Rest for the Land

Today’s Passage – Leviticus 24 – 25 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – John 17 – 18Proverbs 12Psalms 61 – 65)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 47:1

Read the “0212 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this morning’s reading – “The Mind of the Lord.”

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:2-4)

The image above is of a scene typical in the southern plains during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, which afflicted parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. There were many contributing factors that caused the barren and desert-like conditions covering this huge land mass of once fruitful grassland, including a severe shortage of rain over and extended period of time. However, one of the components that added to the problem was a serious lack of intelligent land management. The government had encouraged and had given incentives for people to move to this area and farm the land; but, they over-farmed it and stripped the land of its topsoil and nutrients. In Egan Timothy’s book, The Worst of Times, Melt White from Texas was quoted as saying, “God didn’t create this land around here to be plowed up, He created it for Indians and buffalo. Folks raped this land. Raped it bad.”[1]

J. Vernon McGee refers to a similar “dust bowl” of sorts that he experienced as a young boy: “The southland where I was reared has learned, to its sorrow, that one should let the land lie fallow. A great deal of the land has been worn out by planting cotton every year, year after year. The Sabbatical year was actually a good agricultural principle which God gave to them. It is quite interesting that God knows all about farming, isn’t it?”[2]

Thousands of years before the Dust Bowl hit America, God had commanded His people to let their land “rest” one year out of seven in order for the land to be replenished with the nutrients it needs. The people could cultivate, plant, and reap their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were forbidden to do so. On that seventh year, the people could go out in the field and eat of the fruits that grew on their own, but they could not harvest what had grown to be sold in the market. The poor and the wild beasts were also permitted to eat of anything that grew on its own in the year of rest. By resting their fields one year out of seven, God also replenished the nutrients that were taken from them during the six years. This way, the fields would continue to produce.

Unfortunately, it seems that Israel did not obey God and let their land rest one year out of seven as He commanded them. According to 2 Chronicles 36, God sent His people into Babylonian captivity for seventy years, and during that time He gave the land in Israel time to rest in proportion to the number of years that they did not voluntarily rest the land when they lived there:

“To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” (2 Chronicles 36:21 – See also Jeremiah 25:8 – 11)

Though I am certainly not an expert on agricultural matters, I am told that many farmers today will rotate their fields in order that they can “rest” one year out of seven. Some farmers will actually plant something in the seventh year that they will not harvest. Then, they will plow it all back into the field returning the nutrients to the soil. The bottom line, is that farmers have learned that they cannot keep taking from the ground, without allowing it to be replenished.

A spiritual application that we can make from this is that neither can we keep selfishly taking what God has provided without every once in a while giving back. Just a thought.

[1] Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (p. 9). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.

[2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed., vol. 1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 437.


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C Stahl
C Stahl
7 months ago

I never knew that about the dust bowl. Interesting. Thank you. Amen.

Debbie Leatherman
Debbie Leatherman
7 months ago

This was an especially moving message for me since my dad lived in the dust bowl of the Oklahoma panhandle. Great analogy & words of wisdom pastor. Thank you.
PS I’m going to tell Phil to let dad read this at their “roll call” this morning. Dad will appreciate this message also.

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