Joy for the Land
“Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbath years. As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were living on it.” – Leviticus 26:34-35 (NRSVUE)
The 26th chapter of Leviticus is no walk in the park. Filled with commands, threats, and I-told-you-so’s, its message is nothing if not clear: If the people continue to reject God’s ways, there will be consequences. Cue the plagues and pestilence, enemies and exile.
And still there is good news to be found.
Buried under all the divine heartbreak and anger, poking through the human fecklessness and folly, God’s tenderness toward creation is revealed. Granted, it’s expressed as kind of a “so there!” toward the people, but it’s a happy day for the land nonetheless.
After all my people have done to you, God says to the land, after all their nonstop exploitation and abuse, now you can rest. They didn’t take care of you, but I will.
God’s covenants are not about asserting divine power over people power. They are, instead, about honoring and nurturing the interrelationship of all things. They are designed to empower all elements of creation to flourish in harmony with one another, which includes both giving and taking regular periods of rest.
God’s plan promises deep, life-giving joy for the land, and God will accomplish it—with us or without us.
Life-giving, rest-promising, land-loving God, for our own good you have told us how to live. Forgive our sins against creation. May we partner with you in restoring health to the planet and joy to the land. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.