Here’s your summary of Isaiah 34: the first half is a bloodbath and the second half is a wasteland. Put on your hip waders and let’s dig into the gritty details.
If you haven’t read the oracles of judgment in Isaiah 13-23, you’re in luck: the twenty-fourth chapter functions as a summary of judgment against the whole earth. I do recommend reading Isaiah 13-23; it may contain unfamiliar history and uncomfortable punishment, but not every Bible passage has its significance and value right on the surface. That said, the very first verse of today’s chapter will catch us up to speed if necessary: “Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants” (24:1). God will visit his wrath on everybody and his brother.
You’ll find the final mentions of the Sabbath in Leviticus in the twenty-sixth chapter. It’s an “I have set life and death before you, choose life” situation, where God lays out the blessings that Israel will reap from obeying his commandments and the penalties they’ll suffer if they don’t. The passage opens by recapitulating the prohibition on idolatry, then adds, “You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord” (2). Here the Sabbath is tied to reverence for God’s space and rejection of the worship of other gods. As an emulation of the example set by God in creating the world, it’s a way of joining him in one’s rest. The Sabbath is serious business.
Today on our Sabbath study, we have a grab bag of Sabbath mentions from Leviticus. The first one in the English translation doesn’t even have the word “Sabbath” in it! Leviticus 2:13 contains the statement “The salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering.” See that phrase “shall not be lacking?” That’s a form of the Hebrew verb shabath, “to cease.” The salt don’t stop, y’all. This doesn’t really shed much light on the practice of keeping the Sabbath day, but it does occur to me: the religious use of salt adds a new layer to Jesus’ words about salt losing its taste in Matthew 5:13. It’s not simply a secular seasoning; the Jewish grain offering puts it to sacred use as well. An ordinary thing takes on a holy dimension–until it loses its flavor.
Leviticus! Everyone’s favorite book of the Bible, next to Ecclesiastes! Seriously, though, ever since I read through it during the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I’ve found Leviticus interesting. Which laws are meant to be distinguishing marks for the ancient Hebrews as God’s chosen nation? Which laws constitute moral principles that all of us benefit from following? Which laws are oriented toward ancient agrarian culture and are of little concern to us in the 21st century because, for example, we don’t own any oxen? Sorting out what the laws say and what they mean for us today takes work, but I’ve found that it’s worth tackling.