Bring Your Own Sacrifice Part 2: The Best of Your Land
Note: I planned to write about land before the wildfires in Oregon exploded. Now over 1 million acres have burned. Please pray for my land as well as the entire West Coast. Thank you.
Twenty plus years ago, consumers began to hear more about a new/old idea: eating local. Instead of assuming that imported food was always better, people starting looking around their own regions for quality ingredients. Take my home state of Oregon. We have amazing Dungeness crab from Coos Bay, hazelnuts and wine from the Willamette Valley, apples and berries from Hood River, cheddar from Tillamook, and sea salt from Netarts Bay (go ahead, try to say it without laughing). We are blessed.
People often think of land as a field to grow food or a plot to construct buildings. But according to the Bible land is much more than property. It’s alive. It’s dynamic. Land affects us and we affect land. Let’s look at how.
When God promised to make Abraham the father of nations, He had Abraham walk through the land his descendants would inherit. After Moses delivered Israel from Egypt they were given clear instructions about morality and cleanliness, and then God says this:
“But as for you, you are to keep My statues and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled) so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.” Leviticus 18:26-28 (NASB)
Not only did God give each tribe specific land, it could be blessed or defiled based upon the behavior of the people. And land would react to that behavior.
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest…an offering by fire to the Lord for a soothing aroma.” Leviticus 23:10-13
Each family was to bring the best of their land and offer it with thanks to God. He found it pleasing that each family brought their own gift from their own portion of land.
Okay one more:
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion’. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Psalms 137:1-4
The songs of the people were married to the land God gave them. The psalmist didn’t refuse to sing just because he was sad. The song didn’t match the land. Some sounds and songs are meant for certain lands.
Back in the days before nationalized radio, different parts of our country had different sounds- New Orleans jazz, Chicago blues, Appalachian country, and New York vaudeville just to name a few. Music and entertainment are now national and international enterprises. This has smoothed out the folds in the soundscape. But that has not changed the design of the land or the people on it.
Every place sounds a little different, or it should. Every house of worship, every family, should be bringing the best of its land as an aroma to God. Without it, God isn’t getting the full diversity of sound and smell and color He deserves. Local churches aren’t receiving the full blessing of their praise. And if you can believe it, you and your land aren’t able to join in life together the way God intended.
When I listen to Bethel Music, I hear the sound of Redding, California. Elevation worship sounds like they do because they are planted in Charlotte, NC. Hillsong is making an Australian sound. I think God loves that. But I also wonder if He’s missing out on hearing from Cedar Rapids, Tuscon, Ithica, Spokane, and Little Rock. Are they making their own sound, or are they trying to sound like somewhere else?
What about you and me? Who and where are we trying to sound like? You might reconsider copying when God meant for you to release the sound of your own land.
I’ll leave you with one more example from Scripture.
“As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out.’” Luke 19:36-40.
I often hear this scripture interpreted as if people and land have an adversarial relationship. We say, “Don’t let the rocks win.” I disagree. According to the Bible God loves land. The destiny of people is attached to the land they nurture. Even certain songs belong on certain land. Knowing all that, consider this thought:
Jesus knew that praise was going to come up from that place. Notice how Scripture is clear on the exact location where the praise began (near the descent of the Mount of Olives). Jesus' words weren’t hyperbole. He was making a statement of fact. Praise was going to happen at that time and place whether or not humans participated. The disciples were simply agreeing with the land.
Let’s resolve to do the same.