Just as Moses told the new nation of Israel to observe a sabbath every seventh day, he also told them to take a sabbatical every seventh year. “When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.”
It was not enough for the people to stop working one day a week in order to rest, worship, and build relationship with Yahweh. He required them to stop working for one year’s harvests so that they and the land could rest for that year.
Today, farmers know the value of allowing fields to recharge by letting them lie unworked or by planting and plowing back into the soil nitrogen-fixing crops. They also avoid shutting down every field at once by rotating which field will lie fallow from year to year. This practice, of course, doesn’t allow the farmer or his employees to take a year off for rest – clearly a violation of the sabbatical law.
What would the farmer and his people have lived on over the seventh year? Whatever could have been stored over the previous years. After all, they had the example of Joseph in Egypt who stored up grain for seven years against seven years of famine.
What would the farmer and his people do with themselves over the year of agricultural inactivity? I’ve seen no stories about Israel actually complying with this law. These days, professors, some ministers, maybe doctors and other professionals take sabbaticals in order to increase their knowledge and to upgrade their job skills.
What would happen to a factory worker, a store clerk, an office worker who took a sabbatical? Could he or she save enough over six years to live on during the seventh?
What would happen to a company that shut down for a year and gave its employees a year of rest? What would happen to a company as large as General Motors or Boeing if it rotated its divisions through a series of year-long shut downs? Certainly Chase Manhattan would not want to shut down its operations.
What would happen to our economy if 14.25+% (1/7th) of the population stopped working and the same percentage of businesses stopped operations for a year? Would the economy really go bad? Or would we learn to produce wealth God’s way and allow Him to prosper all of us so much more?
If you could take a year off for rest and re-creation, what would you do? Would you study to increase your knowledge and upgrade skills? Might you volunteer for some charitable organization?
How could you save enough over six years to live on for the seventh? Could you trust Yahweh to provide living expenses?