Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 20-36, Ps 59
“Keep the Sabbath.”
It’s the commandment that was intended to help set them apart as a holy people. By taking time to rest from their labors and to worship on every seventh day, the nation of Israel would practice commitment to the covenant. Their Sabbath habit would help keep them faithful as they lived according to the rhythms of God and not the world. This seventh day was so important that everything was to be put on hold–all creation was meant to rest, just as God had rested in the beginning (Exodus 20:8-11).
By the time we get to the fall of the monarchy today, it is a sad, sad story. The kings who were meant to lead by example have, far more often than not, placed their own self-interests above the interests of God. They have allowed the people to abandon the worship of the LORD God of Israel and to instead enmesh themselves in idolatry and pagan rituals. Time and time again, God demonstrates long-suffering patience and compassion, even sending bold messengers in the hope that Israel will come to its senses.
Finally, the time comes when Sabbath must be remembered, with or without the people. It’s an extraordinary message we hear today as the Chronicler comes to the end of his account. The land is desolate, the temple destroyed, and the people carried off into exile by foreign powers; but the land, which has absorbed the blood of far too many unnecessary battles, will finally have rest–enough rest to make up for all the years that Israel forgot to keep the Sabbath.
Then, after a time of rest, maybe–just maybe–there will be hope for a new beginning. After all that has happened, the story ends today with the good news announcement that Israel will once again be coming home.