In the Old Testament, God prescribed a Sabbath rest for His people which was to be observed for a day, every seven days. He also prescribed a Sabbath rest for the land, and it was to be observed for one year, every seven years. In fact, He promised His people that the productivity of their land would triple in the sixth year, so that they could comfortably eat and rest in the seventh year, and still have enough to eat and to plant in the eighth year. Well, the people hardly listened to Him, because they twisted the weekly human rest into an inhumane, legalistic concept that disregarded natural human constraints. For the most part, they also totally disregarded the Sabbath rest that the land was to observe. When the people turned their backs against God, they became vulnerable to their enemies and were forced into exile. And in those seasons of exile during which their land remained desolate, Scripture said the land would get the rest it had needed (Leviticus 26: 33- 35).

It is clear that God created the earth and humankind in a way that both would require cycles of rest. However, humankind’s freewill has developed an addiction to labour in such a way that we do not usually allow the earth to rest, unless we are forced to. Remember the commission that God gave humankind in Genesis? We often remember the part that says “take dominion”, but conveniently forget the part that says “replenish it” (Genesis 1: 28). Since several countries began to adopt lockdown measures, there have been reports in the media about significantly reduced air pollution and cleaner water which can positively impact millions. 

Does this not mean that God causes chaos in nature, exiles of peoples, or outbreaks like Covid19 which has ground the world to a halt. He only ever does good, so this is not from Him. However, as upsetting and destabilising as the situation currently is, is there a possibility that the earth will use this forced break to reset itself after many years of non-stop human extractive activity without replenishment? Could it be that there is a silver lining behind the disruptive season we are in? 

Forced as we are to comply with social distancing, the hope and prayer is that we will eradicate the Covid19 virus soon. And maybe after this, we will be mindful to replenish the earth in the following ways-

  1. Be more deliberate to protect rainforests
  2. Be more deliberate about reducing carbon emissions 
  3. Be more concerned about waste, recycling, and reducing dependence on single-use plastics
  4. Party more responsibly, and use our financial resources more carefully
  5. Love people, and appreciate social contact for the magic that it is
  6. Be very deliberate about rest for ourselves, and take regular, personal breaks daily and weekly. 

As we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will show us tools and nuggets of wisdom that we can utilise once this situation is over. Let us use this time to prayerfully plan for a brighter, more restful, regularly replenished future. “For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23: 18).

Does Scripture ever call us to rest from physical strain? Yes:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

Does God promise to sustain us in difficult times? Yes:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Does Jesus understand the stress of the moment? And does He make provisions to help us? Yes:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

 

Mary W. Gani

20/03/2020