Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
How farming has changed in recent years! I remember the time, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the Ferguson T20 was one of the most common tractors on our farms and ploughing was often done with a two-furrow plough. Now tractors are much bigger, 4WD and almost unstoppable, while ploughs are usually at least four furrows and often reversible for greater speed in ploughing.
I also remember some form of crop rotation years ago. I know this still takes place, but in my memory fields back in my younger days were not cultivated nearly so much as they are now. Some could be left uncultivated for many years with a covering of buttercup, ragwort and thistles quite common in the countryside. Now it is not uncommon to see a crop harvested one day, the field re-ploughed a few days later and a day or two after that planted with the next crop. I confess that this worries me, as there is often no sense of giving the land a rest.
In Leviticus 25:1-7 there is a clear principle laid down that land was to be ‘rested’ every seven years. It would seem that God, our creator, knew that land, as well as people, needs time to rest. This principle is also set down in the fourth commandment, where God’s people were to rest from all unnecessary work, and give one day in every seven to worshipping and seeking Him.
It is a principle that is important for our own physical and mental health as well as our spiritual welfare. Our human bodies were not made to work continuously without rest. Perhaps many of us need to learn, or re-learn, that principle?
There is also another sense in which the Bible speaks of rest. Jesus, speaking in Matthew 11:28, says “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He was not referring here to rest from ordinary physical burdens or loads, but to those who were burdened or troubled by their sin.
Everyone who realises the serious nature of their sinful rebellion against God and turns from that sin to Jesus, truly trusting in Him, will find that He will give them rest, or peace. And more than that, the Bible also promises an eternal rest to all who have turned to Jesus and know Him as Saviour. In Hebrews 4:9 we read “there remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” Here the writer to the Hebrews is speaking of Heaven.
We live in a very troubled and restless world, where there is very little peace, either personally or internationally. But here are two important biblical truths:
1. We need to take one day in seven, the Sabbath, to rest and seek God
2. We need to know Jesus who is the only one who can give us peace, rest and forgiveness in this world - and the hope of eternal rest in Heaven.
The land needs rest at times! How much more do we human beings need rest and peace in our hearts?
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.