The Experience of the Commandments, the Sabbath and the Festivals
Moses’ life was in three stages, first in Egypt, then in the wilderness of Midian, and finally leading the children of Israel out of Egypt to Mount Sinai and the good land. The first two stages were preparatory in which God sovereignly prepared Moses’ person. In the final stage, starting from the burning bush, God progressively unveiled who He was, what He wanted, and how Moses and the children of Israel were to become His testimony. This became the divine commitment that Moses carried the rest of his life.
The Experience of the Commandments
Part of this unveiling is found in the Ten Commandments. If we only see these commandments as a list of what to do or not do, we do not see the real thing. God is not that shallow. These commandments first show us that He as the unique God is our God and He can never be replaced.
Second, He will exercise His sovereignty to continually draw us to Himself. He visits our iniquity and shows us mercy as needed. In hindsight, each of us should be able to testify how God has faithfully worked behind the scenes to cause us to love and follow Him. Why are we still here? Because God is sovereign!
His sovereignty can also be seen in history, as all things work together to benefit Israel and the church. The gospel has always prevailed, even in the hardest of times. That is why we should not worry when global events seem in such turmoil. Even if we have a president and congress that seems to mess everything up, we as believers should have confidence in the sovereign God. If our confidence lies in anyone or anything else, we make them into a graven image that substitutes for God.
Third, He is always with us, so we should never vainly use His name as though He is not. We should live our lives knowing that Christ dwells within us, always ready to answer our call, and that we are continually held by His hand (Col. 1:27; Jhn. 10:28–29). We should therefore “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
The Experience of the Sabbath
This leads us to the Sabbath, the fourth commandment, in which we rest in our wonderful God. This rest issues in a righteous living that represents God in the way we honor our parents, interact with others, and find satisfaction in the lot God has provided us. These are the last six commandments. They are not meant to be understood as a list of ways we should behave, but as a description of a living that is an outflow that comes from resting in our unique God with His sovereignty and presence.
This weekly Sabbath eventually expands into a sabbatical year in which we labor to bear fruit for God’s satisfaction and to feed everyone around us. We all need to find some land on which we can labor to produce something. This land could be some service in our local church, or we could labor with some others in an untouched locality to produce something new. Be creative. It does not have to be a new church. It could just be a Bible study to see what the Lord would do. My greatest concern for the young ones is that they do not have land to experience a sabbatical year.
At the end of our sabbatical year, we must be prepared to go back to be with others for another period of time. This is for our growth until we are ready for the next sabbatical year. Often our companions during this time are the very ones we raised up during our labor. While we may not feel we are doing as much as before, we eventually all grow together.
This has been my experience. I once felt the Lord would have me visit a certain place regularly, so I went four times a year, four weeks each time. I felt I did nothing. I only fellowshipped with some local brothers over lunch and dinner. But after a number of years like this, so many churches were raised up and so many brothers and sisters came to love the Lord. This was not out of some specific labor, but just out of fellowship with my non-sabbatical year companions.
Once we grow to a certain point, the Lord may lead us to have another sabbatical year to labor for a new harvest. This labor will produce even more who can be our companions when our year is done. I have many such companions in places where I have previously labored.
We shouldn’t be satisfied to just love the Lord, go to the meetings, and be good Christians. We must have land to experience a sabbatical year. Once we labor and have fruit, we should treasure it. This fruit is for us and for those with us to enjoy. Those we raise up will become our companions for our growth in the years to come.
The Experience of the Festivals
The Ten Commandments show us that God gave Himself to us, and the sabbatical year shows us the He has given us growth in life to bear fruit. God also showed us something when He established the festivals. The festivals cannot be experienced alone. They require the whole congregation. The whole church life should be a celebrating church life. We are especially interested in the three main festivals: Passover, Harvest, and Ingathering.
The Passover was immediately followed by the festival of Unleavened Bread. For practical purposes, they formed one festival, for the one led directly into the other. In the middle of all this was the festival of the Firstfruit. These represent the start of our Christian life. All who are regenerated children of God have experienced this festival.
The festival of Harvest was exactly 50 days later. By the New Testament time it was called Pentecost, because of the number 50.
The festival of Harvest was also called the festival of Weeks because they counted 7 weeks and a day to make the 50 days. Each week is 7 days, and the number 7 is made up of 3+4. In the Bible, the number 3 stands for the Triune God, and the number 4 stands for creation, especially man. When we put them together, the number 7 represents God working with man. Therefore the 50 days between the feasts is filled with God working with man and man working with God 7 times over, plus the final 1 day that represents the unique God.
Our time leading up to the festival of Harvest should be full of 7s, full of 3+4s, full of God working with man and man working with God. If not it will be hard for the Lord to harvest us. If we only have 4s, man working but no God, we may never get there.
How do we know if our experience is that of 3+4 or just 4? The test is: Do we pray? Is the Lord’s presence with us? Do we enjoy the Lords leading? When something good happens, do we thank the Lord, or do we just take it as our doing? If there is no God, it is only 4.
Without God, nothing works. But even when we have God, we often turn our 3+4 into 3+4+2. The extra 2 is our 2 legs. We trust in God, but instead of Him leading us, we use our 2 legs to take Him wherever we want. He wants us to go to one school but we take Him to another. He wants us to take one job, but we go to another. He wants us to live in one place, but we move to another. Our 2 legs give us too much freedom. If this is our case, how can we ever expect the Lord to harvest us?
This is a special danger to those who feel they have accumulated some spiritual riches. It is easy to become proud, and this pride causes their 2 legs to become active. They may suddenly feel to become a missionary or a preacher with a large congregation. They think, “I will have my followers and do whatever whatever I feel.” If what we have does not add up to 7, it will never be harvested.
Then we come to the festival of Ingathering, sometimes called the festival of Tabernacles. This came toward the end of the year, and should be the normal conclusion to our labor. But many who grow a lot never develop into the Ingathering. How will we get there? Only by continuing to have 3+4 experiences.
How much the Lord uses us is not our concern. Our concern must be to experience God with man, 3+4, over and over again throughout our entire life. We must depend on the Lord even for this. Everything we go through has to involve God and us together. How rich such a life is! What a satisfaction to both God and man!