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The divinity of the seventh year

Sunday word BY PROSPER TINGINI

The number seven has a special significance to the Lord our God. On the seventh day, He rested from His work of creation and proclaimed the seventh day as both a holy day and also a day of rest. The Sabbath was His creation of the weeks and He numbered the days so as to end the days of the week at the number seven. He, therefore, sought to extend its significance into the years by making every seventh year a holy year. The Lord requests that the lands be given a rest every seventh year.

In Exodus 23:10-11, the Lord directed Moses at Mount Sinai to say to the people: “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but in the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild beast may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard and with your olive orchard”. He wants to give rest to the lands for a variety of benefits.

Persistent land usage, without resting it, is detrimental to the soil. Not only does it lose its quality and nutrients, but it brings degradation. Allowing the land to rest at intervals allows the land to regenerate the nutrients required to reproduce quality crops or plants and also slows soil erosion. While it may appear as a disadvantage to the landowners, there are in fact long-term benefits derived from the practice.

While the quantity and quality of the fallen regenerated seeds or fruits will obviously be much lower than that of normal planted crops, there should still be enough food for both the poor people and the animals to eat. The landowners are supposed to have kept some reserves for consumption. The poorer people would thus starve if left to fend for themselves. To alleviate this, the Lord then directed that the poor people of society should be allowed to eat of whatever grows in the fields that year. Both the domesticated animals and wild beasts should have their share from the unplanted harvests. On no account should anything be reaped and kept in storage by the landowners. Everything should be left in the fields for anyone in need to feed.

In Leviticus 25: 1-7, the Lord reiterated the same instructions in respect of the Sabbath of the lands. He directed: “When you come into the land which I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years shall prime your vineyard, and gather in its fruits; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of the solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field or prime your vineyard. What grows of itself in your harvest you shall not reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you shall not gather; it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself, and for your male and female slaves and your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you; for your cattle also and for the beasts that are in your land. All its yield shall be for food.”

The Lord our God has made this very clear. This should be observed. It would seem that these instructions have been neglected by mankind. Could it be the reason why we are having persistent droughts throughout the world; or the more than normal rains that sometimes destroy our planted crops?

The Lord our God touched on another issue to be observed, again every seventh year. He has a special place in His heart for the poor people, hence he directs most of His attention to their care. In Deuteronomy 15: 1-11, the Lord commanded Moses to say to the people: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release; every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it; but whatever of yours is with your brother, your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you, if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all these commandments which I command you this day. For the Lord your God will bless you as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

God promises blessings to all the people who obey Him and also promises to eradicate poverty if all the people were to listen and follow in His words. He also says: “If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near’, and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing and he cry to the Lord against you, and it be sin in you. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him; because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all that you undertake. For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land.”

The above commandment is very precise and needs no further clarity. Siblings and relatives have a moral duty to support each other in times of hardships and in times of need. Both in good times and in bad times, they have to cater for each other’s needs. Most of today’s needs have some monetary values attached to them, hence there will always be the need to borrow or lend out money. It is quite common for people to fail to repay what has been borrowed or given as assistance. God directs that in such instances, no grudge should be borne against a relative. Furthermore, should the defaulter plead for more assistance, help should be provided on humanitarian grounds. However, during the year of release, whatever is owed should be forgiven and cancelled out.

Prosper Tingini is the president of the Children of God Missionary Assembly. Registration in progress for those who wish to undertake Bible Studies or train as Ministers of Religion. Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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