“You may work for six days each week, but on the seventh day all work must come to a complete stop. It is the Lord’s Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day to assemble for worship. It must be observed wherever you live.” – Leviticus 23:3
God loves celebrations, and he encourages his people to enjoy them too! When God completed his work of creation, he rested. Thereafter, his people were told that they, too, should rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Some of their pagan neighbors did a similar thing, but they did it because they believed that the seventh day was unlucky. The Israelites believed it was holy—special. A special holy day set apart for rest, worship, and celebration. Rest alone was not the purpose of the Sabbath. On the rest day, and on other special occasions, God’s people were called to celebrate “a holy day to assemble for worship” (23:3).
It is important for us to note the role that regular rest, regular worship, and community celebration played in Israel’s lifestyle. Great emphasis was placed on the people as a whole ceasing work and coming together at certain times so that they could collectively acknowledge the Lord. Communal celebration served to bind the people together with a sense of common roots, aspirations, objectives, and orientation, all focused on the Lord himself. Down through the years, as the Sabbaths were observed, the children of Israel were strong in the Lord and victorious against their enemies in a hostile world. But when common celebration took a backseat, friction, fracturing, and fragmentation became common.
There’s a lesson here for modern man. It is now a well-established fact that regular rest is in man’s best interests, but not enough attention is paid to the need for worship and community celebration. Our culture, unlike that of Israel, is pluralistic. We lack commonality, and the fissures and divisions are plain to see and alarming to observe. Communities without commonality are a contradiction in terms. But if little commonality exists, we need to create more by establishing events that bring people together, giving them time to see each other relax, presenting opportunities to learn different customs and observe different traditions. This is not only true in secular society but also in the believing community. Some Christians see little significance in belonging to a community of believers, and many Christian communities show little or no interest in joining together in common praise and service. The framers of the Declaration of Independence knew the value of community. Benjamin Franklin, who was one of them, said, “We must indeed hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Their concern was personal survival; our concern should be corporate cohesion and well-being of our community.
For Further Study: Leviticus 23:1-22
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
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