There has been an outcry by some over the decision to extend Sunday Trading this summer around the times of the Olympics. The idea of the Sabbath rest can be found in the Bible. Some scholars think that one of the reasons the Ten Commandments says that no work should be done on a Sunday, is to remove the Israelites from their history as a slave nation.
The Israelites had arrived in Egypt at the time of Joseph (he of the multi-coloured coat) and over successive generations had grown in number but also had been enslaved by the Egyptians. The great escape of the Egyptian Slave nation through the Red Sea and into the desert is well known. In the desert the Israelis did a lot of moaning and groaning about their life and they even saw their lives in slavery through rose tinted spectacles and wanted to go back to their lives as slaves!
God gave the Israelites a day of rest to break the cycle of slavery, as slaves they would have received no breaks, just work and more work. A day off every week would have been a revelation to them. Slaves do not have days off.
Latter when the Israelites had settled in the promised land, the idea of a Sabbath rest was extended so that every seventh year was a year of reduced activity and then after seven times seven years (49 years) the fiftieth year was called the year of the Jubilee.
Jubilee is also a constant theme throughout the Bible. The word ‘jubilee’ stems from the Hebrew word ‘Yobel’, which refers to the ram or ram’s horn with which jubilee years were proclaimed. In Leviticus it states that such a horn or trumpet is to be blown on the tenth day of the seventh month after the lapse of ‘seven Sabbaths of years’ (49 years) as a proclamation of liberty through-out the land of the tribes of Israel. The year of jubilee was a consecrated year of ‘Sabbath-rest’ and liberty. During this year all debts were cancelled, lands were restored to their original owners and family members were restored to one another.
The year of jubilee was also central to the ministry of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus makes the claim to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 61:1–2. Jesus states that he has come to ‘proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18–19 TNIV). This is the year of jubilee.
I am increasingly beginning to think that as a nation we are enslaving ourselves ..slowly. We have even secularised the idea of the sabbath with the european working time directive and then most large companies have policies for Improving Worklife Balance.
The economy now often dominates the news, dominates the efforts of politicians and governments. Have we becomes slaves to the economy? Surly the economy should be subservient to our life and loves, it should be secondary to care of people. It should also be secondary to how we live our lives not why we live our lives.
As part of the Jubilee celebrations this year lets make a conscious effort to change the way we live and stop our on-going and slow enslavement to the economy.