The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the Lord. You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. You are not to reap what grows by itself from your crop, or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. It must be a year of complete rest for the land. Whatever the land produces during the Sabbath year can be food for you—for yourself, your male or female slave, and the hired hand or foreigner who stays with you. All of its growth may serve as food for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. (Leviticus 25:1-7)
It seems that the “complete rest for the land” is just that–for the land. And it is for the land, but it is also for the people.
God knows how to provide for His creation, including people, animals, and land. By resting the land, it replenishes the nutrients it needs. During that time, some food still grows because of seeds and fruit-bearing trees, so it continues to feed people and animals. The rest is actually nourishment.
That seems odd to us because we think nourishment can only happen with productivity. We feel we must do something to be successful and produce something. Otherwise, we’ll fall behind. Productivity will lessen, provision will decrease, and we’ll end up digging ourselves into a hole of debt and need. But that’s not the way God says it works.
Sabbath, whether it is our weekly rest or a seventh-year rest of the land, is productive. Rest produces something labor and striving cannot. Rest grows and nourishes us in ways work cannot.
Yet we avoid rest. (At least, most of the time. When we take it, we often justify it as something we deserve. We need a vacation or earned retirement. It’s not an intentional setting aside work and resting in God’s presence as much as it is our attempt to meet our recreational-escape needs.)
I don’t know many places where a Sabbath rest of the land occurs regularly. In the U.S., we have “set aside” acreage that doesn’t get farmed during certain years, but the most common motivation for setting aside this land is the government check that comes to compensate for the “loss” incurred. But setting something aside was never intended to be considered a loss.
The first time I visited Israel, the land was flourishing. It was gorgeously lush, producing so many crops of fruits and vegetables. When I visited again, the land was pretty but it wasn’t as green and productive. I learned it was the Sabbath year. While not every landowner take the Sabbath seriously, many do. It was evident as I drove by the fields.
What keeps you from rest? Are your reasons for not resting good ones? Would God agree? Why don’t you ask Him? He’s already given you instruction, which is always purposeful. Why not listen and follow?