Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Take a Vacation - It's the Law!

Today is day two of our twelfth week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:   Deuteronomy 10-14; Luke 8; Psalm 5.

Every now and then you come across a passage of scripture that you know you've read before, but you can't remember ever coming across it.  In other words, the last time you read it, it didn't really sink into your memory.  This is one of those scriptures for me.  In Deuteronomy 14, God talks about dietary laws and tithes--very boring stuff.  But tucked into the discussion of the tithe is this precious little gem:

22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.

This is wonderful--the idea that God encouraged His people to take vacation, to enjoy themselves, to take time off and spend it with their family--feasting, celebrating, and relaxing.  Holy recreation is what God intended here--and he even allowed a part of Israel's tithes to pay for it, because He thought it was so important.  But while they were in Jerusalem on pilgrimage, they were to do charitable works and give charitable gifts to the priests and to the poor.  The sole purpose of this pilgrimage wasn't just to have fun--it was also to take care of the servants in God's house, and to provide for widows, orphans, and sojourners.  

Matthew Henry says this:

They must bring it up, either in kind or in the full value of it, to the place of the sanctuary, and there must spend it in holy feasting before the Lord. If they could do it with any convenience, they must bring it in kind (Deut. 14:23); but, if not, they might turn it into money (Deut. 14:2425), and that money must be laid out in something to feast upon before the Lord. The comfortable cheerful using of what God has given us, with temperance and sobriety, is really the honouring of God with it. Contentment, holy joy, and thankfulness, make every meal a religious feast. The end of this law we have (Deut. 14:23): That thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always; it was to keep them right and firm to their religion, (1.) By acquainting them with the sanctuary, the holy things, and the solemn services that were there performed. What they read the appointment of their Bibles, it would do them good to see the observance of in the tabernacle; it would make a deeper impression upon them, which would keep them out of the snares of the idolatrous customs. Note, It will have a good influence upon our constancy in religion never to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, Heb. 10:25. By the comfort of the communion of saints, we may be kept to our communion with God. (2.) By using them to the most pleasant and delightful services of religion. Let them rejoice before the Lord, that they may learn to fear him always. The more pleasure we find in the ways of religion the more likely we shall be to persevere in those ways. One thing they must remember in their pious entertainments—to bid their Levites welcome to them. Thou shalt not forsake the Levites (Deut. 14:27): “Let him never be a stranger to thy table, especially when thou eatest before the Lord.” 

When you're reading your Bible, even if you've read it cover to cover many times, every so often you'll come across a passage that you'd swear you never read before.  Usually these are pretty interesting discoveries.  What it means is that God is pointing it out to you TODAY for some special reason.  For me, I'm probably noticing this because I'm in the middle of Holy Week--a notoriously busy time for pastors.  I could use some R&R.  (And I'm going to take some well-deserved time off after Easter, thank you very much.)  This scripture shows that it's okay, and even expected, to take vacations, pilgrimages, and times of rest.  It's so important, in fact, that God wrote it into the Law.
How have you been doing at making sure that you're well rested lately?  Have you been burning the candle at both ends?  God may be directing you to take a break.  Take a spiritual retreat, a vacation, a pilgrimage.  Seek Him in a new setting.  Jesus may be saying to you the same thing that He said to His disciples...

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