November 19 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.” ~Ezekiel 20:12

OLD TESTAMENT

Growing up, I often dreaded the Christian “Sabbath.” (After Christ’s resurrection on a Sunday, the Sabbath observance was moved in honor of His resurrection.) We drove an hour-and-a-half round trip to reach a “real” church since the others weren’t doing it right. I went to Sunday school, followed by a two-hour service at which my pastor berated me for all the goods things I didn’t do but wanted to do, which had the (perhaps intended) effect of making me feel superior to all other people. They were doing bad things that I didn’t, even though I wanted to. After church, I went home, ate a sandwich, and faced a long, boring afternoon. TV and organized sports were a violation of the “Sabbath.” (I never found it in the Bible, but that’s what we were told). It was back to church again in the evening—another long drive—for the pre-church hour wherein I was indoctrinated in the ways of fundamentalist Christianity. That was followed by a 2-hour service and sermon during which I was again berated for wanting to hold my girlfriend’s hand.

The Sabbaths I experienced were a pharisaic distortion of the tradition. If that’s really what the Sabbath was supposed to be, it wouldn’t be so surprising that Ezekiel and the other prophets had to call God’s people back to it so often. However, the Sabbath day, as God intended it, served three primary purposes. First, it was a day of rest and renewal. The word Sabbath literally means “cease” (which is something we certainly weren’t doing as fundamentalists). What is more, God’s restriction on travel, cooking, and the like were designed to prompt people to take it easy! Second, the Sabbath was a day reserved for worship. Worship did not last all day, but it was a foundational element. The people gathered together, they heard the Scriptures read and proclaimed, and they gave sacrifices of praise to God in song. The priest dismissed them with a blessing and sent them out to enjoy the rest of their day (see Numbers 6:22-27). Finally, the Sabbath day was a sign between God and the people. The ritual was a constant reminder that they worshipped God—and God alone. They did not worship work or possessions or anything given to them by God. They worshipped God.

That kind of Sabbath sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Sabbath-keeping, setting aside time for renewal and worship, has fallen on hard times. I suspect one of the reasons is because idolatry is on the upswing. We “idolize” sports, vacations, travel, friends, family, work, and a thousand other things. Personally, I do not think the Lord is pleased. We make time for the things that are important to us, so what does it say about us when we do not make time for worship? We have abandoned the sign of our devotion to God.

NEW TESTAMENT

James is the oldest New Testament letter, and there is so much that is good and practical in this missive on mere Christianity. In the opening salvo, James teaches us one of the most important truisms in the Christian life. Trials are for our good so “rejoice” when they come. In other words, accept what comes to you and get busy living through it. Trials are intended to make us stronger so persevere through them, pray for wisdom when you go through them, and expect God to use them in your life to make you everything He wants you to be (mature and complete).


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.