After settling in Canaan, God allowed His people to work the land. But every seventh year, God said, “the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord” (Lev. 25:4) and lie fallow.
The Sabbatical Year allowed for the forgiveness of all debts, and any food that grew went to the poor and to the wild animals. Then every 50 years, on the year of Jubilee, the land not only rested but also returned to its ancestral owners. And all slaves walked free.
However, in 586 B.C., after God’s people failed to observe the Sabbatical Year for 490 years, God exiled them for the 70 special years they failed to give the land (see 2 Chron. 36:20-21).
All this was to show that the land belonged to God, not to those who lived on it (see Lev. 25:23). Although they worked the land, it was God who provided, and He made them stop working to prove it. For even when they rested, God supplied (see Ps. 127:2).
Some principles remain unchanged. Anyone who has ever lost a job or sensed true sacrifice in giving to God’s work has felt the tension faith required in the Sabbatical Year. Faith involves trust and trust implies risk (from our perspective). While God is never late, He also is seldom early.
O God, never [allow] us to think that we can stand by ourselves, and not need thee. —John Donne
God provides for us in daily doses. As with Israel in the wilderness before the Sabbath, so our own efforts to gather extra only breed worms . . . and amount to nothing.
The Father longs that we understand He provides daily bread, not careers by which we’re set for life (see Luke 11:3).
God may keep us on the edge of our means, for there our need for Him is often more clearly recognized.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), p. 139. Used by permission. Images courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.