For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. – Exodus 23:10-11 (NRSV)
In the years before chemical fertilizers and horticultural sciences, it was common practice to let fields rest so that the soil could replenish and recover. There are still many places that rotate their crops from field to field so that each crop is getting the nutrients needed for a good harvest. This is something God has wired into us; a need for rest to replenish and restore. For the people of Israel it was a necessary and vital part of their culture; for us it is a necessary and vital part of our spiritual growth and health.
We used planters this year for growing most of our garden. We used some of the same soil we did the last two years and thought it would be enough to mix in some compost, but we had to use far more fertilizer than normal to keep our garden going. The soil we used was tired. It knew it, but we did not. As believers we need to be attentive to the soil of our hearts to know when it needs to rest, replenish and restore.
One of the most important ways to practice this is holding to a weekly Sabbath. This is certainly any area of improvement needed for me, but I believe it is endemic to our current American culture. We have sleep aids, technology that keeps us constantly connected and entertainment that draws us away from rest to busyness. We need to overcome our culture and claim the rest that God has prepared for us. We need to make holy for ourselves what God has said is holy.
Rest is not easy for most of us. It is a discipline because we can always think of something we could or “should” be doing. This is the handiwork of the enemy and a broken world. There is never anything more important than doing the will of God and the Sabbath sits firmly in the center of His will. It is the practice of the Sabbath that prepares our hearts for the fresh crop, for new seed, for the tiller in the hand of God preparing our hearts for the next season.
Lord, help us be a people of the Sabbath, resting in Your presence and power. Let us cast aside every care and worry, trusting wholly in You to provide all we need. You are the Lord of the harvest, but also the Lord of the Sabbath and we want to be Your subjects on that day. Amen.