Did you know that land needs rest? It's not just a concept for human bodies! And God established the idea:
Over the centuries, farmers have realized that the health of the land they work can become depleted. They've developed ways to restore the soil and its inhabitants. The term "lying fallow" is straight from the scripture:
but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. (Exodus 23:11)
There are many plans to accomplish replenishment of the soil. How many books have we seen that tout the advantages of organic gardening, amending the soil, adding earthworms, composting, and, and ...... whew! makes me tired just thinking of all the options! On a personal level, I try to use a lot of natural and organic strategies in my own garden -- I know that certain plants add certain advantages. For instance, bean plants add and "fix" nitrogen in the soil. Composting with shredded leaves and grass clippings makes the soil super-attractive to the neighborly earthworms who will helpfully make the soil more aerated, and less hard-packed. I even give certain areas of the garden a respite, and don't plant anything in them for a season (I'm blessed with lots of space), and just till the weeds under, then let it lie "fallow." My efforts have been rewarded with garden space that is renewed and ready to grow oodles of veggies and flowers for me.
There in Leviticus, the concept is there: the land needs rest. It is helpful for it to remain unplanted, and the Jews were to leave it thus every seventh year. During that year, they were not to worry about the lack of produce or shortage of food -- God promised that He would provide. Even in the time of (necessary) renewal of the land, God was teaching His people to trust Him.
What is true for the earth is true for us humans, as well. Our bodies and souls need rest. We read in Genesis that sin made work a burden -- so God gave us this Sabbath day as a gift to unburden ourselves from work. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees many times; once He and His disciples picked some grain on the Sabbath. Oh, that lit the Pharisees' fuse! How did Jesus respond? "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." I think we can translate that very simply . . . . God didn't create man so that He could look down on the earth and see that someone was observing a Sabbath. Instead, He created a Sabbath so that people could be rested and refreshed.
Did you know that more oxygen is expended by our bodies in a day of toiling and hard work, than what is recovered in a night of rest? Makes us wonder if we really can catch up!
I heard a story once of a wagon train to the West, whose people started out with high hopes and lots of faith. They stopped traveling every Sunday to rest the animals and the people. As winter approached, some in the group began to panic. Would they reach their destination before the snows came? It was a point of conflict in the wagon train, and so they split into two groups. One group was determined to travel seven days a week; the other group was going to travel six days a week.
Guess which group made it to Oregon first?
Yep, you're right! The group which rested on Sundays arrived first. The people and horses and oxen were so rested that they could travel much more efficiently on the other six days!
The Sabbath was made for man. What can we do on the Sabbath day? Well, it's just my humble opinion, but I would think that Sunday is not the day to catch up on home repairs, paying bills, or running errands. I kinda think that part of our "tiredness" is that we used to work five days, have one day for all of that "gotta do" stuff, and then have Sunday to rest. Too often today we work six days and try to cram worship and catching up on that seventh day -- it's hardly a day of rest! I guess that anything other than work that delights and replenishes us is what we should do on Sunday. For some of us it will be spending time with family, relaxing together. Maybe it's reading a book, reading the Bible, doing a puzzle, or going for a swim or a walk. Perhaps it's extending God's mercy to those who are in a nursing home or housebound. Maybe it's taking a nap!
Sunday is a day for us to be creative and in addition to worship, find ways to renew our bodies and spirits. God doesn't want us to wear down. Or wear out. He has issued an invitation:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; (Psalm 46:10a)
And He promised renewal when He spoke through the prophet Isaiah: