11–17 February 2018.
The Hebrew slaves in Egypt knew what it was like to be oppressed through work. Under the harsh rule of their masters they were abused, forced to work long hours every day, used up, and then thrown aside when they couldn’t work anymore. But through Moses, God miraculously saved the Hebrews from this life of abuse and slavery. Now, living as liberated people, Moses gives them a new law: They are not going to work every day anymore. Instead from now on they will set aside one day each week, the Sabbath, to rest and remember that life is more than just work.
In principle it sounds great. But in practice this was hard for many of the Hebrews to do. In Egypt they had become used to hard work – they had become used to a life of constant work, stress, and fear. So even though God had now set them free and even demanded they rest, many still couldn’t do it. In the wilderness God himself cared for the people giving them free food every day. The only condition was that they shouldn’t go collect that food on the Sabbath. Instead they should remember to use the Sabbath to rest. But still many couldn’t do this. They couldn’t let go; they couldn’t rest (vv. 27–29).
It’s not hard to understand why they had this problem. In this world we are taught every day that we have to depend on ourselves, because no one else will care for us. And through experience we have learnt not to depend on others – because when we reach out to others for help they often ignore us or let us down. So we find it so hard to trust.
The Hebrews struggled to let go of work and instead trust that God would be there to support them. But isn’t that our problem too? Don’t we also find it hard to trust God, hard to trust that he will really support us or be here for us? As a result we try hard to trust in our own hands rather than learning to trust in God’s hands to hold us up. But to trust in ourselves is to make ourselves slaves again: slaves to worry, slaves to our many fears about not being good enough, and slaves to work.
Because we can’t see God, it is hard for us to trust him. We need to learn again how to trust. But how do we do that? One way is by using our hands to hold each other up. Because when we learn to trust those around us, when we can feel others caring for us and holding us up, it then becomes a little easier for us to take those first steps towards learning how to trust God again.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis