“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 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. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
“Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.
“Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord GOD.
“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.
“The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:10-19, ESV)
In line with the law of Sabbath, God institutes a Sabbath year for Israel, commanding her to not work her fields every seventh year, with the intention that what grows by itself will be a supply for the poor and the beasts of the field (God cares for both). Like the Sabbath day, they rest and trust that God will provide what they need, just like He did the manna. Rest is proper for the human and for the beast and for the land. Even the foreigner is to keep this law, meaning that foreigners among them cannot be used by the Israelites to circumvent this law.
Worship of God alone also includes keeping the prescribed festivals, particularly Unleavened Bread, which includes Passover, and the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost, that occurred 50 days later. The Feast of Ingathering also must be kept, another harvest festival later in the year. No one should come empty handed, bringing a tithe or some portion of their harvest to recognize God’s provision. These three times are incumbent on all male head of households in the family.
Unleavened bread is again made the standard of all meal that is offered with sacrifices to Yahweh and the need to burn on the altar any fat from the sacrifice within the day is made clear. Another standard is to bring the best of one’s firstfruits. This is a time to honor the Lord’s provision, not try to bring the worst and selfishly keep the best for yourself. And a final standard is to avoid boiling young goat meat in its mothers milk, a pagan practice that God wants Israel to keep separate from.
Sabbath laws remind us that God owns everything and is capable of providing for us when we don’t work. It is an exercise in trust as well as rest. Do you rest well? Or do you find yourself not knowing how to rest? Ironically, we need to work at rest, preparing ourselves for it and planning it well. Not trusting God may be a hindrance to our rest. We rest in Him and then we rest ourselves.
Festival laws remind us that worship is essential to our mental and spiritual health. Giving time and attention to worship is, just like rest, something we need to prepare and plan for. We ready our spirits to celebrate the Lord. And such celebration is a communal thing, not just an individual experience. Socially we need this experience of community worship.
See Learning to Rest by Sheryl Giesbrecht, Hitting the Pause Button! 5 Strategies for Reducing Stress and Learning to Rest by Kelly Smith