Dr. Claire Brown - "Even the Land"
January 7, 2013
“The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.” -- Leviticus 25:1-5
A consideration of the laws laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy reveals some radical-sounding policies: every forty-nine years outstanding debts were to be forgiven; the owner of a field was not entitled to all of its produce but must leave the corners and gleanings for widows, orphans, and foreigners; and not even slaves could be required to work on the Sabbath. A major function of these laws was to protect the weakest members of society, often in a way that reminded everyone that respecting the vulnerable was part and parcel of honoring God.
Today’s passage continues that tradition and applies it even beyond society: the land, creation itself, needs periodic rest. And so, despite the obvious material and financial challenges of implementing such a policy, every seven years agricultural activity was to cease as the land received its needed rest. God cares enough about creation to make its care a required form of worship (“a Sabbath for the Lord”). Treating the earth and its contents as a thing of value and not as a mere means to satisfying our wants can be inconvenient and costly, but it is also a way of honoring the Lord of Creation.