NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who serves as Fenway Site Pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
2 Chronicles 36:20-21
He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
In the midst of the lockdowns and quarantines, there has been some expected good news. In normally overcrowded and bustling cities all around the world, people are hearing birds chirping for the first time in ages. In many places, mountain ranges are now visible because the smog has lifted, due to the lack of emissions from cars, power plants and factories. The water in the famed canals of Venice has typically been murky from pollution and overcrowding from tourism, but now due to all the shutdowns, the water is now crystal clear, so much so that people can see the fish swimming in them. To quote this Chronicles passage, it seems that the world is enjoying its first Sabbath in a long time.
In Leviticus 25, God commanded the Israelites that every seven years they were to take a Sabbath year and refrain from their normal agriculture work and not sow seeds or prune their vineyards. They were to just leave the land alone and let it rest. At the end of 2 Chronicles, we see the complete decline of God’s people as Judah is forced into exile in Babylon, and the author says it was a Sabbath for the land; it then became desolate. The implication here seems to be that the Israelites had not been practicing the Sabbath year for a long time and in some sense, God was forcing their hands and giving the land a rest.
While we recognize how difficult and trying these times are in this global pandemic, at the same time, I think we can recognize that there is something that God wants to do in us and our world. In our formerly normal lives, we all carried on with the usual: work, school and family affairs. But in between all of that, we packed in social clubs, workshops, workouts, eating out, vacations, shopping, social media, Youtube and Netflix (just to name a few). It feels like the goal of our lives was to fill every moment with something, to be busier, more educated, more entertained, more everything. One of the last things on our minds was taking a Sabbath. Sure we took days off or “mental health” days, but even then, we usually rested for the sake of being recharged to do more!
But now, perhaps God is forcing our hands, as most of us in some way or another have been compelled to put our normal, busy lives on hold. I believe that God wants to remind us to not make our lives about more achievement or more progress but to trust him by resting from our work. The environment is enjoying the rest with cleaner air and clearer water and skies, and we all the more are meant to enjoy this rest since, as Jesus says, the Sabbath was made for man. Let us then enjoy this rest that God has given us, and let us witness His work in our lives.
Prayer: Jesus, we surrender our lives to you in this season. It’s hard to not work and achieve as we once did before, but all the more, may we rest from our work and trust in Yours. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Acts 22
Lunch Bible Study
Read John 6:11-15: Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Questions to Consider
- What good work was Jesus doing in this passage?
- What would you do after performing such an amazing feat? How do you typically feel after a great accomplishment?
- What might have happened if Jesus stayed with the crowd? Why did he withdraw instead?
- Jesus was feeding the five thousand miraculously with the five loaves of bread and two fish.
- Personal reflection question. I think many of us feel a “high” of some sort after we accomplish something. Most of us in Jesus’ place would have stayed for the adulation and adoration of the crowd. We’d use this opportunity to be congratulated and affirmed.
- It says here that they may have taken Jesus and forced him to be king. Jesus withdrew because he was not meant to be a king like other earthly authorities. Also, Jesus withdrew because he was not defined by his work or accomplishment or by how much the crowds loved him. He could rest from his work because that work was not all he was about.
In this season, I believe God wants us to reconsider what or who defines our lives. In the midst of our busy lives, we can so easily let ourselves be designed by our work or accomplishments, but now is one of the best opportunities to rest from our work and to trust God to show us who we are. Let us close this day by surrendering our lives and our work to Him; let us seek rest for our busy souls.