“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. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:10-12 NIV84)
We tend to see God’s commands and demands on our lives as restrictive, and even as negative sometimes. All we hear is the “do this” and “don’t do that.” In our verses for today, we have God once again being restrictive. He tells farmers and vine growers that they must leave fields alone every 7 years, and tells everyone that they must work 6 days a week and honor God on the seventh day. But if you dig in deeper, you begin to see the intent of God’s heart. Leaving the fields open every 7 years gives the land a chance to replenish and provide food for the poor of the land. They are told to rest on the 7th day, not only to give God honor and worship but so that people and animals might get their necessary rest and rehabilitation before getting back to work again.
My point to this devotion is simple. God cares! He cares more than we do. He restricts our natural inclination to keep on working by providing us a day of rest. He prevents us from neglecting the poor by telling us to open our fields to them. What a heart of compassion our Lord has for us! The question I have today is, how do we put these principles into practice today? We aren’t all farmers. We have to find a way to give expression to this very important concept, or we fail to be obedient to this commandment and fail to meet its humanitarian goals. It’s time we reach out to the poor and not just walk beside them. Let’s give to our local food pantry. Let’s donate some time to serve at a facility that meets the needs of the poor. Let’s make sure that we are honoring the Sabbath day. Let’s do what we can to let the intent of God’s heart flow through our obedience to this command.