The Shemitah

Have you ever felt like you just need to REST?  Does the busy schedule of life keep you in constant motion- so much that you feel like you’re in a state of vertigo?  I’ve been there and done that.  We weren’t meant to be running around, like chickens with missing heads!  We were meant to have rest.  Why do you think God rested on the 7th day?  He knew a Sabbath rest was necessary.  He was providing the ultimate example for us!

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”  Genesis 2:2

Most people think going to church on Sunday is a Sabbath rest.  Well, going to church is awesome, but it isn’t necessarily a Sabbath rest.  Let’s see below what the Bible says about the Sabbath rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do ANY WORK, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  Exodus 20: 8-11

In Leviticus 23 we see the same thing:  “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.  You shall DO NO WORK.  It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

So what we see both times is that WE ARE TO ABSTAIN FROM WORKING.  Going to church on Sunday does not mean we are abstaining from work.  We can simply go to church and then come home and do yard work, go grocery shopping, organize our closets or even go to a part time job.   Most people don’t truly set the day aside with no work, unless they are a strict Seventh Day Adventist, or an Orthodox Jew.

Some people might say, “We don’t have to observe that because Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath when he came to earth.  He fulfilled all the Law.”   Yes, he fulfilled all these things but he never said, “Throw all these things out.”   He never said to forget the commandments.  He never said to Forget the Feasts of the Lord.  He never said, “Forget the Sabbath because you don’t need it anymore.”  Jesus never intended for us to ignore all the things God put in place to protect and bless us.  At the same time he was clear when he said we are not condemned by not following the Sabbath, or breaking a commandment.   We live by grace on a daily basis   But that doesn’t mean we do whatever we want and throw out all the commandments God gave to protect us.

I am not condemning anyone for not observing the Sabbath properly.  I don’t observe it properly most of the time.  But, I find myself wanting to observe it properly for many reasons.  First of all, I am overworked!  Even if I get a break from “work” itself, there are still other things that fill up my life such as social media, worldly problems, family dilemmas, chores at home,etc.  These are all things that cause stress on the body and mind.  The Sabbath was designed to eliminate those stresses, worries and chores (at least for one day per week).

Oreo
This is my cat Oreo.  He knows how to take a rest every day! LOL

Essentially, the Sabbath should be a day of complete rest in Jesus.  It’s a day to pray, meditate on his word and clear your mind of the constant barrage of problems.  It’s a day to allow your physical body to rest as well.  It’s a day of worship and joy.  If this is your focus on the Sabbath, your body and mind will be renewed.  Jesus is the Sabbath, and when we focus on him we have peace and rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Sabbath).” Matthew 11:28-30

Many of us know that verse but we don’t usually follow it.  We might say a few quick prayers and go on with our day.  To many, that is the end of it.  But, coming to Jesus when you are weary and burdened is more than a quick barrage of prayers.  It’s spending quality time with him and reading his word.  Keep in mind he is the word!  When you read the word, you are hearing him speak to you.  Praying and focusing intentionally allows you to hear the Holy Spirit.  This is how you get that “Sabbath rest.”

Honoring the Sabbath shouldn’t be a ritualistic type of thing.  You could even go to the beach or into nature where you and your family can tune into God’s creation, and you truly rest from all your work from the week.  You spend the day doing things that honor the Lord.  Perhaps you are serving others, or spending time as a family.  But throughout the day you are bringing honor to God in your actions and words.   You can also go to church of course.   I realize this is hard for most people to do in our busy world.  Nonetheless, God knows we all need it.

There is actually a prophetic side to the Sabbath that not everyone is familiar with.  Of course, many Christians know that when Christ returns, the world will finally get its Sabbath rest.  It will rest from the curse of sin,  and from Satan’s influence.  In the Millennial Kingdom even animals will have rest.  They won’t be hunted, and they won’t worry about food or predators.  Humans will have rest from the dictators and leaders that have plagued our world since time began.   The day to day problems will fade away, as well as pain, tears and turmoil.  That’s a Sabbath rest I look forward to.  Read Isaiah 11 in the link below, which describes the Millennial Kingdom, where Jesus will rule with a rod of  iron.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+11&version=NIV

Isaiah 11 paints a picture of the Millennial Rest- the time on earth when Christ has returned and now rules over the nations.  The earth and its inhabitants now rest from war, famine, and the daily toil that weighs us down in this current life.

But now I want to introduce a word associated with the Sabbath that you may or may not know.  It’s called the Shemitah!  You are probably thinking, “What is that?”  I’m right there with you.  When I first heard about it, I just thought it was a weird word.  Now, I know it is a PROPHETIC concept that ties in directly with the Sabbath, and the return of the Lord.

Let’s go to the Bible to see some of what it has to say about the Shemitah:

“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts.  This is how it is to be done:  Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite.  They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed.…………..However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord you God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.  For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations, but will borrow from none.  You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.”   Deuteronomy 15

Shemitah actually means “sabbatical year.”   It is known as the “seventh year”, or “year of rest.”  Just as the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, so the Shemitah is the 7th year.

See below in Leviticus 25:

The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyards, and gather its fruit : but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord.”

sevenEvery seventh year on the biblical calendar was considered a time of release.  It was a time to let go. The Israelites were essentially released from their work of the land.  The land was released from being worked on.  There was no sowing no reaping no plowing no pruning and no harvesting.   The animals who worked the land rested as well.

“What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.”  Leviticus 25:5

The nation of Israel no longer observes  the Shemitah since the Jewish people have been scattered to other nations since the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.  This was observed when all the people of Israel remained in the land, with its people gathered there.

But in the past, even when the Temple stood, it was not always observed properly.  For example- the nation of Israel went into captivity to the pagan nation of Babylon for a total of 70 years.  This punishment was given because they were in rebellion against God. One example of their disobedience is that they failed to observe the Shemitah properly. How many years did they fail to observe it? 70- the same number of years they would be in captivity!!  While they were in captivity for the 70 years in Babylon, the land of Israel would rest, because they were not there to work the land.

Sadly, the shemitah was supposed to be a blessing to the people of Israel, but when not observed, it became a curse.

The Shemitah year was meant to be a time to rely on God alone to provide and sustain.   It was a time to set aside “ things of the world” and materialism.  The fact that debts were to be forgiven proves that God was reminding the people that money was not their security.  Only God could provide that.  Forgiving debts and not working the land would certainly put some in a financial quandary.  Fields would lay fallow, and “credit” would be nullified.  What if someone owed you lots of money?  That debt was forgiven in the Shemitah year.  You could have a serious hole in your bank account!

Even though it seems like doing these things would put farmers and businessmen into bankruptcy, that’s not what happened- if it was followed properly.  If the Shemitah was followed, God promised to bless and provide abundantly in the years after the Shemitah.  An overflow of crops and harvest would be the final result.  Those who had forgiven debt would be blessed in their future endeavors.  But, one had to trust God and know that during the Shemitah year God would be their strength and provider.  Even if the land was not worked, God would still provide all that was needed.

That same concept is true today.  In fact, let’s go to a recent example of how security can be taken away in the blink of an eye.   Go back to 9-11- September 11, 2001.  On this date, a terrorist attack occurred on our soil like no other.  Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, one into the Pentagon, and another crashed into a field (meant for the White House).   Security went out the window quickly, and without warning.  Thousands died that day.  Were they all secure in their relationship with Christ when their lives were suddenly taken? Only Jesus knows.   Lives were shattered in seconds.  Our only sure and confident hope is Christ.  All other things are not secure.  Interestingly enough, 9-11 happened in a Shemitah year- the seventh year on the biblical calendar.   In the same month, on September 17,  2001, Wall Street suffered its greatest single day stock market crash in Wall Street history up to that date.  This was the last day of the Shemitah, also known as Elul 29.  The next day would be the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah).  This feast of the Lord is celebrated with the blowing of the trumpet.  The trumpet is used in the Bible to sound an alarm, or as a wake up call.

The alarm had sounded.  America realized their security had been breached – they could not even trust in money.  Debt had been cancelled and credit had been severely damaged, as the stock market took a plunge.   In times like this we must realize that God is our only rest- he is our Shemitah, our Sabbath Rest.

Seven years after 9-11, during another Shemitah year, yet another shock wave hit America.  The 2008 financial collapse hit our nation with ferocity.  The fall of Lehman Brothers occurred on September 15, 2008.  Next, mortgage companies Fannie Mae an Freddie Mac had to be bailed out.  By the time all was said and done the taxpayer had to foot a hefty sum of 700 billion to bail out mortgage companies, and help stabilize the economy.   Was the stock market affected?  Of course!  When did the biggest point crash happen in the stock market?  On the last day of Elul, or the last day of the Shemitah!  The lead up to the crash actually began back in 2007 on the first day of the Shemitah year, with the fall of Northern Rock, a British mortgage company.  (This caused a ripple effect in the American economy)   So, the financial woes began on the first day of the Shemitah, and culminated on the last day of the Shemitah year!

Money can never give us rest.  It can give us the illusion that we are secure and safe.  But, it is not eternal.  Only the life and rest that Jesus gives us is eternal.

Have you ever seen the Liberty Bell?  It is famous for the prominent crack running along the middle of the bell.  This famous bell rang to mark the ratification of the Constitution, and was used to summon delegates to important legislative sessions, and alert colonists of important meetings and announcements.  It rang to mark the announcement of new taxes by the British, as well as the tax on tea, sugar and stamps.   It rang loud and clear at the repeal of the Intolerable Acts.  It announced the Battle of Lexington and Concord (the first battle that began the Revolutionary War).  It rang to mark the deaths of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  It rang at the inauguation of John Adams.   This bell is steeped in American history.  Our fight for freedom (rest from tyranny) is etched into the history of that bell.

Liberty bell.jpgMany people don’t know what is written on the Liberty Bell.  Believe it or not, it is related to the Shemitah.  It says, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all inhabitants thereof.”   This phrase is from Leviticus 25: verse 10.

If we go to Leviticus 25, we will see that this chapter is dealing with the Sabbath year, or Shemitah- the year of rest.  As we look at verse 10, we start reading about the JUBILEE YEAR.  What is the Jubilee year?  Every 7 years is a Sabbath (Shemitah) year, but every 7th Shemitah year (49 years), a Jubilee year is declared for the following year.  Right after the forty ninth year is complete, the fiftieth year is proclaimed as the Jubilee year.

“Count off seven sabbath (Shemitah) years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you.”

What this meant is that after the 7th cycle of the shemitah, a special event would take place called the JUBILEE.  It was during this special time that God commanded something quite remarkable.  Not only was the land to be given a rest, as with the Shemitah year, but also ALL LAND WAS TO BE RETURNED TO ITS ORIGINAL OWNER.  What this meant is that if an Israelite had sold their land due to poverty or dire circumstances, it must be returned to them in the year of the Jubilee.

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.”  Leviticus 25: 23,24

God was providing a time of rest and redemption for both his people, and the land they resided in.   Even if you had lost your land at some point, God assured it was returned to you!    This particular verse reminds me of Israel.  For thousands of years the people of Israel have been scattered throughout the world.  Their land has been parceled off to other nations.  Many of these nations call for the destruction of the Jewish people, and want to take what little land she possesses.  But, Jesus, our Sabbath rest, will return and he will redeem the land for Israel, and he will redeem the remnant of his people.  He will be the “Shemitah” they have been waiting for.

In the verse it says, “you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.”  We must always remember we are “strangers” here on earth.  This is not our permanent residence.  We are citizens of heaven if we trust in Christ.  When Jesus returns he will bring rest to all, but ultimately, heaven is our home.

Another amazing thing happened in the Jubilee year.  If an Israelite had sold themselves into slavery due to poverty/debt, he/she would be set free during the Jubilee year.  He/she would be free to return to their family.

chainSo, the year of Jubilee literally “set the captive free.”  This reminds me that one day those in Christ will be set free from the bondage of the world.  We will no longer be plagued by the schemes of the enemy, whose greatest hope is that we remain chained as prisoners.  Jesus will return and make all things new.  Every chain will break and slavery of sin will be abolished!

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+25&version=NIV

Liberty bell crack
Up close view of the crack on the bell:  Note how the crack goes right through the word LIBERTY

This verse is fitting on our Liberty Bell because the United States is a nation that broke free from the bondage of England.  It broke free from persecution at the hands of foreign governments.  It is even called the Land of the Free.  It is because of this freedom that the gospel has prospered and people are given full access to the Word.

There are those who would say we do not need Jesus and we can count on mankind to fix this broken world.  Mankind cannot fix the problems that plague our nations.  The crack that has formed in our world cannot be mended by anyone but Christ, who gives us true liberty.  When I look at the crack in the Liberty Bell, running straight through the word Liberty, I am reminded of this fact.

So, when is the next Shemitah year?  The next one will begin on September 7, 2021, and last until September 25, 2022.   Keep in mind the Shemitah lasts for a full year.  The Shemitah begins when The Feast of Trumpets begins.  Then it ends as the Feast of Trumpets begins the following year.  So, the Feast of Trumpets begins on September 7, 2021 and this ushers in the Shemitah year.  This Shemitah year will continue until sundown on September 25, 2022.  (Keep in mind the Hebrew calendar “days” begin and end when the sun goes down).

In this way, we see the Shemitah begins and ends with the Feast of Trumpets!  I think that is cool because we know Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega- the beginning and the end!  If you don’t know this already, the Feast of Trumpets is a feast that foreshadows the return of Christ at the rapture.

Some scholars have tied the Shemitah with the future Tribulation that takes place on Earth.   If you are familiar with the Bible you will see cycles of 7 everywhere.  The Tribulation is a seven year cycle that begins with the rise of the Anti-Christ, and ends with the Second Coming of Christ.

The Shemitah is all about a release from debt. Past debts are nullfied.  Remember, Shemitah means release.  The word itself means:  to allow or enable to escape from confinement, or to set free.  Synonyms are: liberate, or let go.  It is also a time when the land rests from its labor and the working of the land ceases.

If the Rapture occurs at the end of a Shemitah cycle, then the followers of Christ would certainly get a giant release!  They would be released from the prison here on Earth, and go on to freedom in heaven.  Seven years later, when the next Shemitah cycle finishes, there would be another release.  This one would occur at the end of the Seven year Tribulation (end of the next Shemitah cycle) and this time Christ would return at the glorious Second Coming.  A release for the Earth, the land and its people would occur.  The land would rest from war, devastation and the plagues of the Tribulation.  The people left on Earth will rest from the rule of the Anti-Christ.   The nations would rest from conflict.  Thus, the Millennial Kingdom would be ushered in and from that point peace would be instituted on Earth through Christ’s rule.  In this way, the pattern would show a beginning and end cycle.  The end of one Shemitah cycle ushers in the Tribulation, while the end of the next Shemitah cycle brings the earth into redemption through Christ’s rule.

I’m not saying I think Christ is returning in the next Shemitah year.  I can make all the educated guesses I want, but it’s not up to me or anyone else.  That is God’s timing.  I do not know if it will line up with a Shemitah year or not.  It could, but I would never be dogmatic about that because I am a mere human reading God’s word, and trying to understand the millions of mysteries he sets out for us to explore.  Yet, I am fascinated by all the patterns and clues he leaves in his word.  There are so many layers of meaning and it would take many lifetimes to make a dent in those mysteries.

But, I do believe Jesus’ return is much closer than we think.  I do believe it will take many by surprise when he does come because much of the world doesn’t take the time to pray and study the Word.

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark.”  Luke 17:26-27

This clearly tells us most were not aware when the flood was coming.  They were just going about their business.  That is how it will be when the Lord returns for his Bride.

“You are all children of the light and of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”  1 Thessalonians 5:5

As followers of Christ, we are not in the dark.  We are aware of the Savior’s presence, and we are in constant relationship with him.   We are ready for his return at any time, even anticipating it with each passing day.  Finally, we will be able to put away our phones (for good), walk away from our piles of laundry, and never clock in for work again.  It’s time for one big REST with Jesus.

Until then, every day can be a Sabbath for you.  Jesus is the Sabbath and he offers you rest any day of the week.

 

Full inscription on the Liberty Bell below:

Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof Lev. XXV. v X.
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in PHILAD
Pass and Stow
MDCCLIII

 

Resources:  

Mystery of the Shemitah- by Jonathan Cahn

El Shaddai Ministries:  Mark Biltz

The Feasts of the Lord:  Mitch and Zhava Glaser

U.S. History.org (Liberty bell)

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/10-fascinating-facts-about-the-liberty-bell

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Shemitah

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