As a little girl, I grew up surrounded by the rural fields of western Kansas. To this very day, the dancing of the wheat in the summer breeze or the vibrant greens in the giant corn stalks to the deep red hues of milo in the fall still causes me to pause as I admire their beauty and reflect upon my childhood. A farmer’s life consists of busyness in planting and harvesting and then rest during the cold winter season, but some crops still lie in wait for the spring rains to boost them forward.
Rest is vital for farmers, and we know that rest is essential to God. After He created everything and saw that it was good (Gen. 2:1-3), he rested. We see a weekly Sabbath day required for the Israelites in the Ten Commandments (Exd. 20:8-11). In our reading today, rest is now extended to the land, not for just a day but a whole year (Lev. 25:2-7) and two years when the Jubilee fell the year following the Shmita (Lev. 25:10-11). Land connected the Israelites to their ancestors and was the primary source of provision for their families, just as our vocations are. Can you imagine how a mandated year rest would affect us today?
I find the word “solemn” interesting as it refers to the kind of rest God required. The word comes from the Latin word “sollemis,” which means formal or ceremonial, and “a serious, or formal in manner, behavior or expression, a solemn moment or occasion.” This rest wasn’t a time of pleasure as we see it, but time set apart for the Israelites to reflect on God’s holiness.
It was still a time of cultivation and plowing, just not of the land, but hearts focusing on their relationship with God. God is holy; therefore, we are to be also (Lev. 19:2). We are not instantly holy, it requires personal reflection and understanding of who He is, and that is serious business.
The Shmita and the Jubilee year were requirements that brought provision and release, whether from slavery or debt. The Jubilee also restored the land as allocated (Josh 13-21) to their ancestors back to their families. God provides for us spiritually in the same way that he delivered us from sin (slavery) and atoned for all our sin (debts) (Rom. 3:25) through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:46-47) We cannot do that on our own accord! (Titus 3:5-7)
The times in which we live have changed, but God has not. He is still the primary landowner and creator of all things and dwells within our hearts. We can’t dedicate a year to reflect upon God and our relationship with him solely. But we can intentionally soak in His Truth and allow Him to cultivate the fallow grounds of our hearts. That isn’t always easy and can be pretty challenging. But just as the Kansas farmland dances in the summer breezes, our hearts can spring forward his tender loving mercies as we grow more like Him.