He Maketh Me to Lie Down in Green Pastures
In these unprecedented times, around the world people are being forced to hit the pause button on life. Whole economies have come to a grinding halt. While it is frightening for many who can’t work from home and whose bills are coming in but the income is not, this is a situation beyond our control. We are being made to “lie down.”
In God’s design we were meant to come to a full stop one day a week for the tandem purpose of rest and worship. An often repeated refrain in the Old Testament was, “Deny yourself and do no work.” When I read this as a child I didn’t get it. How was doing no work a form of self-denial? It seemed more like a reward to me—a vacation from responsibility one day a week. If only we all could keep that child-like perspective on Sabbath!
As an adult I found out what self-denial it really was to keep Sabbath. There were so many things I wanted to do, to accomplish. There were so many deadlines I felt I couldn’t meet if I didn’t take some of my Sabbath time to do them. I had to discipline myself with the thought, “Presence not product,” and pursue on Sabbath only those activities which drew me into God’s presence, and set aside other activities, even religious ones, where the emphasis was on “product” or “project.” This was incredibly difficult for me, but when I kept Sabbath faithfully I was in a much better place physically and spiritually to be productive on the other six days, and, more importantly, I was being obedient to God in a way that demonstrated my faith in His faithfulness.
God even factored in seasons of rest such as Jubilee year (every 50 years where fields when fallow and loans were forgiven, etc.). Each of these God-ordained pauses took a level of trust in Him and obedience, but God’s people frequently did not show that trust and obedience. When they were carried off into Babylonian captivity one of the judgments God made against them was that since they hadn’t obeyed about the fallow times, now the land would get its rest. God’s principles would be obeyed, or they would be enforced.
Our culture isn’t geared for Sabbath and fallow times, yet here we are facing one which is beyond our control. We can grind our teeth and chafe against what is being forced on us, or we can look at it as an opportunity to seize and use as a gift; a time to rest our bodies and spirits, and to seek His presence. It is a time to explore the meaning and practices of Sabbath, and turn our hearts in His direction. During this season we can realize that He sometimes makes us to lie down. As we do so, let us take note of the green pastures of His presence and goodness, and find what true rest of the spirit really is. Ask Him to show us His goodness in the midst of this surprising season for our world, and take advantage of the opportunities He reveals to us.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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