By Lisa Huddleston
“Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. … The land is to have a year of rest” (Leviticus 25:4-5).
Every seventh year the Israelites were supposed to leave the fields of the Promised Land unsown. God commanded a Sabbath of rest for the land as well as a weekly Sabbath for the people. For their obedience, God promised them “such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eight year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (Lev. 25:21). What a harvest! What blessing! What a scary proposition!
I can understand their fear. Can you? Not plant a crop for a whole year? Trust in a promise to feed your family, your wife, your children, yourself, for a whole year? Sure, the promise came from God, but still. Tough to bank on a word for food. What if they didn’t plant and there wasn’t enough to eat all the way until the distant harvest of the ninth year? What if their families starved? What if …? Fear got the better of them so they never saw the promise fulfilled, and they suffered for their disobedience by spending one year in exile for every sabbatical year they ignored.
I wonder if God knew the intent of their hearts so that he didn’t multiply the harvest of the sixth year. Or did they receive the triple blessing of that year and simply store it away to secure their futures? That is more likely to me. God would keep his word, but the people let fear keep them in bondage. Figuratively as they labored over fields that were not really theirs to tend, and literally as they eventually were taken into captivity by the Babylonians (2 Chron. 36:20-21).
Reading their story leads me to ask questions I dread to even ponder. What promises of God am I afraid to trust? What has he already provided for me to use in obedience to his will? Am I storing it away for a rainy day or am I using it all up in obedient faith? As I read this account in Leviticus, I am struck by the truth. Fear is holding me back just as it held the Israelites. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of failure. Fear of not having enough. All selfish thoughts. All focused on me and not on him. God has prepared me with knowledge to give away, and I am hoarding it in barns. When will I step out in freefalling faith? Will I trust him with my fears? In my case, that may mean putting myself in some very uncomfortable situations—maybe leading a Bible study or teaching a Sunday school class. Speaking in front of other people. You see I know what God has provided for me. But I am often afraid to even whisper what he may be requiring of me. Oh God, help Thou my unbelief!
And I believe he will! Just as soon as I obey. As soon as I leave the field unplowed, dip my toe into the raging river, or put myself in front of a group of fellow disciples to help them find more truth.
I know he wants to bless me abundantly. And he wants to bless you, too. What promise is he asking you to act on today? Do you know what he’s already provided for you to use? What’s keeping you from trusting him right now? What will it take for you to obey his commands? Ask him to help you and then step out—fearlessly and in the freedom he promises to bring. He is the Lord our God!