Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Year of Jubilee

"At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts" (Deuteronomy 15:1).

In Deuteronomy 15 Moses told the people to keep the Sabbath years that God had set up. A look at Leviticus 25 provides the historical development of the laws regarding Sabbath years and what they meant.

Every seven years Israel was to let the land lie fallow. Everybody’s land was to rest at the same time. It required a great deal of faith to do this, since the question naturally arose, “What shall we eat?” God promised that in the sixth year there would be a triple harvest that would carry them through (Leviticus 25:20–22).

In the same year, certain debts were to be canceled, specifically the charity loans. God warned the people not to harden their hearts against the poor as they saw the year of release drawing near. Those who lent to the poor without interest and whose loan wound up being canceled in the Sabbath year could count on God to make up the difference. The Sabbath year was for Old Testament Israel only, but the obligation to be openhearted toward the poor is for us as well.

After 49 years (seven Sabbath cycles) there was an extra Sabbath called the Jubilee. This 50th year was a super-Sabbath for the land. In the Jubilee, all of the land of Israel temporarily reverted to its true owner, the Lord.

To understand the Jubilee, remember that God took the land of Canaan away from the Canaanites because they had lost all right to dwell there. As Israel conquered Canaan, God parcelled out His land to each of the tribes. Each family received a permanent plot of good land. If a man became so poor that he needed to sell his plot in order to raise money, he could only lease the land out until the Jubilee. In the Jubilee, God took all the land back and returned it to its original stewards. Immigrants to Israel might lease land, but they would lose it in the Jubilee; thus, they lived in the cities which were not under the Jubilee law.

In the new covenant, it is the spiritual and moral teaching of the Jubilee that continues to be relevant. In Luke 4:19, Jesus proclaimed that the Great Jubilee had come and that God was taking the earth back from Satan and would give it, little by little, generation by generation, to His faithful stewards.

The Jubilee year released people from debt and bondage. Salvation in Christ is God’s Jubilee to His people. Consider how you can show this in a neighborly way today.