Living on top of a living land.

Leviticus 25:1-7:  The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai,“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

The sabbatical system is much more than one Sabbath every seven days, it also consists of one sabbath year every seven years, and the Year of Jubilee. By reading the above passage, we can see the complexity of the Sabbath commandment, and God’s intention behind Sabbath.

  1. Sabbath is “to the Lord”. It is a reminder that the land and its productivity are gifts from God. By dedicating one year out of every seven years or one day out of every seven days to the Lord, we are saying that the entire productivity of the land comes from the Lord.
  2. “The land is to have a year of sabbath rest.” – it is not only human beings who need rest. The fact that the land need rest means that, like humans, the land is a living system.
  3. “Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year…” – even if we don’t sow or prune, the land is still productive. This is another trait of living systems, living systems are naturally productive. In fact, living systems that have regular rest are more productive than living systems that are over-worked.
  4.  “for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.” – the land as a living system does not exclusively serve the land owner, instead it sustains both the rich and the poor, both domesticated and wild animals. The land is healthy when the ecosystem living upon it is healthy.

Those who honor God honor God’s creation. To honor God’s creation means that we live in a mutually beneficial relationship with our land and our environment. The land is not a lifeless piece of resource we can exploit.