While Julia Cameron focused her attention on photography the Lord has set His focus on an entirely different matter- time. In addition to holy days and holy weeks, the Lord also designed holy years for Israel. The Sabbatical Year was celebrated every seventh year. The Lord commanded five main requirements to be followed in the observance of the Sabbatical Year. 1) All cultivation activities ceased (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:2-5). This did not mean the earth stopped producing fruit, or that the Israelites could not pick what grew. Only plowing, sowing, and pruning ceased. In our day the thought of this seems absurd. But in essence the Lord was promising that the land would provide for them throughout the Sabbatical year just as the manna had carried them through the Sabbath. 2) Any crops that sprang up naturally by themselves in the Sabbath Year were accessible to anyone in the community (Ex. 23:11; Lev. 25:6-7). The thought behind this was that God had produced this crop for the benefit of all. 3) Any produce that sprang up naturally by itself had to be eaten in the season that it appeared. It could not be stored for future use. Saving something like a squash could produce seeds for planting which was strictly forbidden (Lev. 25:5). 4) Debts were released during the Sabbath Year (Dt. 15:1-4). Notice that the debts were not erased (as some have assumed), only the payments were deferred. God did hold the people responsible for their debt, but in an agricultural society when agriculture was not operating, it was logical that payments be postponed. 5) During the Sabbatical Year the Torah was read aloud to the people during the Feast of Tabernacles (Dt. 31:10-13; Neh. 8:2, 13-18). When the Israelites traveled through the wilderness they did not have the luxury of planting crops and harvesting the land. Putting trust in the feeling of security that settlement brings had to be removed from their daily lives in order to refocus their thoughts to a time when every day and every meal was truly given to them by the Hand of God.
Since the Sabbatical Year was part of the Torah, it was to be observed as diligently as any other command given by God. But sadly, Scripture records that it and many of the other commands were not observed prior to the Exile. 2 Chronicles 36:21 tells us that the Lord carried Israel away to Babylon for 70 years, "until the land enjoyed her Sabbaths". After the Exile, Josephus records that the Sabbath Year was observed even under both Grecian and Roman rule. But the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD brought sweeping changes to the observance of the Law. Today the Sabbatical Year is calculated but its observance is merely the recognition that it exists. There are many reasons for this, but the primary cause is the lack of a Temple and the agrarian society that supported it.
Many of us tend to separate ourselves from the Old Testament with the reasoning, "That was then; this is now". But if we truly believe God's Word is timeless and written for all, there is a principal here we must apply to ourselves. I would submit to you that it concerns our focus. The Sabbatical Year caused the people to focus on the One who truly supplied their daily and yearly needs. It made them realize it was not their efforts of pruning, plowing or planting that brought forth the bounty which took care of their daily needs; it was God. We are no different. We rely on jobs, investments, social security, credit cards and any other resource available as if those things are giving us our food, clothing, heat, electric and security. Is this true? It is a challenging thought and one that demands we examine our focus.
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre