Let the Land Rest
Throughout history, God has used the Earth to provide man with all of his physical needs. From the beginning of man’s existence on this planet, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Earth and cultivated crops. In fact, when God punished Adam for sinning, his punishment involved hard labor in the field. From the time of Adam to the present, one of man’s most valuable commodities has been land. Without fertile ground, crops have no place to grow, animals have no place to graze, and humans have nothing to eat.
God always has known how important it is for man to have fertile land. For this reason, He gave the children of Israel explicit instructions on how to care for their land. In Leviticus 25:3-5 Moses wrote: “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” But what would happen to the land if the children of Israel (or anyone else, for that matter) did not take care to protect the land? The American “Dust Bowl” of the early part of the twentieth century provides a fitting answer to such a question.
Beginning in the early 1930s, several western states in America began to have serious problems with agricultural production. The late 1920s had seen a huge demand for wheat, and many farmers in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas planted crops year after year. What they failed to factor into their farming practices was the fact that the land could not sustain growth of the same crop repeatedly without a period of rejuvenation. Nutrients and bacteria (specifically, nitrogen-fixing bacteria) that had been removed from the land as a result of the never-ending sowing-and-reaping cycles needed time to be replaced. But the farmers did not allow the land that precious time, and as a result, the grasses that normally grew in the fields to protect the land from erosion were unable to do so. When matters were complicated by a severe drought and dangerous windstorms in the region, the ground was too weak, and too fragile, to sustain either itself or its crops.
Huge gusts of fifty-mile-an-hour winds moved through the area, causing massive dust storms that filled houses, destroyed valuable farm equipment, and swept away millions of tons of valuable topsoil. People thus referred to this time and place in America as the “Dust Bowl.” Few epochs in the history of the United States have paralleled the Dust Bowl for sheer destruction, depression, and poverty. Sadly, such despair and suffering could have been avoided if the denizens of the Dust Bowl states simply had obeyed God’s commands to grant their vaunted land a period “of solemn rest.” Why is it that we as humans find it so difficult to listen to and obey our Creator?