Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Observing the Sabbatical Year

Last Saturday a friend asked about observing the Sabbatical Year for land. She loves God and wants follow His instructions for living her life. She lives on a fixed income and each year she plants a garden and the produce from that garden provides a major part of her fruit and vegetables for the year.  Her question was what would she do that year without the fresh vegetables and fruit from her garden. Let’s start answering this question by looking at what God says about the Sabbatical year.

Leviticus 25:1-2 NKJV 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.

God’s words to Moses about observing a Sabbath to the LORD are specifically about the Promised Land, the land of Israel. This commandment only applies to the land of Israel. The argument can be made that the reason God said when they come into the land, is that they didn’t have opportunity or land to harvest while they were wandering in the wilderness. After all, you can’t plant and harvest when you’re wandering! A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Israelites spent most of that forty year period camped at one place! Numbers 33 details their journeys from Egypt. We easily follow each of their camps right up through their stop at Kadesh Barnea right before they were to enter the land. This is where they dispatched the twelve spies to look over the land. This is where the ten spies reported back with the bad report that resulted in Israel refusing to go up to take the land.

Numbers 13:26 NKJV 26 Now they (the spies) departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

This took place only eleven days after they left Mt. Sinai on the twentieth day of the second month of their second year in the wilderness! After refusing to enter the land, the scriptures record only one more move for the Israelites: they moved Mount Hor where they remained until Aaron’s death as the fortieth year began.

Numbers 33:36-38 NKJV 36 They moved from Ezion Geber and camped in the Wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. 37 They moved from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the boundary of the land of Edom. 38 Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the LORD, and died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month.

The point of this is that the Israelites could have planted gardens and raised crops. We don’t have a record whether or not they did so; we do know that God provided manna and water during these forty years, but what did their livestock eat? This is an interesting question to which we don’t have a definitive answer. But God didn’t give them instructions to observe a sabbatical for any land except the Promised Land. We read later that they Israelites didn’t keep the Sabbaths for the land and were exiled from the land one year for each Sabbath year that was not observed. So again, we see that the Sabbath year is specifically for the land of Israel.

What, then, is so special about this land that a Sabbath year is determined for it? The short answer is that it is the symbolic and perhaps even actual location of the Garden of Eden. Let’s look at the evidence. First, the land belongs to God. The children of Israel own the land as caretakers for God.

Leviticus 25:23 NKJV 23 'The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.

Within that land, God has specifically set aside Judah as His portion and Jerusalem as the center of that portion.

Zechariah 2:12 NKJV 12 "And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.

Second, God said that He would dwell with them and walk among them when they keep God’s Sabbaths. This includes the Sabbath for the land.

Leviticus 26:2 NKJV 2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 26:11-12 NKJV 11 I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

This reminds us of the Garden of Eden where God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. This also reminds us of the promise in the Book of Revelation that God would once again place His temple among His people and dwell with them.

Revelation 21:3 NKJV 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Third, the land would freely give of her fruits. Unlike when Adam was exiled from the Garden of Eden and had to labor to work they land, the land of Israel would produce abundantly. 

Leviticus 26:4-6 NKJV 4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. 6 I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.

Ezekiel describes the time when Israel returns to the land as a time when the land will gladly produce fruit for the inhabitants.

Ezekiel 36:8 NKJV 8 "But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come.

God says that on the day that Israel is cleansed from all uncleanness and iniquity, the land will be like the Garden of Eden.

Ezekiel 36:35 NKJV 35 "So they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.'

Fourth, living water will flow from the temple of God like the waters that flowed from the Garden of Eden.

Ezekiel 47:12 NKJV 12 "Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."

Fifth, the tree of life that was in the middle of the Garden of Eden will be in the New Jerusalem nourished by the water flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:1-2 NKJV 1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Finally, we have the physical imagery. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, God set cherubim at the east entrance to prevent man from reentering the garden and having unlimited access to the tree of life in his fallen state.

Genesis 3:24 NKJV 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

The temple of God faces east and the entrance to the Holy of Holies is covered by a veil embroidered with cherubim that guard the entrance.

Exodus 36:35 NKJV 35 And he made a veil of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen; it was worked with an artistic design of cherubim.

Cherubim also guard the mercy seat, the location of God’s presence on Earth.

Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV 17 "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 "And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 "Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 "And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat.

When Yeshua died, the redemption price for all mankind was paid. Atonement was made for the sin of Adam and all our sins. When Yeshua died, the veil was torn; a way was made through the cherubim that guarded the way back to the Garden of Eden. Access to the tree of life was restored.

The Sabbatical year for the land is reminder of all that was lost in the Garden of Eden. It is a promise of the rest we have in Yeshua as our Messiah. It is a prophecy of the restoration of the Garden of Eden and that once again; God will dwell with His people and walk among them. We will fulfill the command to Adam to guard and keep His garden.

Revelation 22:3-5 NKJV 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Back now to the original question: should my friend keep the sabbatical year even though she doesn’t live in the land? It is not required, but if she chooses to do so, she should ask God. If it is God’s will for her to do so, He will bless her in advance with a blessing from the land during the sixth year.

Leviticus 25:20-22 NKJV 20 'And if you say, "What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?" 21 'Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 'And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

She should be careful though to follow the rules of the harvest, leaving the edges of her garden to be gleaned by others, but also as food for the birds and, oh yeah, to self-seed for the next year! Then she can eat of whatever grows freely in the following year.

Leviticus 25:5-7 NKJV 5 'What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6 'And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7 'for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land-all its produce shall be for food.

Shalom and be blessed,
Dan and Brenda Cathcart