The Sabbath is more than the seventh day of the week. It is a profound celebration of the profound concept of deliverance to life. The Lord did not only proclaim a Sabbath day once a week, He proclaimed a Sabbath year every seventh year. In this chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reiterates the laws of the Sabbath year. Verses 1-3 read,
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed. 3 Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release.”
In the Sabbatical Year, whatever debts were owed within and between Israelites were forgiven. Every person who owed a debt was released from that debt. The Lord demonstrated the concept of forgiveness to His people by having them understand what it meant to forgive something as tangible as wages and money. Foreigners were not forgiven of their debts. This too demonstrates salvation, it is by God’s will, His chosen are forgiven. Foreigners did not worship The Lord and were not covered by the blood of sacrifices, their debts were not released.
And The Lord told Israel that they would be prosperous if they would diligently obey the Law. Verses 4-6 say,
“But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”
Within the church, there are no poor because we have an inheritance from God and that is eternal life. We have a wealth of treasure in Heaven if we obey the law to love as Jesus loves. Jesus loved by laying His life down for us and forgiving us a debt we could not pay. We are to love one another that way. The church should show the grace of the Lord to the world, freely and joyfully giving to them and demonstrating God’s perfect love to them, freely forgiving people because Jesus forgave us. We should not be be inflicting the wounds that require forgiveness.
Forgiveness whether it is of emotional or physical wounds is hard. Forgiveness of financial debt is equally difficult. It is a sacrifice to forgive. When I loan someone money and time passes without them paying me back, I forgive the debt and I feel it, but I do not let it stress me because I know who my Lord is, He provides. In my act of faith, He blesses me.
Forgiving emotional and physical hurts is also a sacrifice. It is not easy to let those wounds go. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Jesus to be whipped and ridiculed and never answer back. He was completely innocent and He was slapped, stripped, beaten and murdered yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I know how hard it is to forgive terrible abuses. I know how hard it is to forgive spiteful actions against us, but how can we manifest Jesus to the world if we don’t? We must be as generous as God in every aspect. Jesus told us to, “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). That is real, concrete, and visible love within the church and beyond her. It is not only in forgiving but in giving we show abundant love. Verses 7-11 read,
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
For many of us money is something challenging to let go of. That is why we are commanded to give cheerfully and generously and to forgive the debts owed to us. But money is not the issue for everyone, for some it is pride, mercy, or kindness. We are to be generous in all these areas. We aren’t supposed to be offended by someone’s actions or words. How can they hurt us, we are shielded by The Holy Spirit. We are supposed to forgive others as we ourselves were forgiven (Colossians 3:13). The tangible nature of generosity with money teaches us we can forgive the intangible wounds of the heart and let go our pride which keeps us from fully becoming the image of Christ. This same generosity of money shows the world a clearer picture of Jesus and leads to deliverance. If we give grudgingly to one another, the world sees that and decides that God is hard-hearted and stingy.
Being generous shows the world we have faith. The more generous we are the more God is able to bless us and demonstrate His provision and blessings to us. There will always be poor among us. Hording away money will not change it, even generous giving won’t change it. But generously caring for the poor will show the world who Jesus is. When Mary (the sister of Martha) anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, Judas was outraged that Jesus would allow such a waste. He said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He didn’t care about the poor, he had no plans to give the money to the poor; he wanted the money for himself. Jesus answered, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:1-8). Mary was generous with her precious perfume and she used it to glorify The Lord. Her generosity revealed Jesus as Messiah. Our generosity can do the same. Our love manifested as generosity can lead to people being released from slavery to sin to become slaves of righteousness. Verses 12-18 read,
“If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.”
One Israelite could only be a bondservant to another for six years, after that regardless of the debt, the slave was freed and given generous provision for beginning life as a free person. Forgiveness shows the forgiven God’s immense riches and love. As the Israelites were once slaves in Egypt, we too were once slaves. We were redeemed, forgiven of our debts and so we forgive too. When we are plentiful with our love the person receiving it might love the Lord in return and choose to devote herself to God. In Israel when that happened the person was sealed by the piercing of her ear and bonded forever to her master. She was forever in her master’s household. When someone devotes themselves to The Lord and chooses to serve Him, she is likewise sealed for eternity into the household of God, she becomes a slave of righteousness, compelled to love as Jesus loves. The wonderful thing about becoming a member of The Lord’s household is that we are no longer servants but friends, no longer slaves but free, no longer children of wrath but sons and daughters of the King of kings. John 15:7-17 reads,
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
We are not only supposed to be generous toward others, but generous toward The Lord who is so very generous with us. Verses 19-23 read,
“All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and flock you shall dedicate to the Lord your God. You shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. 20 You shall eat it, you and your household, before the Lord your God year by year at the place that the Lord will choose. 21 But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God. 22 You shall eat it within your towns. The unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as though it were a gazelle or a deer. 23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.”
We give Him the first and the best. We give others the best as well. Giving what we don’t want is not generosity, it is a miserly and empty act. How does your second-hand dirty or unwanted donation show the abundant riches of God, the awesome love of Jesus, or the immense faith of The Spirit? The next time someone is collecting canned foods for the hungry, don’t pull out the can of lima beans that you’ve had in your pantry for six years, pull out the can of chicken or asparagus you were planning on cooking tonight. Pull out the ravioli you love to eat for lunch, give the best of what you have and see how God will bless you.
Practice the Sabbath, not only in dedicating your days to the Lord, but in demonstrating the forgiveness and generosity of The Lord in delivering you from slavery to freedom.