The promise of the Jubilee

Let’s look at Leviticus 25, part of our read-through-the Bible plan for today:

“‘Count off seven sabbaths of years– seven times seven years– so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years.  Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

Coty Pinckney comments on this passage:

Recall that in the Bible, the number seven represents perfection or completion. So seven times seven is complete perfection, or perfect completion. This year of Jubilee appears to be a special Sabbath year, every 50 years. While this is a different picture, many of the connotations are similar to the three seventh-month feast we discussed earlier — and so God has the Year of Jubilee proclaimed on the Day of Atonement.

What is the cause of celebration? See verse 10: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land!” (You may recall that these words are inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.)

Liberty! Freedom! The year of Jubilee is a celebration of freedom. The Hebrew word translated “liberty” connotes being without constraint, flowing freely like a stream, or running freely…..

So Jubilee shows God’s concern for the poor, for making sure that the poor have a chance to work hard and make a living for themselves. Jubilee also serves to ensure that Israel would not be a society dominated by a few, or a society torn apart by civil strife. All this is relevant for us today, as we consider how to set up our own civil society.

But what is the spiritual picture for us? All of these regulations we have discussed in Leviticus picture spiritual truths — what is the truth represented by the year of Jubilee?

To answer that question, we need to ask another first: What is represented spiritually by the Promised Land? The crossing of the Jordan River, the entering of Canaan, represents what spiritual event? Recall that Egypt is a picture of slavery to sin, being lost in our trespasses. Crossing the Jordan is sometimes thought of as entering heaven — but we don’t fight wars in heaven! No, crossing the Jordan represents our salvation, our entering God’s rest, as the author of Hebrews would put it, our salvation while we are still on earth. The land, then, represents our inheritance — God’s promise to us.

With that in mind, think of the year of Jubilee. While in this life, do our sins have an impact on our lives and the lives of others? Do we suffer because of our bad decisions, or because of natural disasters of one type or another? Yes, we certainly do! But the impact of all these sins, of all natural disasters is limited. There are no eternal consequences of our failures. The year of Jubilee pictures the security of our inheritance, the assurance that all our sufferings are temporary, that God has promised us an inheritance and while we may turn our backs on it for a while, or cause ourselves and our families pain because of bad decisions, in the end our inheritance is secure. Just so, others may fail me, others may hurt me, but God’s promise remains.

So that is why Jubilee is a celebration of liberty! We are free! Our lives are not controlled by others’ bad decisions, or by our own bad decisions. Our destiny is in God’s hands, the God who loves us and cherishes us.

This also frees us to love. Nothing anyone else has done or will do to me can take away my inheritance. No one else can ruin my life. I am free to forgive, free to love, free to restore relationships. This is the promise of the Jubilee!

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