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A Sabbath for the Land

The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 

Leviticus 25:1-5 (NIV)

In Genesis, God builds our week with a rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest. Nestled in the Book of Leviticus, God tells Moses to give the land a Sabbath, too. This practice in ancient times gave the soil a year’s break to breathe, so to speak, so that the soil wouldn’t be depleted of its nutrients. 

Today, farmers practice modern crop rotation for the same reasons, except instead of letting the ground lie fallow for a year, they rotate different species of plants. This rotation reduces the reliance on one set of nutrients and helps to control pests and weeds. When farmers don’t follow crop rotation practices, the soil becomes stressed and depleted, and farmers have to rely more on fertilizers and pesticides to keep their crops productive.

God passed down to his people ways for them to maintain Creation’s richness and be sustained. In the same way, the Sabbath we practice keeps our bodies from exhaustion and restores our souls. When we’re running all of the time, working seven days a week with no “rotation” in our schedule, no day of intentional rest, our bodies and souls grow weary. We aren’t as creative. We aren’t as joyful. We aren’t as productive. God designed us for work, and he designed us for rest.

Points of Reflection

  1. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing, it means doing something that restores you and brings you joy. What does soul nourishing rest look like for you?
  2. What typically defines your Sabbath day? What activities could you do without? What could you do instead?

For the Kids

  1. Why do you think God set aside one day each week for rest, both for us and for the earth?
  2. What kinds of activities bring you peace? How can you incorporate them into your Sabbath day?

Faith / Works 

We all have our own versions of what it means to rest. Define what rest looks like for you and for your family. Spend your next Sabbath being intentional about the activities you allow to occupy space in your home. Journal or talk about how the day was different.


For a deeper look into the Sabbath and finding rest for your soul, try one of these books on Sabbath as reviewed by Englewood Review of Books. Top of the list is Sabbath As Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by famed theologian, Walter Brueggeman.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, buy on Amazon or through a local independent bookstore near you.

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