Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning depicts a view of New York City’s Seventh Street in the early morning of a 1930 Lord’s Day. The scene is quaint, in part, because the businesses are clearly closed.
How old fashioned.
The street is empty save the long lines of the familiar and generic cityscape and the long shadows of early morning. These long shadows of the painting fill the viewer with hope—but not hope in a day of commerce—hope of a new day, a new week.
The scene is one of rest.
A day of rest.
Hopper’s painting is a scene that ought to cause longing for believers for days of old, days of Sabbath keeping as we say. But the shadows ought to cause longing for days to come—days of full redemption. We travel those shadow-lines ahead asking what it is that God has for us.
Sabbath rest, even in our towns and communities, remind us of this petition:
Thy will be done.
Ask anyone over fifty about the painting and he or she will tell you of familiar scenes in his or her own communities--scenes of rest. Scenes of closed Sundays. Scenes of sabbath.
Twenty-five hundred years before Edward Hopper stood on Seventh Street to paint, the people of God were taken into exile from Judah to Babylon. Long shadows reminded them of days as well.
Days reminded of months.
Months reminded them of years.
The land stood unfallowed.
Stores remained closed.
Markets were boarded.
The land received rest.
But it was not always so. God’s people did not care for his day. Because they did not care, the people of God were removed from their land. The people of God refused to keep the Sabbath.
They refused sabbath rest.
The LORD said that when the people would be disciplined for their fourth commandment violations, the land would rest. The land would enjoy the rest that God had promised it.
Listen to what he says:
Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. Leviticus 26:34-35
Eventually the land would enjoy its owed-sabbaths and the people would be welcomed back into the land. We are told that in 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.
Today in cities all across California and New York and Illinois and Pennsylvania the land received rest. Other places too. Italy, China, much of Europe. As plague spreads across our land, the markets crash to four year lows, businesses are forced to close, a global economy based on seven days of labor comes to a halt.
What do we find behind COVID-19? What is the judgment of this pestilence? In part it is God's call to rest.
Sabbath rest that remains.
Do you remember?
His day will be made holy.
The land will rest.
But the question is: How long O Lord?