Dirt Sabbath

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 23:10-19

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest . . . (vv. 10-11)

During university, I worked for an agricultural products company. My boss worked relentlessly, but dutifully observed a weekly Sabbath on Sundays. One Saturday night, however, he had a small amount of work left over and decided to complete it the next morning. Curiously, first thing Sunday morning, his truck broke down. Sabbath rest was forced upon him.

The Lord God commands the Israelites to observe Sabbath rest. Not only are humans and animals instructed to take a weekly day off; God prescribes periodic rest for all their engines of economic activity, down to the soil they farm. God warns that if his people do not take a break, they will experience a comprehensive breakdown. The Israelites, however, break God’s Sabbath commands, so the Lord delivers a breakdown. He imposes society-wide rest in the exile: “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested . . .” (2 Chron. 36:21 NIV).

For the Israelites, and for us, work and economic activity easily become idols. When we give in to the temptation to produce relentlessly, not only do we burn out, not only do we overwork our employees and equipment, but we abuse and overuse the resources of God’s creation. God prescribes rest for the rejuvenation of our bodies and our world. The Sabbath principle also reminds us that we live by his provision, not our production. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, trust God’s provision and ask for his rest.