Jeremiah 29:11-13 is one of the most quoted verses in all of Scripture:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:10 is not:
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place.”
When seventy years are completed: one year for every Sabbath Year God’s people refused to embrace.
“But you did not listen to Me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused My anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”
Therefore the Lord Almighty says this:
Because you have not listened to My words… This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. — Jeremiah 25:7-8, Jeremiah 25:11, emphasis mine
How hard it is to anticipate the full reach of willful sin. Who among the people could have guessed that not listening would lead to idolatry?1 Not listening seems so small, almost benign, and easily justified as a temporary postponement of obedience.
Yet, not listening is perhaps the first exhale of lovelessness.
Listening is a posture of attentiveness, which acknowledges the presence of another.
Listening is an exercise in interdependence, which nurtures a teachable spirit.
Not listening is not.
Not listening is a posture of arrogance, which ignores the contributions of another.
Not listening is an exercise in independence, which breeds a rebellious spirit.
By not listening, God’s people “brought harm to [them]selves” (Jeremiah 25:7).
Which returns us to the ancient and forfeited power of the Sabbath Year — of space squandered, of listening denied.
Which returns us to the current and immeasurable potential of the Sacred Slow — of space devoted, of listening cherished.
Much has changed since Moses first announced the original Sacred Slow. Slavery is now illegal, few completely live off the land, most debts are held by banks, not by brothers, and we can hear God’s Word by pushing a button, not only on communal feast days.
Two things have not changed. We still struggle to listen and obey, and not listening is still toxic for our souls and communities.
Today, we are in dire need of sacred and slow seasons to physically, figuratively, and emotionally release slaves, rest land, cancel debts, and hear God’s Word in community.
As Marjorie J. Thompson stated, “In a world driven by the need to accomplish and acquire, in a world where we judge one another on the basis of performance, God calls us to the radical trust of rest.”2
On this side of the empty tomb, we have the privilege of discovering what Jesus called “rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29) at depths and dimensions our ancestors in the faith ached to realize. In Jesus, soul-rest is entered through the Cross3 as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection release us from slavery to sin and free us from the vanity of works-based righteousness.
With and in Jesus, we then guard and grow that rest willfully through accepting forgiveness and rejecting the self-punishment of shame, stewarding our bodies and creation as God’s art, forgiving and giving to others as Jesus has forgiven and given to us, and respecting God’s Word personally and living it out in community.
This Sacred Slow is an ongoing invitation to truly listen.
This Sacred Slow is an ongoing exercise in an open-handed existence.
- See also Jeremiah 44:1-6.
- Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 48.
- A breathtaking bridge from the Old Testament Sabbath Year regulations to Jesus’ New Testament announcement of release is built by Shead, who sees a crescendo in the Sabbath and Jubilee emphases that reaches a peak in Jesus’ bold recitation of Isaiah 61. Though an extended quote, Shead’s explanation is simply too beautiful to paraphrase: “The pinnacle and culmination of this process, in terms of where the OT witness is heading, is the sermon of Jesus recorded in Luke 4. And the key word of the sermon, a word which, almost on its own, carries the process from Leviticus to Luke is ἄφεσις — which brings us to the Septuagint… Indeed, the long evolution of Leviticus 25 can virtually be equated, in the LXX, with the evolution of the meaning of ἄφεσις. One might almost say that its original legal-economic, and subsequent political edges have rubbed away, leaving behind the word used now in the NT to mean ‘forgiveness.’ … What has been offered since Luke 4 is forgiveness and restoration to a life of sabbatical blessedness in a new creation. Jesus’ miracles of release for the oppressed and sight for the blind were signs of this, but the real sign was the miracle of his resurrection from the dead. It is only here that the Day of Atonement timing of Leviticus 25:10 makes complete sense” (Shead, “Theology of the Sabbath Year,” 31, 32–33).
Excerpted with permission from The Sacred Slow by Alicia Britt Chole, copyright Alicia Britt Chole.
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“The radical trust of rest”… In our busy, aggressive, ambitious culture, rest does take radical trust! We rush everywhere. We go-go-go 24/7/365. And, we disobey the Lord when we neglect stopping and truly listening to the Voice of God. We want to hear from you! Come share your thoughts on rest with us on our blog. ~ Devotionals Daily