by: Joanne Gosselin, BFP Staff Writer
Freedom every 50 years! Debt is canceled, property returned to the original owner and slaves are set free! No more bondage for anyone. Even the land received a break from sowing, cultivating and reaping. This is the amazing concept of freedom, liberty and maintaining justice that God established with the Jubilee Year. Every fiftieth year cleaned the slate for all men and restored what may have been lost to the children of Israel.
The word for “jubilee” in Hebrew is יובל (yo-vel, Strong’s Concordance number 3104). It means ram’s horn or trumpet. The root word is from yabal (יבל ); the continuous blast of a horn. It is a word which alludes to a day of world-wide redemption and a fully restored nation of Israel.
Leviticus 25 describes both the Jubilee and Sabbatical Years. Based on His plan to give the Land a rest, God established every seventh year as a Sabbatical Year. The Jubilee Year followed after seven sets of Sabbatical Years. “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you…” (Lev. 25:10).
The Jubilee is considered a holy year that is set apart from all the rest. It begins with the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn): “on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land” (Lev. 25:9). That sound signaled liberty for all the inhabitants in the Land of Israel. Possessions and property were returned to their original owners, and the fields in all of Israel received a year of rest. The normal agrarian work routines and way of life came to a halt as all eyes turned to God. They would rely on His provision alone during the Jubilee Year.
Can you imagine how it would feel to be a farmer who feeds his family from the crops he raises and now is facing an entire year when he cannot plant or harvest anything? The produce that grew on its own could not even be harvested. The next year there would still not be a crop because he couldn’t even plant. But God said that during the years of commanded rest, He would provide: “So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety” (Lev. 25:18–19). Notice that He says first obey, then He will provide the food and safety.
In anticipation of how people think, God goes on to answer the question on everyone’s mind: “And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?’ Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest” (Lev. 25:20–22).
This is a moment of truth! The obvious thought that would occur to most people is that it makes absolutely no sense not to plant or harvest for a year. Each person had to grapple with the question, “Will I operate in faith, trust God’s provision, and bring glory to God for something only He can do…or try to take control and go ahead with business as usual?”
The Israelites put God to the test. They neglected the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years. As a result they were exiled to Babylon for 70 years, the number of Sabbatical years that they did not follow the commands to give the fields rest (2 Chron. 36:20–21).
The concept of a year of liberty and freedom is carried over in Isaiah 61:1–2a which refers to liberty for the captives, freeing the bound and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” Yeshua applied this to Himself when it was His turn to read Isaiah 61 at the synagogue in Nazareth. In Luke 4:21 we read, “And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”
What can we learn from the Jubilee Year as described in Leviticus 25? We can see that freedom, liberty and justice are important to God. We can also learn to trust God and His word, even when it makes little or no sense to us. He is faithful. He is the Lord who provides.
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