I’m praying for your businesses and jobs today. The current lock down and spread of the virus around the world is having significant effects on the economy, which ultimately affects the livelihoods of ordinary people liek you and me. I had been struggling with the uncertainties that come from this being the first time that the global economy has been put on pause - in the hope of being restarted some weeks and months down the line. However, then I realised that in Israel God had instituted not only a once a week pause (the sabbath), but a once every 7 years pause (the sabbatical year) and a once a generation pause (the super-sabbath Jubilee year). This was a time when economic activity and production was to stop, so people could seek after God and grow in faith, invest in their relationships with family and neighbours, and the worker, the animals and the land could rest. These laws were intended as a gift (not a burden) to the Israelites – who had just left Egypt where as slaves they had to work non-stop, without rest, 7 days a week. The challenge of the sabbath was that it meant that they had to trust God to supply their needs, rather than rely on their own agricultural and economic endeavours.
The OT theologian Walter Brueggemann has written a provocative little book entitled “The Sabbath as Resistance”. Here are a few choice extracts:
- “In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
- “we may consider the sabbath as an alternative to the endless demands of economic reality, more specifically the demands of market ideology that depend, as Adam Smith had already seen, on the generation of needs and desires that will leave us endlessly “rest-less,” inadequate, unfulfilled, and in pursuit of that which may satiate desire.”
- “Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms. Whereas Israelites are always tempted to acquisitiveness, Sabbath is an invitation to receptivity, an acknowledgment that what is needed is given and need not be seized.”
I’m praying for all of us affected by the current situation and the longer term repercussions. I know that is causing anxieties for many, because nothing like it has happened before in the history of the market economy. But I’m also praying that God would help us to use this enforced time to reset, rest and to renew our pursuit after Him, in whom alone our restless hearts and souls can find rest! He will still be there for us on the other side, no matter what else changes.