At that time, while it is devastated and you are in enemy territory, the land will enjoy its sabbaths. At that time, the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. During the whole time it is devastated, it will have the rest it didn’t have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
I will bring despair into the hearts of those of you who survive in enemy territory. Just the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to running, and they will run scared as if running from a sword! They will fall even when no one is chasing them! They will stumble over each other as they would before a sword, even though no one is chasing them!
You will have no power to stand before your enemies. You will disappear among the nations—the land of your enemies will devour you. Any of you who do survive will rot in enemy territory on account of their guilty deeds. And they will rot too on account of their ancestors’ guilty deeds.
But if they confess their and their ancestors’ guilt for the wrongdoing they did to me, and for their continued opposition to me—which made me oppose them, so I took them into enemy territory—or if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they make up for their guilt, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob. I will also remember my covenant with Isaac. And my covenant with Abraham.
And I will remember the land. The land will be absent of them and will be enjoying its sabbaths while it lies devastated, free of them. They will be making up for their guilty deeds for no other reason than the fact that they rejected my regulations and despised my rules.
But despite all that, when they are in enemy territory, I will not reject them or despise them to the point of totally destroying them, breaking my covenant with them by doing so, because I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with the first generation, the ones I brought out of Egypt’s land in the sight of all the nations, in order to be their God; I am the Lord.
These are the rules, regulations, and instructions between the Lord and the Israelites that he gave through Moses on Mount Sinai. (Common English Bible)
Disobedience has a price. Within God’s household, the Lord isn’t some geriatric or decrepit deity who let’s the kids run around and do whatever the heck they want. Instead, God has certain rules so that the children can grow and thrive within loving boundaries. The fences aren’t there in order to be a divine killjoy; rather, the rules and boundaries exist for the flourishing and enjoying of life.
The price of disobedience is brokenness and devastation. To continually buck our basic design as humans will eventually catch up to us. If we eat with impunity, spending copious amounts of time consuming food, we’ll one day collect a host of heart-related issues and diseases. If we drive the car and never maintain it through regular oil changes and inspections, someday it will break down, perhaps permanently.
And if we live our lives without punctuating our weeks with needed rest – and use the land as if it were an infinite resource – then everything will eventually go awry and not work or produce like it should. That’s not God being mean, as if the Lord is to blame; it’s us being stupid, not practicing our God-given wisdom.
Everything and everyone needs rest. It’s vital to us, just as much as water to drink and air to breathe. So, if we ignore it, we’ll pay the price of our neglect.
Sabbath was built into the universal scheme of things because it’s necessary. Our bodies neither work right nor live right without regular sabbath rests. It’s not optional. Try telling your body that you’re too busy to go to the bathroom and see how that works out for you. Sooner than later, you’re going to have to submit, or there will be a hefty price to pay.
If we stray from wise ways of living, or even stubbornly refuse to obey, there’s hope; we won’t be left to wallow in our own foolishness. Grace is too big and strong for any of our puny human backsliding. The Lord is always ready and willing to receive the humble and penitent heart.
God’s expertise is in restoration; the Lord gives a new lease on life to people who could never do it themselves. In fact, from a New Testament perspective, God even goes so far as to pay the price of human waywardness with his own Son.
A loving God ensures that all of creation will have what it needs to survive and thrive. An unloving god turns a blind eye to it all. If we don’t learn to play well with the creation around us, we’ll be called into the house and not be allowed to be outside for quite some time.
We are meant to practice good self-care, be good caregivers for others, and concern ourselves with caring for all creation.
So, pay the price of caring for self, others, and the land. Accept and submit to the rhythms of life which are required to live well. You’ll be glad you did because the alternative may be something a whole lot harder.
Creator God, you made the goodness of the land, the riches of the sea and the rhythm of the seasons; as we thank you for your gracious providing may we cherish and respect this planet and its peoples, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.