While overseeing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah leads the nation of Israel in collective repentance and renewal. Israel, broken over its sin, covenanted once again to honor the Lord. One aspect of the peoples’ repentance involved a recommitment to honor the Sabbath.
If the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt. (Nehemiah 10:31)
While other people groups had no qualms about selling goods on the Sabbath day, the Israelites abstained from such activity. The lack of conviction on the part of heathen nations didn’t seem to deter Israel in this regard.
Does this mean that we cannot participate in any commercial activity on the Sabbath (eating at restaurants, buying merchandise, etc.)? There are different schools of thought on that, and I’m not quite sure where I fall. Do I think it would be better if businesses remained closed on Sundays so that we could all enjoy more rest? Yes. Will my eating/purchasing habits alone change the course of Knoxville’s Sunday business practices? Not likely. So would abstaining from eating out or buying things on Sunday do any good?
Of course, I know I’m not called to do the right thing (if abstaining is the right thing) only if I think it will change the world; I’m to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do before God. If no one but God is watching, there’s still plenty of an audience. I’m not responsible for what the world does with Scripture, but I am responsible for what I do with Scripture. What God requires of a servant is not success (as the world might view it—i.e., making a huge impact on scores of people), but faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2).
Is the fact that I’m having a hard time committing to a particular course of action a sign that I have a hard heart? Possibly. I guess the first step is to ask myself if I would at least be willing to entertain the thought of abstaining from “marketplace activity” on the Sabbath. If I lack this willingness, something may very well be wrong. (I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when one answers “No” to the question, “If God asked you to give up your rights to ________, would you be willing to do it?”)
So, I have yet to come to a solid conviction on this particular Sabbath issue. However, I didn’t want to keep from posting this particular passage. Whatever the case, I hope it at least provides food for thought. Nehemiah 10:31 is a part of the Bible, and all parts of Scripture are beneficial for us to meditate on (Ps. 19:7-14; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17).