we are trusting and resting in God and growing into the spiritual maturity thus entering into His Rest. The Bible says in Isaiah 30:15, “…In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”

Quote for the Day:

“Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes.

It is the pause that transforms.”  


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