I must confess; I am a recovering workaholic. In previous seasons of my life, this trait seemed quite endearing and many praised me for how hard I often worked. I soaked in that glory, deceitfully ‘scripturizing’ it as burning the midnight oil (shaking my head now), as drawn from the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13.
As I grow deeper in my walk with God and get up in years, I have come to appreciate the difference between diligently going about my Father’s business and being too busy to be effective. My husband and I have shared a favourite Scripture for over a decade now, we call it our rest Scripture. It is in Hebrews 4 and talks about entering into God’s rest. The scripture also highlights on how the Israelites missed out on that rest. This Scripture has become my anchor. Every time my boat starts to drift farther from the shores of God’s rest, God reminds me of Hebrews 4. We will look further into this later.
However, recently, during family devotions with our kids, my husband brought up yet another Scripture, in Ezekiel 20. It made me pause for thought to evaluate and see a deeper meaning to both life and what God was actually calling me to do. The chapter starts with God dealing with Israel for the idolatry they practiced despite the fact that He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. My attention was drawn to the verses starting from verse 10;
Ezekiel 20:10 (AMP)
So I made them leave the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them My statutes and explained My ordinances to them, which, if a man keeps, he will live.
Also, I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord who sanctifies them (separates and sets them apart). But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they despised and rejected My ordinances, which, if a man keeps, he will live; and they greatly profaned My Sabbaths.
Then I decided to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. But I acted for My Name’s sake, that it would not be profaned in the sight of the [pagan] nations in whose sight I had brought them out [of slavery].
I also swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, [a land of plenty] flowing with milk and honey, which is the ornament and glory of all lands, because they rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they even profaned My Sabbaths, for their heart continually went after their [worthless] idols.
Yet My eye [looked on them with compassion and] spared them instead of destroying them, and I did not annihilate them in the wilderness. “But I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers nor observe their ordinances nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them.
Sanctify My Sabbaths and keep them holy; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know [without any doubt] that I am the Lord your God.’ Yet the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, which, if a man keeps, he will live; they profaned My Sabbaths.
Then I decided to pour out My wrath on them and finish My anger against them in the wilderness. Yet I withdrew My hand and acted for My Name’s sake, that it would not be profaned in the sight of the [pagan] nations in whose sight I had brought them out [of slavery]. Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the [Gentile] nations and disperse them among the countries, because they had not observed My ordinances, but had [dishonoured and] rejected My statutes and had profaned My Sabbaths, and set their eyes on the [man-made] idols of their fathers…
“Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Again in this your fathers have blasphemed Me, in that they acted faithlessly and treacherously against Me. For when I had brought them into the land which I swore to give to them, they saw every high hill and every dark and leafy tree [as a place for idol worship], and there they offered their sacrifices and there they presented their offering that provoked My anger; there also they made their sweet-smelling aroma and there poured out their drink offerings.
What strikes me most in this Scripture is God saying that He gave them His Sabbaths to be a sign between Him and the people, that they might know (without any doubt) that He is the Lord who sanctifies them (separates and sets them apart). I could clearly hear God saying to me that His rest was supposed to sanctify and set me apart.
As we continued with the devotions, God was seriously working on my workaholism. He was teaching me to trust in Him and in His provision, and avoid setting up my work, yes, my God-given purpose (a gift He has given me) as a high place where I practice idolatry.
Perhaps it was easy to tell out who among the Israelites was into idol worship. Their idols were usually cast on wood and stone. Maybe they could effortlessly rid of the idols by throwing them away. Our idols however, unlike theirs, are often times not physical – they are thoughts and things that are exalted in our lives above the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). God detests these so much that in the Old Testament He scattered Israel among the Gentile nations.
I hope that you and I can begin to explore why God really valued the Sabbath for His people. Why He would not allow them to prostitute themselves to other gods. Why His wrath was kindled against the people He had chosen. What this Sabbath means to us in the dispensation of Grace and Truth. Why being too busy is a form of idol worship.
What is the relationship between busy-ness and idolatry?
My intention is that we learn to trust in the Lord of the Sabbath and allow Him to lead us in green pastures and beside still waters (Psalm 23) to a full, enjoyable life.
Find all the Episodes in this Series
A journey of recovery from toiling (modern day workaholism) to working (as God intended)