Self-Reliant Church: Ezekiel 20

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Throughout 2020, I felt God calling me back to the prophetic books of the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times I read through Micah and Amos in the past six months. Jeremiah and Isaiah were familiar friends that I found myself spending days in. During one week, I felt God call me to the book of Ezekiel. That book is wild! Some of the visions he saw I, quite honestly, don’t understand. God asked this faithful prophet to do some absolutely crazy things! Still, I believe this book has a lot of wisdom to share about the character of God.

The book of Ezekiel is largely filled with God’s pronouncement of judgment upon the nation of Israel. Once again, God’s people had done what was right in their own eyes, instead of following the ways of the Lord. They were willfully disobedient and God wasn’t going to put up with it any longer.

In Ezekiel 20, God calls out a particular sin that I don’t think is that big of a deal. This is one of those areas where, upon first reading, I think that God is making a mountain out of a molehill. And, whenever I find myself disagreeing with what God says, it means that I have to shift my thinking and my priorities.

“Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned.” Ezekiel 20:12-13 (ESV)

God goes on to mention Israel’s profaning of the Sabbath four more times in this particular chapter. He is making known, in no uncertain terms, just how important the Sabbath is to him. God isn’t playing around with this one.

Like the Israelites, how many of us regularly ignore the Sabbath?

I am guilty of this one. Really guilty.

I love that God shares his heart behind the Sabbath in Ezekiel 20. The Sabbath isn’t just an arbitrary rule God made because he wants to boss us around. His goal isn’t to ruin our fun or limit our productivity. The Sabbath day is something he intentionally gave to us. It’s a reminder of who God is and who we are. It’s an opportunity to draw nearer to God and trust in him more than ourselves.

While great, all of this goes against every fiber of my being. I love to work and be productive. I will work, work, and work some more until I work myself into a rut. I have even made myself sick because I worked too much. I can easily find my identity in what I do and what I produce. And that is precisely why God calls us to embrace the counter-cultural way of the Sabbath.

Sabbath-Keeping Should be a Priority

For months, I have been asking God to make my priorities match his. I don’t want to be focused or concerned about things that aren’t important to God. And I sure don’t want to overlook those people or practices that God cares the most about. Reading through the Bible, it’s very clear that God cares a lot about the Sabbath. In multiple books, when the prophets bring judgment against Israel they include neglecting or profaning the Sabbath.

Our ignoring the Sabbath, I believe, goes hand-in-hand with the other sins that usually bring the judgment of God: injustice and neglecting the “least of these.”

While we think that keeping the Sabbath is optional, God calls it vital. The more I pray about this particular practice that God values, the more I wonder how the church might look if leadership teams valued the Sabbath as much as God does.

How might the church function if pastors and staff members weren’t expected to be available 24/7? Could that lead to more health within the church?

What if our businesses were run in such a way that we emphasized the importance of the Sabbath in our lives and the lives of our staff?

And what if we led our families in honoring the Sabbath, teaching them how to pursue God intentionally instead of trusting in our own effort?

The ways of God are counter-cultural and, for too long, we’ve allowed our view of the Sabbath to be influenced by the world that tells us to work longer and strive harder.

Let’s humbly come to God today and submit our calendars to him. Let’s repent for not honoring his word and his ways as we should. And let’s ask for his help as we learn what “honoring the Sabbath” actually means.

God has given us the gift of the Sabbath, let’s stop rejecting it.

Is the Sabbath important in your life?

How do you practically honor the Sabbath?

To go Deeper: Read A Lifestyle of Rest, Provision for Today

2 comments

  1. The longer I spend in the church–44 years and counting, since I was a college freshman–the more I see the value and necessity in studying the prophets, so I’m definitely with you on that. They prophesied, in part, of the kingdom to come that we have inherited, but our task is often to recover it all over again. I think that’s one of the reasons so many new churches are launched. To borrow a song title, they still haven’t found what they’re looking for: a faithful expression of the kingdom for our generation. The prophets have a lot to say on that subject if they’re interpreted properly.

    Liked by 1 person

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