Growing up in a farming community I have always felt close to the land. Farmers are understandably fascinated by the land. They are passionate about caring for their own land, sometimes critical, sometimes covetous of their neighbours land; and when travelling outside their own area always keenly observant of the agricultural land elsewhere: is it well drained and productive, does it lie towards the sun, is it sweet and fertile?
Recently the value of agricultural land has soared in price. it is a precious commodity, as the wonderful Mark Twain once advised, "Buy land, they're not making it anymore." Although some farm land may remain in the ownership of one family for several generations most farmers understand that they are merely custodians of that land for a period of time. As custodians farmers are proud of the land they occupy and are always seeking to improve it and to pass it on in better heart than they found it.
The Land features heavily in the Old Testament. The people of Israel as slaves in Egypt are promised a 'land flowing with milk and homey'. What a wonderful description. When I was farming I had 50 hard wet acres on a Penne hillside that even on the best day could not have been described in such terms! For multiple generations of israelites, their relationship with God was inextricably connected to the occupation of the land.
And we still in Israel and Palestine today a struggle to occupy and to claim the land. That which has been given to humanity as a source of nourishment, sustenance and shelter becomes instead the source of conflict, violence and misery across the generations. This was never what God intended.
Psalm 37:8-11 reads, 'Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose you temper - it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peach and prosperity.'
We must cherish the land as one of Gods most precious gifts to his people and as our Harvest celebrations approach this Autumn we will have the opportunity to thank God for his provision and at the same time pray for peace for those innocent victims who are caught up in the pernicious struggle to control the 'promised land'.
Grace and Peace