As challenging as farming can be as a business, it comes with many immeasurable benefits. There is the outdoor lifestyle, the independence, the being part of a close-knit and interdependent community, the enjoyment of working with livestock and working the land.
Those who have been reared on a farm develop a close attachment to the land. This affinity increases for those who are following previous generations of their family in farming the same meadows, pasturelands and fields. Every tree, brae and burn are etched onto the mind’s eye along with the recollection of events that are linked to them. There is a very strong sense of safety and security derived from being at home on the farm.
From time to time, there may be the opportunity to add to the farm when, for example, a neighbour’s ground comes up for sale or conacre. There is also something a little sad when land must change hands. It may mark the end of a very long attachment of a family name to a farm, or there simply isn’t another generation to continue the family tradition. It can be very stressful when the time comes for us to relinquish our hold on land, or let out the ground.
In such times we are reminded that even at our peak of expansion, the land is never really ours. The Psalmist said, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). This was a salutary reminder to the ancient nation of Israel that while they had been ‘given’ the Promised Land, the Lord remained the Landlord, and they were his tenants.
They developed a very strong attachment to their new land. The Psalmist could reflect with happy contentment, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). Unfortunately, such Godly contentment did not last for long, as the people of Israel began to take the Lord and his blessings for granted.
Our ‘portion in the land of the living’
Eventually, the long-suffering Lord sent his people into exile until they understood that the inheritance they needed most was God Himself. King David had understood this all along when he said, “I cry to you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5).
The Apostle Paul developed the idea that the inheritance God wants to give us is not land, but life – life in Christ. All God’s promises to his people are no longer to be fulfilled in a ‘Promised Land’, but in a Promised Person. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), he writes.
The Apostle John declared, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). All that God wants to give to us is received by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord. Do you have the eternal safety and security that is only found in Jesus? Is He your portion in the land of the living and for the life to come? May the Psalmist’s prayer be yours “…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
Rev Norman Smyth is married to Linda and they have three children. The son of a County Antrim dairy farmer, he is the minister of First and Second Markethill in County Armagh.
His blog appeared in a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News For the Countryside’, in today’s Farming Life, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.
You can read Normans’s contributions, and look at other reflections in this series of blogs, here.
You can look at other blogs in this series here. If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 07938 488 372.