The biblical calendar that God set in place includes cycles of time known as Shmita; years, not unlike the Sabbath or Shabbat that we observe every week. But why did God set Shmita years in place? What does this time of resting mean for us?
Join us as we uncover not only what Shmita years are, but their importance to God!
What is Shmita?
The year is known as Shmita, or ‘time of release,’ found in God’s biblical calendar is essentially a sabbatical year that occurs every seventh year—the nearest being biblical year 5782 which begins on September 7th, 2021. Like the Sabbath or Shabbat, a Shmita year echoes the very cycle of creation that God used when He made everything over the course of six days and rested on the seventh (see Genesis 1-2).
But why do we need to rest? Why does God place such importance on it?
When we follow God’s cycle of work and then rest, we find that the product of the work is more than enough to fill the needs for the time of rest. Further, the work we do benefits from that time of rest because the rest shifts our focus back to God and reminds us of the joys of doing our work as unto the Lord. Thereby creating a better quality of work and life than we could ever get by working through what should be a time of rest.
Still, does rest mean that we are idle? Or that nothing happens?
Despite what many may think, rest does not mean that we are idle or that nothing happens. In fact, rest, when in alignment with God’s desired to rest for His creation, does much! It restores what has broken down. Prepares for often bigger and better things. And sets us directly into God’s perfect timing.
What is more, when we are resting—like on a Sabbath—we are working on relationships. With God. With ourselves. And with those around us. Building a healthy relationship and clearing our soul for God’s truth.
And sometimes—when God leads—He even allows us to concentrate on and succeed at things that, in our regular work, we would not be able to accomplish.
But how does this sort of rest fit in with Shmita years? Surely, we are not meant to take an entire year off from work?!
First, it is important to know that the Shmita year is largely considered a sabbatical for the earth, restoring the ground to allow for better produce and to recover from six years of use—though crops that spring up on their own are allowed to be gleaned by the poor.
Second, people DO work during the Shmita years, however, this pattern of rest set down by God for our Sabbath rest continues within it.
Therefore, while the ground and plants receive the bulk of this rest, we also benefit and learn from Shmita years…
While the resting of the land is the primary focus of Shmita years, it is not the only area of change. Debts are traditionally canceled—today this is more common in a Jubilee year which happens every 50 years, the last being in 2017-18. And as previously mentioned, those in need are able to partake of the produce of fields, vineyards, groves, etc., though to a fuller extent than in regular years—regular years allowing for crops to be collected from the edges or from behind the gleaners to take from what was left behind.
Yet, while land and generosity are certainly high points in a Shmita year, there are other things that we can take away. Because we are reminded of the importance of returning strength by entering into rest, of helping those in need, and of accepting the rest God has set aside.
We learn not to trust in our own strength or wealth but in God.
The Land Rests, but What Do We Do?
“Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove. Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.
“And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.”—Exodus 23:10-13
In biblical times those who had fields and crops would find a lighter workload during a Shmita year—and the same still holds true for those who continue to observe it—but few of us have crops today. This means that the refreshing we receive in a Shmita year is likely going to look a little differently than it might for a farmer.
For us, the refreshing is almost always more spiritual and mental than a physical break from labor. In it we consider:
- The importance that God places on rest
- The need to give to others
- The obligations we have to God
- The obligations we have to what the Lord gives us
- The obligations we have to others
- The benefit and need to be obedient to God
- The ways we can honor God through obedience
When we take the rest God prescribed for us, we are being obedient, giving, and respectful—honoring God, ourselves, and those around us as restoration and renewal are brought in. We are preparing for God’s best and highest.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”—Luke 6:38
When we give of what God has given us, we open the door for God’s love to pour out on others, while we simultaneously determine the measure we will receive.
When we give rest to the land and ourselves. When we provide for those in need—be it in a Shmita year or in any other season of time—we open ourselves up to God’s ways… to refreshing, giving, and even to receiving.
God is the Creator of all! He made the land. The crops. Us. And with God’s creation, He blessed us, providing all that we need. Yet, with great blessing comes great responsibility. To be blessed with the increase we must be responsible for what we have been given so that in turn we can be given more and have an abundance—just like the parable of the talents Jesus told in Matthew 25! And that responsibility requires obedience, rest, generosity, and love.
For many, it can be hard to accept the rest God desires for us on Shabbat… let alone for a whole Shmita year. Yes, they are vastly different in terms of the type of rest we receive, but both bring about a renewing of the mind when we accept them. Both bring about a realignment with God’s calendar, ways, and heart.
When we accept the Shmita year rest that God has blessed us with, we are able to go forward in the years after with a Kingdom mindset and renewed energy for bringing God’s Kingdom to earth! For heralding the return of Messiah!
It is time for us to accept the rest of the Lord. Be it on our weekly Shabbat or even a Shmita year.
It is time to return our attention and gaze to God. Regularly and surely.
It is time for us to remember the importance of obedience. To follow God’s ways.
It is time for us to act with generosity. Not only financially, but in all things.
IT IS TIME FOR US TO PUT GOD FIRST!