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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
“Remembering with Joy”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original tounless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes, musings, and thoughts that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Through many of our lessons we have discussed the meaning and the purpose of the Sabbath, which simply means to rest or cease from work. It was a holy day to be observed not only for the remembering of when God rested from His work during the creation (Genesis 2:2), but it was also for the benefit of the people.
But, what we haven’t discussed or covered in a while is the sabbatical years. These years operate in much the same way as the Sabbath day operates. God allotted these special years where common work was to cease relating to sowing, plowing, pruning, and harvesting (you know, mostly their means of livelihood and food), and the people would spend time hearing the word of God and focusing on God (see Deuteronomy 31:10-11).
While a year off of physical work may seem like a dream vacation for some moderns, in the time when one depended on working, on cycles of sowing and reaping year by year and season by season, to provide for the family and the land, maybe not so much so. This would be a major faith and trust issue. They would literally have to take their hands completely off of concern for their own care, step back, and depend on God alone to produce a positive and satisfactory outcome.
This is something many have difficulty doing, and not just in a mostly agrarian society. The push for gain and self-sufficiency and the worry over one’s future and supply for it causes the results of all involved, including the land, to be overworked.
In viewing this lesson, we must remember from the time of the Garden of Eden work was and is ordained by God. But, through these feasts, sabbaths, and remembrances God designed certain perimeters in which work may be done, but not overdone. Anything that goes beyond what God specified runs along the train of thought and actions of relying more on self than God. Through these sabbatical years, the children of Israel would truly learn that their sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). When they come into the land God promised, these ceremonies, observances, and times of remembrance will help keep the people’s faith pointed in the right direction: toward God Himself, who has promised to the see them through it all.
Leviticus 25:1-5 “And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.”
This week’s lesson starts pretty much the same way last week’s lesson started, with God speaking “unto Moses in mount Sinai.”
“Sinai” is the place where Moses is receiving from God the laws, standards, and covenant terms He is issuing to His people. And, it is in the midst of this giving and receiving of laws that God’s heavenly Fathering concerns for His people show in what He lays out for them when they “come into the land which I give you.”
As stressed in last week’s lesson, they are not there yet; they are not in the Promised Land. But, that doesn’t negate the fact that one day they will be. One day, through adversities and conquests, walls will come down, borders will be crossed, and this people of promise will tread the soil of their promise. Not only tread the soil of it, but they will live and build a life in the place of their long-awaited inheritance. And, when they do, God has some standards for them to govern themselves and the land by.
These standards are not as much about restrictions as they are about the people lining up with His ordinances that they might be put in a place of being blessed by God. With that, the people must take careful heed of not only how they operate in the land as far as behavior and such, but in how they work “the land” itself.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this was an agrarian society or an agriculture community. Pretty much everything is tied in with what was sown and cultivated in this land. Resources came about with this land. Food and livelihood were dependent on their land. That’s how it is in most communities based around the farming culture. What comes from the land, or not, means the difference of everything.
Nobody knows this better than the One who created the lands and fully understands all the agriculture processes involved in its healthy upkeep. So, God declared for the land to “keep a sabbath,” or a period of rest.
Now, obviously, this is something the land can’t do by itself if it is fully occupied with people and worked by them. This will only come about when the people choose to not work the land they own. Therefore, God gave the people guiding principles in exactly what the keeping of a Sabbath for the land would look like.
For “six years” they were to conduct business as usual. Everything that was needed to ensure healthy, fruitful, and abundant crops were to be done. God wanted them to work it. Even in the book of Proverbs, it teaches us the importance of working what God allotted to us: “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough,” (Proverbs 28:19, NKJV).
In that six-year period they were expected to “sow thy field” (prepare the land and plant seeds), “prune thy vineyard” (do the work necessary to keep them healthy and prevent overgrown and unproductive branches from taking over there), and they were to “gather in the fruit” (reap the harvest and enjoy).
They were to diligently work it! For six years they were to put forth their best and honest effort.
But, the “seventh year” was totally different. The seventh year was a year considered to be “a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD.” This was an entire year, as the quoted verse above states, of “rest” from the normal requirements that needed to be fulfilled revolving around the land and its agricultural processes.
If you’re thinking the people were probably saying, “Well good, one less job that I have to do. It frees up more time for me,” then, you’re probably wrong. As mentioned in the introduction, these people plowed, sowed, pruned, and harvested from season to season to store, live off of, and sell for profit what grew from their land. Rather than living from paycheck to paycheck like most moderns do, we can liken it to them to living from season to season, depending on each season to bring forth its own harvest for survival and profit.
To walk away from that for an entire year, how would they have enough to live on? Could they let go of control enough to not put their hands in the work where God said not to put their hands in the work? Could they trust God enough to see that they are sufficiently blessed and taken care of? If the same stipulations were put on your doorstep, could you? Answer honestly.
And, although this “rest unto the land” God was calling for would benefit the land and give it a time of replenishment and restoration, our lesson also notes this “sabbath” year God was calling for was “for the LORD.” It was ordained by God, for God, to bring honor to God. It was a ceremony of remembrance centered around God.
This sabbatical year or Sabbath year is a special set-aside time for God, just as a normal sabbath day would be. These sabbaths, be it a day or a year like our lesson discusses, they are considered holy. They are not just for the purpose of having time off or a holiday, but to be looked at as a holy day or holy days that bring honor to the Lord when they are followed through with joy and obedience. These are to be sanctified times for God. They are not optional or just a good idea, but as with all of God’s commands they are to be observed in the way He sees fit.
One of the ways He sees fit is with His care for His people. During these sabbath years, much like the Year of Jubilee discussed later in this lesson, it is to be a year of release (Deuteronomy 15:1-6). Debts are cancelled during these special years, especially toward their brother or neighbor. “For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you,” (Deuteronomy 15:6, NKJV).
Another way it is to be observed found here in our lesson text is through the care of the land. What they usually do to get a harvest is not to be done during this time. In this seventh year “thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which growth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather…”
Normal reaping and gathering of both grains and vines took many hours and sometimes days of labor, and it was done for supply and surplus. Everything that was “rightfully theirs” they would bring in in abundance. Clearing it all out except the corners left for gleaning (Leviticus 23:22, refer to last week’s lesson).
But, it was not so during this year of Sabbath. The land was rightfully God’s and He was pronouncing a season of “rest” for it, for His glory.
So, it didn’t matter if even what was growing was doing so of “its own accord,” if it was still producing natural growth without one plowing, sowing, and pruning the land. It was still to be left alone from the intense agriculture processes conducted in a normal year.
Leviticus 25:6-7 “And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee. And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.”
What was grown naturally during this sabbath year was for everyone to partake in. Normally, the crops yielded on one’s property belonged to them. But, during this sabbath year, whatever God allowed to grow or be produced, was for the benefit of not just the landowner, but for all. Everyone had equals rights to it (compare Exodus 23:11). They were to take what they needed for the moment and leave the rest. This was day by day living in faith and trust of God to supply.
Every person, whether they were of the house or not, whether they were “servants” or “strangers,” would be able to use what was grown as food or “meat.” Remember, as we discussed in last week’s lesson, the word “meat” does not represent animal products here as we have become accustomed to using that word. Rather, it is a reference for food in general.
Not only were people serviced by the natural growth of the land, but the animals were too. It was also for “thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land.”
Reading further ahead in this chapter, it shows that prior to the Sabbath year there would be a year of abundance in the sixth year (see Leviticus 25:20-22). In that year, God would provide extra so that they won’t have to worry or question what they will have to eat. Remember what Jesus taught, if God so lovingly provides for the sparrows, He will provide for His people too (see Matthew 6:26-34).
This is God’s ceremony. This is God’s celebration. This is a God-ordained time of remembrance with joy. In that, God is going to take care of His people and make sure they are provided for.
This is like when God instituted their first Sabbath. Every day they would come out and gather a certain amount of manna. But, for them to properly rest and honor the Sabbath God ordained, God provided on the sixth day a double portion to see them through (see Exodus 16:21-26, read all of Exodus 16 for greater details). God is going to provide for the Sabbath year in the same way but on a grander scale.
Leviticus 25:8-12 “And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.”
As time goes by and the people have celebrated seven of those special sabbath years, an even greater time of rejoicing and celebration is to be remembered and observed during the Year of Jubilee.
Forty-nine years would go by, but after that, “then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month.” This is the day of “atonement” (see Leviticus 23:27-28; see The Day of Atonement lesson found here on Wordforlifesays.com for more details). The day of atonement was a “holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD,” (vs. 27). Just as the sabbath days, in this special and most holy time of the year there was to be no work performed on that day (vs. 28).
So, it is on the tenth day of this seventh month during this forty-ninth year where the “trumpet of the jubile” is sounded singling the arrival of the Year of Jubilee (compare Numbers 10:10). This year shall be “hallow” meaning considered holy and sanctified.
The Year of Jubilee is a year of liberty. It was during this special year when all debts were released, and possessions, property, and people were returned to their original owners.
When the children of Israel would first conquer these lands, it would be divided amongst the people to ensure that everybody got their piece of the pie, so to speak. Families would be numbered, and God would issue the land for each family accordingly (see Joshua 13-21). Numbers 26:53-55 describes it as, “Unto these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance: to every one shall his inheritance be given according to those that were numbered of him. Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.” Everyone would have just what they needed, not too much and not too little. What was sufficient for each family, God provided an inheritance for them.
When possessions and lands were sold, and when family members became the servants of others because they found themselves in financial difficulty, it throws off balance God’s original plan of everyone having the share they properly needed. For a wealthier individual to keep the land of another would just continually add to his accumulation of more while another family loses out due to lack.
Therefore, the Year of Jubilee, this year of liberty was the remedy for this imbalance. People and lands had a chance to be whole once more.
The holiness of this celebration was to be observed just like the sabbath year. In this year they were commanded to “not sow, neither reap that which growth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of they vine undressed” (“undressed” means “unpruned,” referring to the unpruned vines). All the same stipulations that marked the normal sabbath year celebration and cessation of work that the land may rest was to be applied to this special year of liberty as well, it too being a sabbath year.
Therefore, with the Year of Jubilee (which is the fiftieth year), following a normal sabbath year (which is the forty-ninth year), that would mean that it would be two full years of cessation from working the crops and harvesting the growth the people were to keep from. This celebration wasn’t intended to make them pine for what they didn’t have, but to rejoice in the God who so lovingly provided what they did have.
Just as we saw for the normal sabbath year, for the occasion of this special time, God would also provide abundance ahead of time for these years where sowing and harvesting were prohibited (refer again to Leviticus 25:20-22). “I will command my blessing upon you,” God declared (Leviticus 25:21).
They were reminded again of the solemnity of the keeping of this joyous occasion: “it shall be holy unto you.” As noted earlier, this too, was a sacred and sanctified time that God expected the people to follow through with. It wasn’t optional, but an obligation. He put the command out there and was looking for the people to obey it.
He promised that there would be an “increase… of the field,” and that the people could “eat” it. This promise, once again, shows us of His care, if they would just commemorate this year and remember it and follow through with it with joy.
Later in this chapter, God reminds them of this great truth: “I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God,” (Leviticus 25:38). When they come into this land, as the lesson opens up and tells us, it is because of what God has done for them because He is in a relationship with them. God broke their bands of slavery from Egypt. By the time they do reach the Promised Land God would have defeated enemy after enemy before them. God is the owner of this land. He is the one who gave it to His people as a possession. And, it’s His laws, ceremonies, and times of remembrance He looks for the people to keep because He is their God alone.
Celebrate God. Remember what He has done, and what He continues to do in your life daily.
Standard Print PDF: Remembering with Joy Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
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Draw the Scene: Remembering with Joy Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: Remembering with Joy Memory Verse
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