PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 23:10-12; Refreshment and Rest

11/13 Exodus 23:10-12 Refreshment and Rest

We are studying the Book of the Covenant, God’s expansion and application of his Ten Words to his people. He is communicating his expectations for those who are in relationship with him. These are the principles on which you must base your life, and this is what that will look like in the life of the the Hebrew people, now set free from bondage so that they can worship the one true God. Keep in mind, God’s principles for life are for the good of his people. Do you want to enjoy life, to get the maximum pleasure out of your existence? Do you want to live life to the full, sucking the marrow out of your brief existence on this planet? Then heed the instruction of your Creator. As the Psalmist says:

Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

What we find in this passage is instruction for the good of his people, for the good of the poor, for the good of animals, and even for the good of the land, and it all points us to seek our ultimate eternal good in the presence of God.

Exodus 23:10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. 12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

Verse 12 is basically a restatement of the fourth command; back in Exodus 20, he said:

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Sabbath as Refreshment and Worship

As we have seen, God set his people free from slavery in Egypt. Right up front, he tells them that life in his service will be different. He will give them a regular day off. He requires that they stop and take time to enjoy him. This is a set-apart day, a day to the LORD. This is a day for worship. Now in chapter 23, God says it is a day for rest and refreshment, especially for those who most need it. Literally, it is a chance for them to catch their breath. Do you ever feel that in the pace of life, with work and school and home and family and all the other obligations and activities we pile on top, that you just need a moment to catch your breath? God here gives his permission, or rather his command, that we take time to catch our breath. Here in chapter 23 he focuses on the aspect of refreshment. But to say that this is time for refreshment and rest is not different than what he said in chapter 20 when he focused our attention on time set aside for worship, time to stop and remember, fix our eyes on who God is and what he has done. God tells us to:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

True rest and enjoyment, real genuine lasting refreshment comes from God.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Three times in Psalm 80 (v.3,7,19) the psalmist asks that God would restore us by letting his face shine on us.

Psalm 80:3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Acts 3:20 talks about ‘times of refreshing’ that ‘come from the presence of the Lord.’

Acts 3:20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…

God demands that we take time to be refreshed by his presence. This is not at all a heavy duty to be grudgingly done if we understand and really believe that genuine refreshment comes from the presence of the Lord. When we really grasp that God is the source of true joy, we will run to him and not away from him.

And God intends that his refreshment not be withheld from anyone. He demands that we extend rest even to ox and donkey, and refreshment even to the son of the servant girl and to the sojourner with you. In other words, the door to rest and refreshment is open to all. All are invited. No-one is excluded. That is verse 12, a restatement of the fourth command – time set aside each week for worship and refreshment.

Sabbath Year

Verses 10 and 11 are interesting. Rest for ox and donkey, for the alien and the son of the servant woman. Here rest is extended even to the land. You thought militant environmentalist were extreme and ‘earth day’ was a big deal; look at what God told his people thousands of years ago:

Exodus 23:10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

God required rest not only for people, not only for work animals, but even for the land. Farm the land for six years, let it rest for one. We now know that this is wise farming to prevent the soil from being depleted of nutrients, but this is not the reason God gives. His reason is that the poor may eat, and the wild animals may eat. This is a wise welfare program. You don’t own property? You don’t have money? Go out into the fields and gather food. Paul tells the Thessalonian believers “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2Thess.3:10). It is not clear if this was to be the same year of rest for all land across Israel, or if this was to be six years from whenever you started farming a particular piece of land. If that was the case, there would always be some land being actively farmed and some land lying fallow, available for the poor and the animals to feed in. This would require great faith in God as provider. This year’s produce is usually stored up for food and for seed for next year. If I don’t work the land this year, then next year I will have nothing to eat and the following year I will have no seed to plant. If I don’t work the land, I and my family won’t eat. God answers this concern directly in Leviticus 25:

Leviticus 25:18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

Belief Results in Obedience

Obedience to this command was directly related to the people’s trust in God to provide. God promised to take care of you. Will you do what might seem on the surface to be financially reckless and irresponsible in obedience to him and trust that he will take care of you, or will you do what appears to be wise on a human level and demonstrate that you aren’t depending on him. God took this very seriously. In response to his people’s obedience God promised:

Leviticus 26:12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: …

33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. 34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. …43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.

The people did not do what God had said, so God kept his promise, as is recorded in the last chapter of 2 Chronicles:

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. 17 Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, … 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

Restoration of All Things

It’s as if God is standing up for the rights of the land to not be deprived of rest. He ensures, by the exile of his disobedient people, that the land gets its appointed rest. This is intriguing language – the land is said to enjoy its Sabbaths. God provides rest even for the dirt! Jesus told us that not one sparrow is forgotten before God (Lk.12:6). Jesus also said:

Luke 19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Paul tells us in Romans 8 that:

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

The whole creation is described as groaning and waiting with eager longing and hope. In some way the freedom that God’s creation will experience is linked to our future hope. This world is a mess. There is pain and suffering and death and decay – all brought on by our sin. But all this points to something better. God created the world and it was good. He created everything to display his glory. The pains of this world are pains of childbirth – it is not pointless suffering – it is hope-filled suffering. New life will come out of death. Freedom, hope, refreshment, joy! Longings satisfied!

Our Future Rest

The author of Hebrews picks up this thread of Sabbath rest and points us to an as yet unrealized rest that we who hope in Jesus Christ have to look forward to. In the end of chapter 3 he says that Moses’ generation did not enter in to God’s rest because of their unbelief and he warns us to take action so that we do not miss out in God’s rest because of our own unbelief and hardness of heart. In the beginning of chapter 4 he reminds us that God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, because God finished his work in six days and then rested from his work of creation. Then he points to King David, who in Psalm 95, writing well after the conquest of the land under Joshua, tells us that we can still enter in.

Hebrews 4:7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

How do we enter God’s rest? We enter this rest through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to:

Hebrews 3:1 … consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

We are told to

Hebrews 3:6 …hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. …14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our confidence is in the good news message of salvation.

Hebrews 4:2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest…

The message of good news is preached, but we must enter in by faith. We put our trust, our hope, our confidence in the truth of the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, our great High Priest (4:14). We can rest from our work because Jesus finished his work for us.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We have confidence to enter in because the work has been finished. We can approach the throne of grace. We are sinners in need of mercy and grace – gifts that we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We rest from our works and enter in to enjoy his rest. Hebrews goes on to tell us that “repentance from dead works” is a foundational doctrine (6:1).

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

We must turn away from what we can accomplish, we must abandon our good works as a way of earning God’s favor and we must put our trust in God who justifies the ungodly.

Jesus invites us to find true rest in him.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

John 7:37 …Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

John 8:31 … “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Come! Come! Come to Jesus and be refreshed!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

November 13, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , ,

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