Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord.
Leviticus 25:2 (NRSV)
When you grow up in Iowa, you gain an appreciation for the earth. There are close to 90,000 farm operations in our state and 30.5 million acres of Iowa land is dedicated to agriculture. But the importance of the land goes much deeper than the sheer market value of its produce. The land is a part of people’s heritage. It gets into their souls and becomes a part of who they are.
I find it fascinating that in the ancient Hebrew law God’s principle of rest was extended beyond human beings to the land. Rest is not just something human’s need. It’s something woven into the fabric of creation. Living things need rest. Humans need rest. Animals need rest. Plants need rest. The land needs rest.
I am reminded this morning that when God created Adam and Eve, the task given to them was agriculture. They were caretakers of the Garden. When cast out of the Garden, it was clear from God’s words to Adam that agriculture would continue to be at the core of humanity’s existence. There is a natural connection between humanity and creation that God wove into our DNA. I have never been a farmer and my family has never farmed, but when you live in Iowa you get the connection. The land requires care taking. A part of taking care of living things is making sure there is sufficient rest.
Work hard today. Then rest well.
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NIV)
On the way home from church yesterday, Wendy mentioned that the morning’s message had her contemplating “what ifs.” She had asked herself “what if” God asked us to give up our dream of the house we’re building, or to give up our place at the lake. My response was that I would definitely be sad about it, but as long as I’m living with her I could dwell in a small apartment and be content. Not as comfortable, to be sure, but definitely content.
The conversation came back to mind this morning as I read Solomon’s words. We don’t know what the future holds. Life’s road holds many curves for both the righteous and the wicked. No one can see all ends, but all of us are destined to the same physical end, which is death. That was what Solomon was really getting at, though his hopeless perspective is from hundreds of years before Jesus and before the empty tomb. I think wise ol’ King Solomon had a serious case of the blues when he wrote today’s chapter. I get it. I’ve been there. On this side of history, however, I find more meaning and purpose in my toilsome labor, my lot, my life, and all of my days. I’m glad of that.
I also enjoy life with my wife, whom I love. And, I will all the days of this meaning-full life that God has given me under the sun.