The command to honor the Sabbath and to keep it holy has been on my heart for over a year now. As I was reading yesterday, God reminded me yet again about the importance of His command. Following the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and the reestablishment of the temple service, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to find God’s people falling right back into sin. One of them is in regards to keeping the Sabbath Holy…(Nehemiah 13:15-22)
“At that time I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in stores of grain and loading them on donkeys, along with wine, grapes, and figs. All kinds of goods were being brought to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them against selling food on that day. 16The Tyrians living there were importing fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah in Jerusalem.
Note: The Jews were working and allowing goods to be brought to them on the Sabbath.
17I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them: “What is this evil you are doing —profaning the Sabbath day? 18Didn’t your ancestors do the same, so that our God brought all this disaster on us and on this city? And now you are rekindling His anger against Israel by profaning the Sabbath!”
Note: The Jews were rekindling God’s anger against Israel by profaning the Sabbath.
Have we as a nation rekindled God’s anger because we are breaking the Sabbath?
19When shadows began to fall on the gates of Jerusalem just before the Sabbath, I gave orders that the gates be closed and not opened until after the Sabbath. I posted some of my men at the gates, so that no goods could enter during the Sabbath day.
Note: Nehemiah gave orders to close the gates at dusk and not open them until dawn.
This is a picture for us to close our gates to the outside world as well.
Also note these words from Marva J. Dawn in her book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly:
20Once or twice the merchants and those who sell all kinds of goods camped outside Jerusalem, 21 but I warned them, “Why are you camping in front of the wall? If you do it again, I’ll use force against you.” After that they did not come again on the Sabbath.
Note: When people try to test our resolve to keep the Sabbath, we still need to stand strong.
22 Then I instructed the Levites to purify themselves and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, my God, and look on me with compassion in keeping with Your abundant, faithful love.” Nehemiah 13:15-22
Note: We, too, should be diligently purifying ourselves and guarding our gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy!!
Picture yourself standing at the edge of the beach water. The cool water comes up over your feet and returns to the ocean. You wade out a little farther and enjoy the water up to your knees. Before long you find yourself waist deep, then shoulder deep enjoying the refreshing water over your body. All the while you begin to feel the pull of the current heading back out to sea beckoning you to trust. God begins to call you deeper into fellowship with Him so you go to the point where you can no longer touch.
For a little while it seems like you can go with God wherever He wants, because it has not been difficult to get back to the point where you can touch bottom. However, you trusted God a little more than last time and you now find yourself it is difficult to get back to the spot where your feet can touch the ground and give you some sort of security and comfort. The wind comes and the waves begin to get higher and you see yourself being pulled farther and farther away from the shoreline that is so familiar to you. You begin to paddle harder attempting anything that will place your feet on solid ground. You see several buoys familiar to you. Self-reliance. Self-confidence. Self-sufficiency.
You choose one and cling with all our strength as you try to weather the storm. When all your strength begins to fail, you take a deep breath and finally let go. Your head goes under and the current snatches your body away. While under water you can no longer hear or see the turmoil of what was going on above and yet you feel like you will never be able to breathe again. When you it feels as though your last ounce of oxygen is used, your head is lifted up out of the water and your feet are placed on a solid rock. You look out over the water and marvel at the work God has done around you and inside of you.
Anytime someone returns from a trip they are quickly asked the inevitable question…
“How was your trip?”
The standard American response usually follows…
“It was great.”
“We had a lot of fun.”
“God did some wonderful things.”
The inquiring party then states…
and goes on their way.
Now there are those who truly want to know how the trip went and will prod for more details and information. However, our American society fosters an atmosphere of cordial, surface level relationships that do not go deep. Therefore, the simple “It was great” response is received and yet neither side of the relationship is deeply impacted or life changing.
Last Thursday night during dinner in Uganda, we had missionaries John and Bobbie, their two children, and Natalie as our guests. It was a time of Q&A to allow our team the opportunity to ask questions about life as a missionary in Uganda. It was a blessed and enlightening time. As our time came to a close, Natalie challenged us when we returned to the states to consider how we would answer the inevitable question, “How was your trip to Uganda?” She encouraged us to think about how we would respond and to do it in two sentences. Natalie stated that by answering the question in two sentences, some people would respond with the usual, “That’s great” and go on, but there would be others that would honestly want to know more based on our initial two-sentence response.
This was a tremendous challenge for all of us. For how do you put a two-week trip to a foreign country into two sentences? Yet, Natalie did have a point. How many times would we be asked that question and how many of us would have the time to answer it in more than two sentences? So for the last week, I have been pondering this challenge. While I look forward to sharing with you in the next couple of weeks the details about the trip, here is my feeble attempt to put two weeks into two sentences…
How was your trip to Uganda?
While we did the same things as we have in the past trips (hut to hut evangelism, visit schools and prisons, and played with the children at the orphanage), God moved on me in a way that He has never done before.
Because God had already broken me before I left this year instead of while I was in Uganda, I was able to see more clearly the work God was doing around me instead of just inside of me, allowing me to actually see the Holy Spirit move on the team members as well as the people of Uganda.