Troublesome Topic: What did the Sabbath Year teach?

Lesson 5 of 6

Faith and trust must be hard to learn because the tools God used to teach the ancient Israelites those two lessons were pretty harsh tools. Consider the Sabbath year. On this year they were to let all their land rest; that meant not planting anything. Not planting anything usually means not harvesting anything. Not harvesting anything usually means not eating those things that grow from the ground (in contrast to things like meat and milk that come from animals). The regulation also included not tending to those plants that live longer than one year. Not tending anything meant that their vineyards would have large weeds grow up in them and their herb gardens would no longer look like gardens. If their olive trees needed pruning they had to get that done before the Sabbath year started or they would really need pruning by the time the eighth year came around. What a hassle! Can you think of anything more costly and unnecessary at the same time? What was God thinking?

The ground needs to rest periodically or at least have the cops rotated. The creator of the plants, the ground, and the growing cycle knew what He was doing when he commanded them to let the ground lay dormant for one year out of seven.

But couldn’t God have helped the land by telling them to rotate their crops? That would have been a partial solution, but God’s purpose had more to do with the farmer than it did the farm. He also wanted to teach the importance of rest so He demonstrated this by telling them they should rest, their domesticated animals should rest, and even the land should rest.

The obvious problem created by this command is what to eat during that entire year. Listen to God’s explanation of how this was supposed to work:

Leviticus 25:21


And I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year and it will produce enough produce for three years.


And I will command the ground to bless your sixth-year harvest to produce enough to carry you for part of three years.

Leviticus 25:22


In the eighth year you shall sow but you will eat of the old, stored

Go to footnote number

produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat what was stored.


In the eighth year you will plant but you will eat from the old, stored grain until the end of that growing season; until that harvest comes in, you will eat the grain that you have stored.

God was asking them to trust Him enough to live part of three calendar years on nothing, nothing but faith in him. He was asking them to believe that the unforgiving soil which could barely sustain them, would give a bumper crop enough to carry them through what looked like an impossible situation and still have some seed left for the next planting.

What a test! What a harsh tool God used to teach the important lessons of faith and trust! I guess they didn’t learn those lessons easily, so God had to use some pretty strong means to teach those things to them. Indeed, we are no different than the ancient Israelites, so God uses some harsh means to teach us faith and trust as well. It may not be a rule about not planting anything on the 7th year, but it will likely be something heavy, for if it is light, it won’t even get our attention.

 Instead of seeing these ancient laws in a negative light, we should marvel at the wisdom of God and at His ability to choose effective teaching tools to accomplish His purposes.

The next lesson in the full and medium series on Covenants is: The Year of Jubilee Taught Faith and Trust.



“old, stored” means both “old” and “stored or storage.” So I have included both ideas in my translation.