All Work No Play

But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD:  thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.  That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed:  for it is a year of rest unto the land. 

Leviticus 25:4-5

To our society this seems like a strange command.  The last few generations have been the most industrialized that we can imagine; therefore, we assume that we have also been the most industrious.  We view all other eras as the good ol’ days  when everything was slower paced and more relaxed. However, we have no evidence that past generations did not have dreams and aspirations much like us that required a work ethic much like today’s entrepreneur.  It seems foreign to us that God would have to force them to take time off.  It seems even stranger that this command would apply to our generation.

However, it is true that God commanded the Israelites to let the land rest every seventh year.  They were prohibited from commercially sowing and harvesting the land in the seventh year.  It was to be a sabbatical for the land and the people.  God was very serious about his commandments and Sabbaths.  He promised Israel bountiful blessings if they would keep them and severe chastisements if they did not.

And I will bring the land into desolation:  and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished.  And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you:  and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.  Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her Sabbaths.  As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your Sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. 

Leviticus 26:33-35

According to Jeremiah, the Israelites would remain in Babylonian captivity for seventy years, one year for every sabbatical year the land was due.   When we refuse to do as commanded, God gives us a taste of our disobedience.  Since the Israelites would not let the land rest and rest with it, God sent them into slavery where they would not have rest.  The captives living in the land of Babylon were told their captivity would be for a long time (seventy years) and they were to build houses then live in them and plant gardens then eat the fruit of it.

According to Boyd’s Handbook of Practical Apologetics, there were at least four reasons for Israel’s captivity.

  1. They were ungrateful.  God was a good provider for Israel.  All the things He promised them through Moses and the covenant he was faithful to do.  However, Israel wanted to replace him with a king like the other nations.
  2. They committed idolatry.  They exchanged their faithfulness to God for confidence in Baal and even practiced the religion including sexual perversion and child sacrifice.
  3. They shed innocent blood.  Despite being counseled repeatedly not to do harm to God’s prophets, they would slay the prophets to silence them.
  4. They failed to keep the sabbatical year.  The Israelites did not let the land rest every seventh year or during the year of Jubilee.

Mandatory Break

It seems strange to us that God would ever be so emphatic about such a small thing as letting the land lay fallow.  I am descended from multi-generational farmers and ranchers from both sides of my family and I married a farmer.  My paternal grandfather knew the value of letting the land rest and would rotate his crops and cattle so that every year a part of his property was always resting.  He did this for practical and not spiritual reasons.  He recognized that if the land could rest periodically, it would refresh the topsoil and increase its productivity.

For Israel it was about protecting the land which God had given them so that it would continue to be fertile for them and future generations.  However, it was much more than that.  It was a measure of their faith.  Letting the land have its rest required God’s people to live without income for up to three years.  This is one command that Israel found very difficult to put into practice.  How much faith would be required to do such a thing and how many people living today would have done this?  In all fairness to Israel, I sometimes have difficulty believing in God from one paycheck to another.

Greed is fear put into practice.  It is the fear of not having enough that spawns greed.  Greed is such a part of human nature and would make it difficult for humanity of any era to put commandments such as this one into practice.  However, God had repeatedly demonstrated his faithfulness to Israel, as he does to us today, and he required them to also demonstrate their faithfulness to him.  Sadly, it is tests such as this one, the ones that seem strange and unimportant to the human mind, that define our faith and is prerequisite to fulfilled relationships with God.  It is very difficult for us to believe God.  Even when a person believes in God, it is difficult to believe God.  If God can not be believed in things we perceive as small, faith will evaporate in the big moment.

There is a strong connection between the Sabbath for the land and the Sabbath for the people.  When the land rested. the people also rested.  Adam and Eve rested with God in the garden on the seventh day although they had not labored.  The pattern of work, work, work, work, work, work, rest instills within us a work ethic that also preserves relationships.  Of course, it strengthens our relationship with our creator, but also with one another.  It is especially necessary for the family that there be time to rest from the influence of the world. 

When God came to the garden to spend the first Sabbath with Adam and Eve, I am persuaded that they did not sleep the day away.  I am equally sure that they did not go to separate locations within the garden so they could rest undisturbed.  I believe they romped and played as they explored the garden.  I am certain God laughed out loud at some of their antics as they celebrated their discoveries.  This is God’s way of stating, “Families that play together stay together.”  Too many families do not know how to play together causing broken hearts and homes.  I grew up in such a home, and sadly, so did my children.  This is my big regret.

God’s Established Pattern

In the beginning God worked.  He created the whole world in six periods of time and rested the seventh period of time.  He established a pattern of work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.  According to man’s wisdom it is impossible for God to have created the whole world in only six, twenty-four hour periods.  I am waiting for someone to tell  me why it took him that long.  I question that He was in need of rest at the end of His labors so there must be object lessons for us in His established pattern.

God has purpose in everything he does including creation week.  While there is a natural, heavenly phenomenon that determines time in certain measurable increments such as the day, month and year, there are none that determine the length of the week.  It is remarkable that man to this very day practices the weekly cycle since it is not determined by any heavenly bodies.  While other time frames honor heavenly bodies, the week memorializes the creative acts of God as he spoke the heaven and earth into being, established their motion and then rested with mankind afterward.

In 2 Peter 3:1-18 we find much information about creation week and the passing of earthly time.  The saints are tired of waiting for Jesus to return and the faith of many is waning.  In these verses Peter is explaining the delay.  According to these scriptures it is clear that God set a pattern when he established the weekly cycle.  This pattern is a blue print for the length of time heaven and earth would exist before God created a new heaven and earth. 

From the beginning God knew how long He would allow sin to reign on earth, and the apostle Peter well understood God’s purpose in this matter.  Let us consider the blueprint established at creation that allows for six periods of labor and one for rest.  All of creation, including man, groans while we laboriously wait for the redemption and rest of man.  Romans 8:21-23 Peter is telling us that the duration of sin can be divided into seven parts.  The first six parts will require labor, but the last part is a respite.  Sin is still reigning; however, the earth and its inhabitants will have a sabbatical from sin’s harmful effects.

2 Peter 3:1-18

During the six periods of labor certain things will happen that serve as landmarks during the passage of time.  God’s perfect foreknowledge is reflected by his perfect timetable. 

Now that we know the pattern and understand the key to the blueprint, we should know how long time will last and the length of the period of rest.  According to Peter, it should last about seven thousand years.  Also, we have Usher’s chronology which has fallen out of favor today even among Christians because of the stance science has taken regarding evolution.  However, while there may be some slight miscalculations, I believe Usher correctly establishes the age of the earth at about 6,000 years.  Finally, Israel was established by God as the keepers of time, and according to their ancient teachings the earth is about 6,000 years old. 

God’s pattern establishes a day is equal to 1,000 years.  Therefore, if we were to take man’s timeline of existence according to Heaven’s account, man will labor for six thousand years and rest for one thousand years.  This is supported by Revelation 20:1-7.

In the sequence Peter gave us, where do we place the rest?  We should place it at the end of man’s labors beginning with the seventh thousand year period of time just as God rested at the end of his labors on the seventh day.   It is reasonable and supported by scripture, that God will not recreate until after He has destroyed the works of man’s hands and His provided rest is complete.

The thousand years of rest is not just for the planet, but also for the people.  The thousand years that the planet is resting is a vacation for the people of God.  The disciples longed to go with Jesus when He had to go away.  John 13:33, 36; 14:1-3  They could not go with him, but he left them with a promise of preparing a place for them in Heaven and a promise to come again and receive them so that they could be where He is. 

This promise is for all of us.  Jesus will come again and collect His saints from the four corners of the earth so we can rest in Heaven away from the effects of sin.  When our vacation is over, we must return to Earth to reestablish dominion lost in the garden.  To exert our right to reign with Christ, Satan and sin must be dealt with since Satan still claims the earth. 

Satan does not have legal right to reign, he is just an usurper.  At the end of the millennium of rest, the ungodly will be resurrected for judgment.  They will bow down before God and confess that He is God; however, Satan will persuade them to join Him in rebellion reflecting the true condition of their heart.  This will be the battle of Gog and Magog.  Revelation 20:7-10  Satan and all his followers will be cast into the lake of fire.  The lake of fire was made only for Satan and his wicked angels.  Humans have the opportunity to choose another end.  Now is the time to choose life.