2Ch 36:20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 2Ch 36:21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
Israel had failed to keep the covenant in pretty much every area but here the Lord is clear that the length of their captivity is determined by the number of times they failed to keep the Sabbath years. Apparently they had failed to do this at 70 times and so now the land will get its rest. We might wonder why the Lord chose this particular sin to determine the length of their punishment.
For one thing God had told them before they entered the land that this would happen if they failed to keep the covenant, Lev 26:34 "Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. Lev 26:35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. And I think that one reason he uses this particular sin is because it is a sin that attacks his very person in a very “in your face” kind of way. And I say that knowing that all sin is a personal attack on the Lord.
Briefly this law was a command to be blessed by the Lord as all commands are but this one is so obvious that it is good to remind ourselves of it. Every seventh year they were not to plant anything. They were told to take the year off, let the land rest and just enjoy the Lord. In Lev. 25 when he gives the particulars of the law he says that on the sixth year they shall get such a large crop that they will have enough for three years. In other words, they would have enough for the next year, and since they were not to plant anything the next year, they would have enough for that second year and even though they would plant on the second year the Lord was giving them an extra year to boot so they could be generous to those in need. You see why this was such a wonderful Law. They were given every seventh year off from having to work the farm and make a living.
And so think of the sin here. On the sixth year everyone got a triple harvest and yet it seems the majority of the people either wouldn’t trust the Lord to take care of them through the next two years and even worse even though they had all they needed in their hand they still wanted more and went ahead and planted anyway. Either way they were not content and satisfied with the Lord neither would they commit themselves to his care. It seems the Lord took it pretty personally and we wouldn’t expect anything less. I would add to this that if they lived this way every seventh year we can pretty much assume they lived like this the other six years. God was being very gracious to hold just the Sabbath years against them when they were failing to trust him pretty much nonstop.
Their actions were the opposite of living by faith which isn’t just trusting the Lord but living for him and being satisfied in knowing and having him. This is a good lesson for us to remember. The Lord has promised to supply all that we need and I think of Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. As a rule he does and gives us more than we actually need. And yet, like Israel of old, we often fail to look back on his years of blessings and provisions neither do we look forward in faith based on his promises and keep on working and worrying like all that matters is making as much money as we can. We act like if we don’t take care of ourselves no one will. And we live as if taking the time to enjoy and serve the Lord isn’t as important as securing our place in this world. Like Israel we forget that our “crops” are given to us to serve him and we come to believe that our life is ours to live as we want.
No wonder the Lord picks this epic failure as the key point in the length of the Babylonian Captivity.