Sunday, 3 October 2021
The (Jewish) year 5782 has been designated a sh'mittah year, a fallow year when the ground is allowed to rest and not be worked. Setting aside the practical issues of doing that in an intensively farmed modern age and the consistent non-compliance with this very clear commandment shown by the Jewish people (the while hiding behind legal quibbling that sets aside the Torah for human convenience), what do we do with a fallow year? The prophet offers advice:
Hosea 10:12 Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
But what does that mean when it is at home? Is Hosea giving permission to carry on farming and working the land through its year of sabbath rest? Surely not - the Torah is very clear: if the people do not observe the sabbatical years, then they will be expelled from the Land:
Vayikra/Leviticus 26:34-35 Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.
Perhaps Hosea is not talking about physical land at all, but simply using the concept of fallow ground to make a point? Perhaps the ground is not fallow because of the sabbatical year, but because people cannot be bothered to farm it? Hosea is urging us not to allow our ground - our lives, our relationships, our congregations - to lie fallow, but instead to put them into productive use for the kingdom of God. We are to use appropriate "farming" methods, sowing and reaping, planting the seed of the kingdom and bringing in the harvest of disciples on the basis of righeousness and kindness. No false or prosperity/entertainment gospels; no bait-and-switch. We are to start the work and wait for God Himself to send His rain, not of water but of righteousness that will bring growth and a hrvest in its due time.