Rest, Release, Redemption, and Return

Rest, Release, Redemption, and Return Jubilee sermon notes I. Intro: Concerning Calendars Did you know that there’s something wrong with your calendar? Its days are numbered. Get it? You can mark this down on your calendars, though; on this Mothers’ Day 2021, Pastor Justin, for only the second time in his ministry, began a sermon with a joke! We are going to talk about calendars this morning, however. Last week, we looked at Daniel’s prayer of confession, which was prompted by his Bible study, in which he learned that the time of the exile should’ve been almost up. Jeremiah had indicated a 70-year period during which Babylon would be supreme in that part of the world, a 70-year period during which the Jewish people would be in exile, forbidden from returning to Judah and Jerusalem, a 70-year period during which the Jerusalem temple and its atonement sacrifices were only a memory. So, Daniel confessed his own sin and the sins of God’s people at large, seeking to be obedient to the prophet Jeremiah and the Mosaic Law, both of which promised that God would return the Jewish people to the land and enable them to rebuild the temple, if they confessed their sin and repented. Daniel’s doing his part, and he’s seeking to represent the people. Daniel then asked the Lord to fulfill his promises, to restore the people to the land especially, to bring an end to their exile. Famously, God quickly dispatches the angel Gabriel to answer Daniel. The Lord’s answer has been the source of calendar-calculations, speculation, and much debate among Jews and in the church for a very long time. The first words of that answer are found in Daniel 9:24, where we read, “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city.” Before we explore the rest of the answer over the next couple of weeks, I think it may be clarifying to ask and attempt to answer a preliminary question: What would Daniel have thought of when he heard these words? Most of our English Bibles provide a footnote after the phrase “seventy weeks” to indicate that this phrase could more literally be translated as “seventy sevens,” and pretty much everyone agrees that this means “seventy seven-year periods.” Would Daniel have understood it that way? Yes, I think so. How would he know? From his Bible, of course! The concept of a week in Scripture as a seven-day period is marked by the weekly recurrence of the Sabbath. Thus, a “seven,” as a period of time, is lined up with a Sabbath. But there is one place in the Bible where Sabbath doesn’t merely mark the end of a week, but instead marks the end of a seven-year period: Leviticus 25. In Leviticus 25, we are introduced to two linked laws, one defining the Sabbath Year and one defining the Jubilee Year. I think it’s likely that Daniel would’ve thought of this legislation as Gabriel unfolded what would happen in the future. So, we should take a dive into the heart of Israel’s calendar to make sure we understand the significance of this background for the meaning and purpose of the “seventy weeks prophecy” given by Gabriel to Daniel in answer to his prayer. So, open your Bible to Leviticus 25. We’ll be looking at a lot of Scripture this morning, and we’ll seek to draw out some implications for Christians today, as we look at the Mosaic Law through the lens of Jesus and the gospel. First, the overall structure of Leviticus 25 looks like the outline on this slide. Heading (Lev. 25:1-2a) A The Sabbatical Year (Lev. 25:2b-7) B The Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:8-17) A’ Concern about the Sabbatical Year and Yahweh’s promises (Lev. 25:1822) B’ Details about the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:23-55) First, we’ll look at the “A” parts having to do with the Law of the Sabbath Year, verses 1-7 and 18-22. We’ll see that verses 18-22 has relevance for the Jubilee Year as well, which may be why the Jubilee Year is introduced before considering the concerns of verses 18-22. The law of the Sabbath Year focuses on providing rest for the land. Follow along as I read Leviticus 25:1-7, and then verses 18-22. II. The Law of the Sabbath Year: Rest for the Land (Lev. 25:1-7, 18-22) Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to Yahweh. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the 1 seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to Yahweh. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food. 18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives. The land needs rest. This is not simply a practical, agricultural principle, though agricultural experts have discovered certain benefits of letting a field lie fallow for a prolonged period, and doing so is a practice known from other cultures in the ancient world. But the rationale here is not pragmatic. Rather, it is theological. The land belongs to Yahweh. Yahweh rested on the seventh day, after completing his work of creation. As a reflection of that, he commands his people to rest from their labors each week on the seventh day. So also, in the seventh year, he commands the people to allow the land to rest for a whole year, in the seventh year, following six years of sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting, pruning and gathering. Yahweh owns the land and he has the right to dictate how it is to be used. In a society of farmers, like ancient Israel, one bad season for crops can lead to devastation for a family. So, the question raised in verse 20 is certainly reasonable. In response, Yahweh promises a miraculous triple-blessing on the sowing of the sixth year, the year leading up to the Sabbath Year. This is akin to his provision of manna for them in the wilderness, when he promised double the manna on the sixth day, so that they could rest from gathering the manna on the seventh day, the Sabbath day. At this point, we should consider the calendar. You should find a special insert in the bulletin this week, with a chart on the front and a chart on the back. Look at the front, marked “page 1” at the bottom; the chart with the yellow highlight is the back. The first column counts the years reflected in this passage, the 6th through the 9th. The second column indicates how to continue counting once the Sabbath Year arrives. What you can see in the gray shaded area is that the Sabbath Year, though it’s called the seventh year, actually overlaps what we would count as the 7th and 8th years. Thus, year 8 is year 1 of the next cycle. The third column is the names of the Jewish months, with their numbers to help keep track, and then the fourth column is the modern equivalents. Then, there’s a column which notes the activity, whether sowing or reaping/harvesting. Finally, I’ve indicated the crops harvested. So, the triple blessing promised is on the sowing that takes place in the seventh through ninth months of year 6. They sow the same amount of seed as they always would, but God promises to bless that seed so that the harvest is triple what they expected. God would fulfill that promise, most likely, in the form of massive amounts of rain in the winter months, as indicated in Leviticus 26:3-5. The seventh month is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most holy month of the year, given that most of the Jewish festivals are to be celebrated during the seventh month. But it’s also the month that sowing begins. So, the first part of allowing the land to lie fallow, to rest as a Sabbath to Yahweh, is to refrain from sowing. Thus, the Sabbath year actually begins in the fall of the seventh year. So, to summarize, rest for the land means that the people will not plant seeds in their fields and will not do the normal work of harvesting their fields. Normally, for most Jews, the harvest would bring in not only food for the family, but also crops that could be sold at the market for income, or stored for later, in case of a shortfall. Yahweh is calling his people to trust him to provide enough food, which they would harvest in the spring and summer of the seventh year, for their families to eat the rest of the seventh year, through the eighth year, when, in the fall, they would plant their fields once again, and they’d continue eating on that sixth-year bumper crop until the springtime harvest of the ninth year. What a miraculous provision! What faith the people were being called to express! Now, let’s consider the Law of the Jubilee Year. Since it’s such a large chunk of text, let’s break up the reading of it. We’ll see three R’s for the Jubilee Year: Return, Redemption, and Release. Let’s consider the beginning of the legislation, the Return in verses 8-17. III. The Law of the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:8-17, 23-55) A. Return (Lev. 25:8-17) 8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. 13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. 14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am Yahweh your God. So, following from the Sabbath Year, every seven years, now we are to count “seven weeks of years” or 49 years. However, this Jubilee Year doesn’t start at the beginning of the normal year; rather, it begins on the Day of Atonement, which is the tenth day of the seventh month. So, it coincides with the beginning of the sowing season in the fall. But then it’s counted as the 50th year in verse 10. How to count the Jubilee Year has been debated. The chart on the back of your bulletin insert with the yellow highlighting shows how I currently understand it. You count into the 49th year, and the 7th month then becomes the beginning of the Jubilee Year, which will then overlap with the 50th year. So, as I see it, you can refer to it as the 49th year, if you think of it in terms of the first half of the year, or you can refer to it as the 50th year, if you think of it in terms of the second half of the year. And, to keep the counting of the Sabbath Years synced up with the Jubilee Years, the 50th year is also counted as the first year of the next cycle. This seems to account for both verses 9 and 10. If that’s still confusing to you, feel free to put the chart away and forget about it. It’s still confusing to me, but that’s my best attempt to understand what the text seems to be saying. The key activity is a return in terms of a proclamation of liberty. The sacrifices of the Day of Atonement provide cleansing for the tabernacle and everything associated with the tabernacle, as well as providing forgiveness for all of the sins of all of the people from the previous year. The Day of Atonement is the divine reset day. In the Jubilee Year, after the sacrifices have been made, the ram’s horn would be blown throughout Israel to proclaim liberty for the people. The word “Jubilee” is not actually related to the English word “jubilation,” which means celebration. Instead, it’s just bringing over into English the Hebrew letters from the word which refers to the ram’s horn. It’s the Year of the Ram’s Horn, or the year when the blowing of the ram’s horn proclaims liberty for the people. The liberty highlighted here has to do with freedom to return home, to return to one’s land. If you’re still thinking about Daniel, perhaps you can see the relevance. But the Jubilee Year allowed all the Jews to return to their own family land. Poverty could lead someone to sell himself into slavery or to sell his land. The Jubilee legislation seeks to govern and put limits on the way this works out. In verse 11, we see that the Jubilee Year seems to correspond with the Sabbath Year, with instructions to leave the land fallow. This has led many students of Scripture to suggest that the Jubilee Year would create a situation of two consecutive fallow years. From the chart, you can see that I lean toward seeing them as coinciding. The repeated instruction on leaving the land fallow in this 49th and 50th year may be so that no one would assume that the Jubilee Year would cancel out the Sabbath Year when it comes. In any case, verses 13-17 seek to regulate the price of land according to how long until the Jubilee Year. This is where we begin to see that real estate in Israel was not actually bought or sold. Rather, the crops produced by a particular plot of land may be sold; the land itself is merely leased. A Jewish farmer might lease a portion or all of his land to be farmed by someone else, in order to receive a lump-sum payment up front, which might enable him to settle a debt. In the next verses, we’ll see that the farmer who has leased his land always has the right to redeem and return to his land, if he or a family member can come up with the funds. But it’s possible that the farmer might never gain enough income to do that, and maybe no one in the family would be willing to step up to help. Thus, the Jubilee Year provides a once-in-alifetime safety net to enable the farmer to return to his family property free of charge. The purpose of this legislation seems to be to curb the impact of poverty and to maintain the family inheritances within Israel through the generations. Poverty need not ruin a family for multiple generations, as it so often does. In verses 23-28, we see laws for redemption of the land. B. Redemption (Lev. 25:23-28) “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property. 23 We’re going to bypass verses 29-34, which presents two exceptions to the basic procedure laid out in verses 25-28. You can see that verse 35 picks up the exact same language of verse 25, resuming the main thrust of the legislation. This becomes stage one in a downward spiral. But notice, first of all, the theological rationale for the legislation in verse 23. The land belongs to Yahweh; the Jews must consider themselves merely as Yahweh’s guests. So, the land must remain in the families and clans which Yahweh had allotted, going all the way back to Joshua and the conquest of Canaan. The land is not to permanently change hands, change families. Verse 25 then introduces the first strategy a Jewish farmer struggling financially might take to alleviate his troubles: sell a portion of his property. Or, rather, he leases a section of his farmable land to another Jewish family. Either the farmer or one of his family members can, at any time, pay money to redeem his property, so that he might return to farming it himself. If the Jubilee Year comes and he hasn’t been able to buy it back, then he is allowed to return anyway, free of charge. Now, let’s skip down to verse 35, and see how the release works in relationship with the Jubilee Year. C. Release (Lev. 25:35-43) 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. 39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. We’re going to bypass verses 44-55, which presents a couple of exceptions regarding foreign slaves and becoming a slave to a foreigner. So, these verses contain stages 2 and 3 of what an impoverished Jewish farmer might do to survive. First, he sold part of his fields. Second, in verse 35, he is to seek out a loan. The legislation actually puts it the other way around; his fellow Jews are to notice his plight and offer him an interest-free loan. Loan him enough money to buy enough seed to plant for the next season; once the harvest comes, hopefully he will reap enough that he can feed his family and then pay back the loan. But the emphasis here is on the generosity of an interest-free loan, and it, too, is motivated and grounded in the generosity of Yahweh, who graciously rescued them from slavery in Egypt and gave them the land of Canaan. In verse 39, we get stage 3. The struggling farmer took the loan, but then he is unable to repay the loan. What will he do next to preserve his family? He might sell himself into slavery to the one who loaned him the money, or hire himself out to work the man’s fields as a way of working off the debt. The command here is that, in this situation, the one hiring him will not treat him like a slave, but will seek to maintain his dignity, give him honest labor and fair wages in order to help him get back on his feet. Moreover, if he hasn’t paid off the debt when the Jubilee Year comes, then the man is to be set free from his service, which surely implies that the remainder of the debt would be forgiven. Now, as we mentioned last week, a major reason given for the exile was Israel’s failure to keep the law of the Sabbath Year. If they didn’t keep the Sabbath Year, you can be sure they also didn’t keep the Jubilee Year, and both of these are connected specifically with God’s judgment of exile. IV. The Breaking of the Sabbath and Jubilee Year Laws (Lev. 26:34-35; Jer. 34:8-22; 2 Chron. 36:20-21) Consider again Leviticus 26:34-35: After the Lord had indicated that if they refuse to obey his Word, he would devastate the land and exile the people, so that the land would be laid waste, ruined, and desolate, then he says, “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.” The land hadn’t had its Sabbath rest, prescribed by the Lord in Leviticus 25; therefore, God sent them out of the land so that it could rest. But there’s more. King Zedekiah appears to have attempted to reinstate the Jubilee Year. Jeremiah indicates that the king had made a covenant with the people “to make a proclamation of liberty to them,” which is that unique phrase we saw in Leviticus 25, and so all the people set their Jewish slaves free. Then we read these words in Jeremiah 34:11: “But afterward they turned around and took back the male and female slaves they had set free, and brought them into subjection as slaves.” To this, the Lord responds, through Jeremiah, and he refers back to legislation from Deuteronomy 15, that Jewish slaves should only be required to serve six years and then be set free. At the end of Jeremiah 34:14, the Lord indicates that the Jews never obeyed that law either. Then we read these words from the Lord in verses 15-17, “15 You recently repented and did what was right in my eyes by proclaiming liberty, each to his neighbor, and you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, 16 but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves. 17 Therefore, thus says Yahweh: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares Yahweh. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” Skipping down to verses 21-22: “21 And Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 Behold, I will command, declares Yahweh, and will bring them back to this city. And they will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire. I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.” Thus, the invasion of Babylon, the exile of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem was Yahweh’s judgment for the people’s failure to uphold the Jubilee Year. He is the one truly in charge of the Babylonian army. Finally, we revisit the verses we looked at last week, near the conclusion of 2 Chronicles. 2 Chronicles 36:20-21: “He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” Thus, our understanding of exile must be rooted in the backdrop of the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year legislation. Should it surprise us if the restoration, the rescue from exile, must be understood also with this background in mind? We’ve considered the legislation itself, and we’ve considered how the people failed to keep these commands. Now, let’s consider the fulfillment of the Sabbath and Jubilee Year, according to Scripture. This is where we see further the connection with the Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9. We begin in Isaiah 61:1-2. V. The Fulfillment of the Sabbath and Jubilee Years (Isa. 61:1-2; Luke 4:16-30) 1 The Spirit of Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of Yahweh’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; Notice the language of “proclaiming liberty” in verse 1. I’ll keep my comments here brief, but this passage is just amazing! The proclamation of liberty is uniquely Jubilee language, from Leviticus 25, and here it is a central feature in the mission of the Messiah, as laid out by the prophet Isaiah. The “me” in verse 1 is the Servant of the Lord who appears frequently in the last several chapters of Isaiah’s prophecy. Knowing that Jesus is that Servant, we can see an Old Testament indication of the Trinity. The prophet Isaiah is quoting the Messianic Servant, defining his own anticipated mission. The mission of the Messiah is here being defined in terms of fulfilling the purpose of the Jubilee Year, but in an ultimate, final, decisive way. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus reads these words from Isaiah in the synagogue of Nazareth and applies them to himself. The year of the Lord’s favor is the final Jubilee, and Jesus is indicating that it is being fulfilled in his ministry. After he quotes everything up to the first line of Isaiah 61:2, we read these words in Luke 4:20-21: “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Jesus is “on mission” in Luke 4; he stops reading in the middle of verse 2 because he has come to fulfill the positive aspects of the Jubilee Year, while creating an unexpected delay in the Messiah’s role as final judge. The year of the Lord’s favor would not coincide with the day of God’s vengeance the way the Jews were expecting. The year of the Lord’s favor must stand alone, first and foremost, so that God’s grace might extend to both rebellious Jews and rebellious Gentiles across the world, as the true and final fulfillment of everything the Jubilee Year was really about. But, as I said, Jesus is “on mission” in Luke 4. The people of Nazareth struggled to believe that Jesus was the Spirit-anointed Messiah Isaiah had announced. They knew him as the carpenter’s son, but they had heard of him doing miracles elsewhere. After vaguely identifying himself also as a prophet, Jesus rebukes them for their unbelief and points to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. He reminded them that those old prophets did special miracles for a couple of Gentiles, excluding many in Israel who were suffering. The Jews of Nazareth seemed to have understood his point; the fulfillment of the Jubilee Year, the year of the Lord’s favor, the mission of the Messiah was not just for the Jews. And they tried to kill him. Then, what do we see? After rebuking the Jews of Nazareth, he goes to Capernaum and rebukes a demon living in a man, and the demon left, rebukes a fever in Peter’s mother-in-law, and the fever left, and then rebukes a bunch of demons living in a bunch of different people, so that the demons all left, and heals a bunch of other people besides. Jesus is proclaiming liberty to the captives, setting people free from oppression, and proclaiming the good news that he was bringing in the kingdom of God, indeed, that he was the longawaited King. Instead of blowing a ram’s horn, he was proclaiming liberty through his powerful speaking. As Jesus hinted at in Nazareth, however, like most things in prophecy, there is an already-but-not-yet fulfillment. The final and indeed eternal Jubilee Year has begun, but the completion of all that the Jubilee Year stood for awaits his return, his second coming. Instead of returning to a particular land, the Lord is summoning all people everywhere to return to him, to repent, and those who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus receive rest from trying to earn anything from God, release from the debt of our sin, and release from our captivity to sin, our enslavement to Satan. The Sabbath rest merely foreshadowed in the Mosaic Law and the practice of a weekly non-work-day, merely foreshadowed by allowing land to lie fallow, the true Sabbath rest of trusting the Sovereign Lord of the universe to provide all your needs—Jesus, the Sabbath-Lord, as he called himself, provides you with the true rest the moment you begin trusting in him. We have already entered the true rest that the Sabbath merely pointed toward. And yet we also look forward to the full experience of rest in the future. Nevertheless, in the “now,” the messy, overwhelming, frustrating, struggling “now,” you can experience real rest and real freedom, everything the Sabbath and the Jubilee intend to picture. Rest from trying to figure everything out; rest from trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps; rest from trying to earn anything from the Lord; rest from trying to pay for your own sin; rest from carrying the weight of guilt for your failures; rest from trying to measure up to some standard. Jesus is gentle, meek, lowly; his yoke is easy; his burden is light. He is a good shepherd; he will lead you where you need to go. Jesus has purchased us, redeemed us, by his death on the cross; he fulfills the Day of Atonement sacrifices, once and for all! He owns every person who trusts in him, and he claims every person who trusts him. We have been redeemed; the penalty for all of our sin has been paid in full; the debt has been cancelled, forever! And yet we also look forward to the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection. But even now we can experience real freedom from the bondage of sin. Some of the sweetest words in Scripture to me are found in Romans 6:14: “Sin will have no dominion over you.” That promise puts the wind back in my sails, when I feel deflated. That promise brightens my eyes better than caffeine or honey or any other stimulant known to man. Jesus has bought us out of slavery to sin and Satan. Next week, we will return to Daniel 9, where I will suggest that the seventy weeks prophecy, and the seventieth week in particular, has to do with what we’ve been talking about today. The seventy weeks of years Gabriel explains to Daniel is about the fulfillment of the Jubilee Year. Daniel thought he knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy when the end of the exile would be, at the culmination of seventy years. Gabriel informs Daniel that the return to the land, which God would accomplish a very short time after Daniel prays, is only the beginning of the end of the exile. To deal with the problem that caused the exile in the first place would require a much longer time. For now, as we conclude, how can we live out the principles of the Sabbath and the Jubilee today? If Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath Year and inaugurated the Jubilee Year, if he has welcomed us into participating in the Jubilee, what should our response as Christians be? Combining the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year, let’s consider the 5 R’s. VI. Conclusion: Living Out Sabbath and the Jubilee Today A. Rest The Sabbath Year was intended to provide rest for the land. This has relevance for God’s people today. The principle we need to follow here has to do with acting as responsible stewards both of our time and of the earth. Now, I’m not in any way commenting on problems related to the climate or the politics surrounding that discussion. Rather, I’m suggesting that Leviticus 25 reaches back to Genesis 1 to reflect God’s granting to humans responsibility to care for and manage this created world for good. As Christians, being remade in the image of God, being restored as his rightful representatives in this world, our new identity should influence how we treat the created world. I am not knowledgeable enough to make positive suggestions in this area, but I can say, generally: Don’t trash the place! Enjoy nature as the gift from God that it is, but don’t treat the things of this world as simply garbage to be burned. The other implication of the rest offered to the land has to do with the faith of the people who live on the land. Remember: if the land was to lie fallow for a whole year, they had to trust God’s promise that he would provide enough in the sixth year to last for three years. That’s what he said he would do! In order to obey the command to let the land lie fallow, they had to believe God’s Word, to trust his promise of provision. Matthew 6 comes to mind. Don’t be anxious about the things you might provide yourself using money, things like food, drink, and clothing. Why not? Because your life is more than food; your body is more than clothing; because you are more valuable than the birds God feeds every day, and he will feed you; because being anxious adds nothing to your life; because you last longer than the flowers God clothes with such beauty every day, and he will provide clothing for you, too; because pagans, non-believers, people who don’t know Jesus as the gracious King that he is— they are the ones who prioritize food, drink, and clothing; because God is now your Father and he knows your needs; and, finally, Jesus says, don’t be anxious about what’s going to happen tomorrow, because tomorrow is tomorrow. I love how Jesus argues logically against our feelings of anxiety! But do we believe his reasons? Do we believe what he says? We can. He is utterly trustworthy. B. Release The Jubilee Year has to do with a release, genuine liberty. Our debt of sin has been fully forgiven, and we have been set free to please God. In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray, he used the language of debt-release. Luke 11:4 begins, “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” If we have been released from our sin-debt, we must not hold onto the sin-debts others accrue with us. In other words, let go of your grudges. Some of you in this building are still holding on to old wounds. It’s time for release; it’s time for healing; it’s time to extend forgiveness. C. Redemption The way the Jubilee Year regulated the prices of redemption, of redeeming the land, has implications for us as well. Challenging ancient Jewish people to think about their land and their crops not in terms of personal profit, so that the wealthy wouldn’t just get wealthier while the poor just kept getting poorer was very important, and the Lord surely intended to curb their materialism. And so it should be for us. Jesus drew on Leviticus 25 when he said, in Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” The principles of the Jubilee are behind the early church’s practices of sharing resources described in Acts 2 and Acts 4. There’s no support for Communism here; rather, there’s a challenge for us to part with our resources voluntarily in order to help those who are in need in our body. We’re not storing up treasures on earth. D. Return Finally, returning to the land in the Jubilee Year had the purpose of a great reset. It preserved the line of family ownership of the land God had allotted, and it would’ve preserved families from generational, cyclical poverty. God cares about holding families together. Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day are good to keep on our calendars. It’s good to remember and celebrate the role of parents, as God designed it, but it’s important to remember also that life in a fallen world has resulted in the breakdown of families, at times, and brokenness can cause holidays like these to be painful for some. However, restoration and wholeness can be experienced in the Jubilee Year, the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus promised in Mark 10:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” While Jesus omits the word “fathers,” probably as a way of emphasizing the uniqueness of God’s fatherhood, nevertheless the apostle Paul can call himself a father of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:15. Thus, the family restoration envisioned in the ancient Jubilee can be a reality today among us. Jesus has made us his family. We live out sibling relationships and mother-child relationships and father-child relationships in the body of Christ. We all together put our hope finally in the return of our Savior, who has begun the eternal Jubilee with his Day-of-Atonement sacrifice on the cross, and, in the meantime, we seek to live out the true liberty that he has given to us, freedom in Christ.
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