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A Principle of Rest for the Land

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A Principle of Rest for the Land

God knows the earth needs to rest, too.

Leviticus 25:1-7

The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.”

Just as the people were expected to rest every seven days, so they were expected to let the land rest every seven years. The land itself was to have a Sabbath. This must have seemed a strange mandate to the people. We have no evidence they ever kept it. Indeed, it is precisely because that they did not—for 490 years—that they were taken into 70 years of captivity, so that the land could have its rest.

Farmers know the importance of resting arable land. This is why they rotate crops, allowing land to lie fallow and to gather its strength for another round. There is in this Sabbath rest for the land a principle of careful stewardship of arable soil which remains valid to this day. It is this principle which yet abides, not the specific injunction of seventh-year rest for the land.

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In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).

Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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