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From Eternity Past

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    The Mercy of God to Poor People

    Every seventh year special provision was made for the poor. At seedtime, which followed the ingathering, the people were not to sow; they should not dress the vineyard in the spring; and they must expect neither harvest nor vintage. The yield of this year was to be free for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and even for the creatures of the field. Exodus 23:10, 11; Leviticus 25:5.EP 381.2

    But if the land ordinarily produced only enough to supply the wants of the people, how were they to subsist during the year when no crops were gathered? The promise of God made ample provision: “I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year,” He said, “and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of the old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.” Leviticus 25:21, 22.EP 381.3

    The sabbatical year was to be a benefit to both land and people. The soil, lying untilled for one season, would afterward produce more plentifully. The people were released from the pressing labors of the field. All enjoyed greater leisure, opportunity for the restoration of their physical powers, more time for meditation and acquainting themselves with the teachings of the Lord, and for the instruction of their households.EP 381.4

    In the sabbatical year the Hebrew slaves were to be set at liberty. “When thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty. Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.” Deuteronomy 15:13, 14.EP 381.5

    The hire of a laborer was to be promptly paid. “At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor and setteth his heart upon it.” Deuteronomy 24:15.EP 382.1

    Special directions were also given concerning the treatment of fugitives from service: “Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: he shall dwell with thee, even among you, ... where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” Deuteronomy 23:15, 16.EP 382.2

    To the poor, the seventh year was a year of release from debt. The Hebrews were to lend money without interest to their needy brethren. To take usury from a poor man was expressly forbidden: “If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.” Leviticus 25:35-37. If the debt remained unpaid until the year of release, the principal itself could not be recovered. “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, ... thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother... . Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.” “The poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land,” “and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” Deuteronomy 15:7-9, 11, 8.EP 382.3

    None need fear that their liberality would bring them to want. “Thou shalt lend unto many nations,” God said, “but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.” Deuteronomy 15:6.EP 383.1

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