Summary: In the commands regarding the Creation we find echoes of Eden. Even as we don't leave human sin to run rampant in our personal lives, we should also seek to manage God’s creation in God-honoring and God-pleasing ways.
Rest for the Rest of Creation
Scripture Text: Exodus 23.10-13
In the passage we just read - It talked about planting-and-harvesting, …the poor and wild-animals, ...oxen-and-donkeys, …slaves and foreigners. It’s-a-little-odd, isn’t it!?! ~ …I-mean ~ …what possible-connection could all of this have-to-do-with us!?! ~ …Who-among-us – when you heard the Scripture - Who-among-us felt inspired and encouraged by-this-passage?
Only-a-few of-us are farmers, …and the only wild-animals in this sanctuary are those who call themselves “Jayhawks” and “Wildcats”, …and, although some-of-us would admit that we’re as-stubborn as a donkey, …we’re not-really farm-animals! And-so… What’s this got-to-do with you-and-me ~ living in this part of the country, in this day-and-age?
Well… the beginning-point of the passage doesn’t-really help us see an immediate-connection ~
For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused…
This is a specific word to farmers. For six years, plant and harvest. Till the ground. Help it produce and be productive. But, on the seventh year, the farmer is to let the land be. Let it lie. Let it do whatever it will. Now… you can just-about-bet that it’ll produce something ~ …but whatever springs up, isn’t for the farmer’s benefit.
Now, at-this-point, about 95% of us are thinking, “This-is-not for me! “I’m not a farmer and I don’t have fields.”
And-it’s-true: the kind of world that we live in is very-different than the world of ancient Israel. Their economy was driven by agriculture: …farming, …vineyards, …flocks and herds, …planting and harvesting. Our economy is based-on manufacturing and technology and service. We’re not in ‘touch’ with the earth as-much these-days. Most of us go to Dillon’s and browse through the produce-section ~ …our hands aren’t calloused from pushing the plow, …and our fingernails don’t have dirt imbedded under them from working the soil-of-the-earth.
Some of us are novice ‘farmers’; …or ‘hobby’-farmers. Maybe you’ve got a nice-little-patch of veggies growin’ in the backyard. But-really, …most-of-our-gardening-efforts are toying with a lifestyle that used-to-be the way-of-life for the vast-majority of people!
I wonder if the reason that some of us plant patches, …and hang baskets, …and till-up a few square feet in-order-to-grow some veggies ~ …I wonder if the reason some-of-us are compelled to do-this is because of the echoes of distant-vocations that pulse through our veins. Somewhere in the mist-of-history, …our grandparents farmed during the dust-bowl-days, …or you were raised on a farm ~ …only to leave the land when you headed for college and a different-kind-of-life. But the echoes continue to ripple through your hands and fingers: …that desire for connection-with-the-land… Have you ever seen a toddler pick-up a handful of dirt, …and put it in his mouth? And-then, see him smile!?! And-then, do-it-again!?! ~ Maybe that’s an indication that even in our infancy, we desire, …we crave some-sort-of-connection to the land!
You love to see the black-earth turned over; …as you drive along highway 96, you find yourself watching the custom-cutters with their gigantic combines; …and you dreamily-wish you could sit behind the wheel; …or you get a deep-sense of satisfaction whenever you pull the tomato from the vine… Echoes… Memories… But I think there’s something-more going-on ~ I think that these are faint-reminders that there really-is a fundamental-connection between ourselves and the rest of God’s good creation. And even-though we work in buildings made of cinder-block, cement and dry-wall, …instead-of, in the great-outdoors; …and even-though our fingers are used-to-gracing the keyboard, …instead-of swingin’ a hoe; …and filling-out-forms, …rather-than pullin’ weeds; …and even-though we prefer an air-conditioned environment with the smell of air-fresheners and perfumes~ …and our nasal-passage convulses when we get a whiff of raw-farm-life… Still… God wants us to remember that human-beings are a part of the rest of creation. We are created, …just-like the flowers and the trees, …the beasts of the field and the wild-animals that lurk in the shadows. We are created, …just-like the oxygen that blankets the planet, …and the soil that lies beneath our feet. There is a fundamental-connection between ourselves and the rest of God’s creation ~ …and that basic-link: …that we are created, …and that we - (along with the beasts-and-birds, the sky-and-seas, …the seeds and the soil) – …we-all have a common Creator ~ …that basic-link stands behind the scriptural-commands to observe Sabbath-rest.
Terrence Fretheim - a great student of the Old Testament – says this:
“The… worship of God is to manifest itself in everyday life by the way in which people and animals are treated. The character of worship and the quality of life are inseparably interwoven.
“The character of worship and the quality of life are inseparably interwoven.”
In-other-words, …the people-of-Israel are not simply to go to the Temple, …offer their sacrifices, …eat some sacred meals, …and participate in some-sacred-ritual ~ …and that’s-the-extent of what God requires (or expects) of them.