Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Whose Life

Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. -- Leviticus 26:34

The land of Canaan is the life of Christ, full and abundant.  As we can discern from numerous passages like the one above, it is not life after death, heaven as we often think of it, or a carefree paradise.  We can enter His rest, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, right now from wherever we may find ourselves.  It does take faith and courage to enter this rest, and, once we are there, we have to continue to walk with and in the Lord, surrendered and trusting.

The Lord warned the Israelites against exploiting their Promised Land for their own material enrichment.  It would be possible for them to do that, just as it is possible for us today to abuse the grace of God and misuse our faith for self-gratification.  The temptation of Simon Magus lies before some, but the majority are merely entranced by the attractions of Mammon. 

Every seventh year the land was supposed to be allowed to lie fallow.  As time went on, the inhabitants were more and more likely to ignore this statute.  How could they be expected, they would argue, to survive until the harvest of the following year if they skipped a year of planting?  More importantly, perhaps, how were they supposed to “get ahead”?  The Sabbath year meant that every eighth year was more or less starting all over from scratch.  Even if their grain and produce lasted through, they would be living on the edge of poverty and starvation on a regular basis.

But the Lord had said that He would bless the harvest of the sixth year such that it would keep His people in plenty through three full years.  God promised to take care of them – if they would adhere to this covenant and allow the land to rest.  They failed.  To give the land its Sabbaths, the Lord tore down Israel’s hedge of protection, allowing their enemies to carry them into captivity for seventy years.  You can read of the fulfillment in Jeremiah 29.

It’s a dichotomy that has caused me – and possibly others – a great deal of trouble.  We must fight, but we must not fight in our own strength.  We must do works, but we must do them resting in faith.  So what do You want me to do, Lord?  Fight or surrender?  Work or rest?  I’m so confused. 

And I will be confused so long as I think it’s about me.  For those Israelites, it was about the land, a land God loved.  He wanted caretakers for His land.  His people were those He called, appointed and empowered to manage Canaan that it might prosper, be fruitful, rich, and beautiful.

We have an advantage in that we abide in Christ, resting always in Him.  We have seasons of fruitfulness and seasons where we lie barren.  That’s as it should be.  We shouldn’t try to produce out of season or when the Husbandman has called for a break.

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