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with Laura Leathers
Earth Day, Go Green, climate control, global warming, and recycling are just some of the phrases and terminology used in today’s society regarding taking care of the environment. We are encouraged to join the movement to help save planet earth. There are individuals and groups who worship nature. Others see the earth as something we are to dominate, thereby using whatever natural resources for their sole benefit. What is a Christian’s responsibility? John Wesley wrote, “When the possessor of Heaven and earth brought you into being and placed you in this world, He placed you here not as owner but as a steward.” Therefore, as a Christian we are to look to Scripture, not to man, regarding our responsibilities for taking care of the land.
At the beginning of this quarter we studied Beyond Belief-Does What I Believe about God Change Anything? Then Resilient Faith: Standing Strong in the Midst of Suffering. Our final section, And It was Good, builds upon all of those lessons. For our actions will reflect what we believe. Faith is focused on trusting Christ, walking in obedience, and believing in the sufficiency of the Scriptures. Leviticus 25:1-7 shows how God implemented a plan for the earth to be maintained. If His directions are followed we will see the earth replenished, there will be an increase in productivity and we will be blessed.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Gen. 2:3 NASB). God did not grow tired from His work. Instead God set a model –a Sabbath rest—for man to follow. The Sabbath rest principle discussed in Leviticus 25 is known as the “land Sabbath” and applies directly to the seventh year. “The Jewish festival system is readily arranged into groups of seven . . . For example, the people rest on the seventh day (the Sabbath). Pentecost, when harvesters rest, comes during the seventh week (after Passover). The nation rests during the seventh month at the Feast of Trumpets. The Year of Jubilee, when everything rests, comes following the seventh seven of years (49 years). Rest for God’s creation systematically comes on the seventh day, week, month, year, and even the seventh seven of years” (Women’s Evangelical Commentary, Old Testament, by Patterson & Kelly ©2011). God’s directions are simple and to the point.
First, God is the owner and we are to be wise stewards (Lev. 25:1-3). The Lord spoke to Moses, “the land which I shall give you”. The Psalmist declared, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1 NASB).
Secondly, we are to trust God and acknowledge everything comes from Him (Lev. 25:4-5). We are told to give the land a rest from active agricultural production every seventh year. This was “a Sabbath to the Lord . . . the land shall have a sabbatical year.” It is here we need to ask ourselves a very important question: Is this command valid for today? If you are engaged in farming you may answer in the negative because there are so many expenses. Many farmers give the land a rest by rotating crops and leaving certain fields unplanted. It would behoove the student to study more about the “land Sabbath” and then answer the question. One final thought, when we observe the “land Sabbath”, both in the seventh year and in the fiftieth year, there is a promise for our obedience. It is found in Leviticus 25:18-21, “Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it . . . then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years.”
The last principle: we are to use the earth and what God has given us to benefit others. Notice in verses Lev. 25:6-7, the people who were to benefit from the “land Sabbath”: “All of you shall have food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you, even the cattle and the animals.” Yes, we are to be wise stewards of the earth, thereby giving a testimony and bringing glory to our gracious Heavenly Father.
God is good all the time and all the time God is good. As we end this quarter join me in singing, “God is so good. . . He’s so good to me” (Traditional). Blessings.
Leathers is a member of First Church, Madison.