COG 104: The Sabbatical Year
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Okay, so today’s episode is an interesting one. It’s a really important discussion, but — at the same time — I have to be honest and admit that we haven’t really laid the right groundwork for this discussion. And yet we really need to talk about it now because it’s a time sensitive thing.
So, yeah. It’ll be fun!
But before I do that, please allow me to invite you to rate and review The Celebration of God on Apple Podcasts. It’s a really easy thing to do, and it’s a significant blessing to us as well as the people who like to read reviews before they subscribe to a show.
You can even go ahead and pause today’s episode to leave the rating and review right now. It’s okay. We’ll wait.
And then after the show you can head over to CelebrationOfGod.com to access our free episode notes, transcripts, and other holiday resources
And — with that — let’s start a conversation about Sabbatical Years.
During our first year I made a couple off-hand comments about this thing called a Sabbatical Year and even mentioned that this year would be the first of them that The Year Long Celebration of God would observe.
However, we never really observed it because The Celebration of God Team and I realized that a much better foundation had to be laid so that our observation of the Sabbatical Year could be well informed.
We never just want to do things because someone said we should. We really need know whether God would be glorified by our celebration.
But the reality is that this year is actually a Sabbatical Year, and the next once won’t be here for another seven years.
Lord willing, The Celebration of God will still be posting new episodes in seven years, and that’s plenty of time to lay a really significant basis for whether or not you and your fellow disciples will choose to observe it. But I still believe it’s going to be helpful to at least introduce the concept today as part of that getting-ready process.
So, let’s start with . . .
1. What is a Sabbatical Year?
Well, in order to really appreciate this concept, we need to have a solid working understanding of what a biblical Sabbath is.
And that, my friends, is the incredibly large groundwork that must be laid.
And I intend to start laying that foundation in a three part episode at the beginning of June.
For now, though, let’s put it this way — God built into the corporate worship of the Jewish people specific days of rest. There was at least one day of rest per week, but there were other special days of rest to observe various holidays. All in all, there were over 60 different Sabbaths in any given year.
This day of rest had a two-pronged purpose.
A. To rest from physical labor.
B. To rest in God.
With that very basic framework laid, in a similar way that God commands His people to rest once every seven days, God also commanded the Jews to observe a very unique rest once every seven years.
The reason we’re talking about this right now is that the current Jewish Sabbatical Year started in September of 2021 and will end in end in September of 2022.
But what kind of rest was supposed to happen in these years? Were the Jews not to labor at all?
Leviticus 25:3–5 tells us the following: “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year” (Exodus 23:10-11).
But Deuteronomy 15 adds the additional expectations that the Jews were to forgive all debts and release all Hebrew servants.
And — of course — the Lord promised blessing when the people obeyed Him.
So, let’s move to the second question.
2. What is the purpose of a Sabbatical Year?
The most basic purposes of this Sabbath Year were . . .
A. To steward the earth in a sustainable, healthy way in obedience to the Creation Mandate.
This was achieved by allowing the land to lie fallow, thereby replenishing the soil’s nutrients.
B. To provide for the needs of God’s people.
Deuteronomy 15:4-5 reads, “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, 5 if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.”
Every seven years all of God’s people would be freed from their debt repayment, thereby giving a fresh start to their income. In addition, the added benefit of God’s blessing their obedience would guarantee prosperity for the Jewish people.
But most importantly, the Sabbatical Year was designed . . .
C. To increase trust in God.
Now, consider what may happen if the United States stopped growing food for a year. Might that cause some concerns to rise?
But Leviticus 25:6-7 says, “All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.”
But — if we’re not supposed to plant anything new — what’s this Sabbath product?
Anticipating this question, Leviticus 25:20-22 says, “But if you say, ‘What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?’ 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.”
This means that on the 6th year, God would provide a bountiful harvest that would cover the 6th, 7th, and 8th years.
This was clearly a miraculous promise. There was nothing inherently agriculturally significant about every 6th year that would triple the usual harvest. In fact, from a human standpoint, there would never be any promise of good crops from year to year.
But God said that if the people obeyed Him, He would provide for them.
So, let’s consider our last question for the day.
3. What does any of this have to do with modern Christians?
Let me first start by reminding everyone that The Year Long Celebration of God does not believe that modern Christians must observe Old Testament Jewish holidays. We also don’t believe that modern Christians have to observe modern Christian holidays.
We do — however — believe three very important things.
A. We must obey God whatever God commands.
There are no excuses for not being salt and light, being baptized, observing the Lord’s supper, assembling with God’s people, the one-anothers, the spiritual disciplines, and the like.
But from a strictly “holiday” standpoint, God doesn’t command any of them.
However . . .
B. Christians will celebrate God’s character and deeds.
You cannot be a Christian and not worship, adore, exalt, praise, and glorify everything God is and does.
You are going to thank the Lord for salvation. You are going to praise Him for the incarnation. You’re going to exalt His grace and mercy. You’re going to tell others about the life He offers. You’re going to build one another up with thanksgiving. You’re going to join together to magnify God for His glorious crosswork.
You cannot know about and understand these things and not want to glorify God for them.
That’s why we root each of our yearly celebrations in the character and deeds of the Lord. They matter infinitely more than mere people and historical observances.
And that leads to . . .
C. The Celebratory Year provides the Universal Church an opportunity to corporately worship God.
It allows all Christians everywhere to join together in prayer. It unites all of God’s true children in corporate adoration of the key elements of our purpose here on earth. It allows genuine believers who have never met each other to engage in purposeful, unified worship of God.
Therefore, we believe that every day is a day to obey God. Every day is the perfect day to serve Him and celebrate Him.
And that means that every day is an important day to trust Him.
It’s also important to note that all of God’s people still have the requirement to steward the earth, rest in Him, and love His people. And though that doesn’t necessarily require any kind of Sabbatical Year observation, the same ideas are present nonetheless.
Therefore, the Celebration of God Team and I believe that there are some very practical, loving, and symbolic ways that modern Christians can worship God every seven years.
There are so many ways that we can dedicate intentional time to recognizing how God would have us steward creation.
There are significant implications in the Scriptures concerning debt and forgiveness and paying off our debt and loving our neighbors.
And there are earthshaking expectations from God when it comes to practical, real-life, empty-handed trust in God.
And that’s what The Year Long Celebration of God wants to facilitate for you and your fellow disciples — a seven year cycle of renewal and rest whereby we make certain our moorings are holding fast to God, His will for our lives, and His people.
Now, the next Sabbatical Year on the Jewish calendar starts on September of 2028 So, we have plenty of time to prepare for the next one.
And that preparation is going to start by discussing the biblical concept of rest as well as the ever-important weekly day of rest.
From there we will plan to talk about cycles of rest.
And then we will set out some practical ways that modern Christians can glorify God every seven years — not because we have to, but because we can.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing Resurrection Sunday!
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.