************ Sermon on Leviticus 25:1-14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 31, 2000
"2001 – A Year of Jubilee"
Do you remember the huge Y2K scare of one year ago? If you were foolish enough to listen to those who did not know what they were talking about, then you believed the stroke of midnight was going to be the start of war, starvation, infectious diseases, the Antichrist, and the collapse of the ozone layer. The stroke of midnight one year ago was going to lead to Armageddon, the Apocalypse, and the "Last Judgment."
On the other hand, there are those who thought that the stroke of midnight one year ago was going to usher in a "New Millennium" marked by solar power, cold fusion, plankton harvests, and aliens from outer space all of which will rescue humankind. The stroke of midnight one year ago was going to lead to a "New Golden Age," the "New Jerusalem," the "Peaceable Kingdom," and the "City of the Sun." Heaven will come down to Earth, or at least be cloned.
Well, one year later we know that both sides are wrong, wrong, wrong. Completely wrong.
What we need to realize is that our way of dating things is completely arbitrary. It would have made no difference in the grand scheme of things to declare 1983 the beginning of the new millennium. Furthermore, we need to also remember that ours is not the only calendar. According to the Jewish calendar, it is the year 5761. The Chinese calendar reads 4698. It's only 1421 on the Muslim calendar.
As we stand at the beginning of a new year I would like us to consider the new year as something more than the official start of the next millennium – since that doesn't mean anything anyway. Rather, I would like us – as God's people – to consider the new year as a year of Jubilee.
I What is the Jubilee?
A What is the Jubilee? Literally, the Hebrew word for "Jubilee" means "the blast of a horn, the signal of the silver trumpets or ram's horn." It is no surprise, then, that the Year of Jubilee starts with the sounding of the trumpet (vs 9).
Practically speaking, the Jubilee is a Sabbatical year or a Sabbath year. Today, we have sabbaticals for missionaries, professors, teachers, and ministers. Generally, every seventh year is a year during which these people stop their ordinary course of life in order to study and reflect and upgrade both their education and their ability to serve.
In Leviticus 25 God commands a Sabbatical year, a year of Jubilee, for people. Instead of working, the people were to spend the year praising God and reflecting on God's Kingdom rule over their lives.
The land was also to have a Sabbatical. During the year, there was to be no sowing or pruning, no reaping or harvesting. In the year of Jubilee the land would grow food from the seeds of grain that had fallen the year before; vineyards would still produce grapes; olive trees would still produce olives; fig trees would still produce figs. The people were free to go to the fields and vineyards and orchards to take what they needed for food. They could not take any extra, though, and sell it at a profit. During the Jubilee they were not to sow, prune, reap, or harvest. The land too was to have a year of rest.
The Jubilee, then, is a year of worship. It is a year in which people and land have a rest from day-to-day tasks. Instead of working and producing crops, people and land are to worship God. The Jubilee is one whole year of Sabbath rest – a whole year of nothing but Sundays.
B How can people have a Jubilee if they are the servants or slaves of another? Doesn't their master have the right to their service? And, how can the land have a Jubilee if it has been sold? Doesn't the new owner have the right to plant and harvest?
To make the Jubilee a real Jubilee, to make the Sabbath year a real Sabbath year, God commands and grants liberty to people and land. God redeems people and land so that both can serve Him in freedom:
(Lev 25:10) 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.
In the Jubilee there is liberty for people. What this means is that no Israelite could ever really be a slave in the land, for in the year of Jubilee he was granted freedom. If ever an Israelite, out of desperate poverty or wretched circumstances, sold himself and his family as slaves, he was selling not persons but only man-years or man-power until the year of Jubilee. So, in the year of Jubilee he was set free.
In the Jubilee there is also liberty for land. When land was sold, it was only crop-years until the Jubilee and not the land itself that was sold. So, in the year of Jubilee the land too was set free.
Thus, in the Jubilee, every man returned to his family and every family returned to its land. People and land were set free in order to better serve and worship God.
II Why the Jubilee?
A Why did God command the Jubilee? What is its purpose? The first purpose of the Jubilee is to show the people that they are to live all their life in total faith and dependence upon God.
Let me backtrack a moment. At the start of Leviticus 25 we hear God command every seventh year to be a Sabbath year. During that year there was to be no sowing or pruning, no reaping or harvesting. Every 50th year was to be the Jubilee year in which the land once more was to be idle. This means that there were 3 years between harvests: in the 48th year a crop is harvested; the 49th year is a Sabbath year (as it is a 7th year) so no crops are planted or harvested; the 50th year is the Jubilee year in which no crops again are planted or harvested; it is not until the 51st year that crops can once more be planted and harvested.
You are probably saying or thinking: how were the people to put bread on their tables and clothing on their backs for that year?; how were they to make ends meet? It is only human to wonder about this. Scripture makes clear that Israel wondered about this. Knowing these concerns, God makes a promise to His children:
(Lev 25:20-22) You may ask, "What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?" (21) I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. (22) While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
Can you imagine us living this way for a whole year? Would we have the faith to depend upon God's providence for 3 straight years? Hard to imagine, isn't it? Yet, God commanded and expected Israel to have a Jubilee.
B The second purpose of the Jubilee is to show that everything belongs to God. Listen to what God says:
(Lev 25:23) The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.And the same is true, of course, about persons. Everything and everyone belongs to God. That's why in the Jubilee every person returns to his family and every family returns to its land. Persons and property belong to God. He is free to do with them as He wills.
This tells us something about the purpose of land and property. Their purpose, their reason for existence, is not just man's use, man's enjoyment, and man's profit. Rather, they belong to God and, as such, are meant to praise and glorify the Lord.
This also tells us something about the purpose of man. Man's reason for existence is not just to work, to earn money, to have pleasure, or to procreate. Rather, each person belongs to God and, as such, is meant to praise and glorify the Lord.
The Jubilee illustrates the beautiful thought found in Q & A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism:
I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death--
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Because I belong to him ...
(I am to be)
... wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
The Jubilee, then, demonstrates that everything is the Lord's. As the Psalmist puts it,
(Ps 24:1) The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.Our jobs, our homes, our businesses, our farms, our toys, our selves, our families – everything – belongs to Him. And, the Jubilee shows that everything and everyone has one main purpose in life: to serve and worship the God to whom we belong.
III When the Jubilee?
A When is the Jubilee to be celebrated? God commanded that it be every 50th year (vs 11). And, according to verse 9, it is to start on the 10th day of the 7th month. This is the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement is the "Good Friday" of the Old Testament. On this day the High Priest bathes himself and then dresses in spotless white. He offers both a bull and a goat as a sin offering and sprinkles their blood 7 times on the ark of the covenant. He then lays both hands on the head of a live goat and confesses over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and puts them on the goat's head. The goat is then sent off into the wilderness in order to die.
All the ceremonies and rituals of the day were meant to symbolize the complete forgiveness of sin, the removal of God's wrath against that sin, and the restoration of peace and fellowship with God.
B It is important that we understand the order. First, there are the rituals of atonement. God's children are granted the assurance of salvation and forgiveness, of peace and fellowship with God. Then, the horn is blown, and liberty is proclaimed throughout the land. The people and land are now able to live the Jubilee: their sins are forgiven, they are right with God, and they have been granted freedom and redemption.
IV Jubilee, Christ, and Us
A One of my favorite Gospel stories is of Jesus in His home town of Nazareth. On the Sabbath day He goes into the synagogue. He stands up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to Him. Unrolling it, He finds and reads where Isaiah speaks of freedom, release, and the year of the Lord's favor:
(Lk 4:18-19) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."Do you realize what both Jesus and Isaiah are speaking of here? They are both speaking of the year of Jubilee.
After reading this, Jesus rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant and sits down. With the eyes of everyone on Him, He says, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." In other words, "Today, the Jubilee begins."
B The Old Testament order, however, must be preserved. First there is atonement. Then there is liberty. And then the Jubilee begins.
The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ is our atoning sacrifice. He is the scapegoat on Whom God has placed the sins of the world. The atoning work of Jesus means forgiveness of sins, the removal of God's wrath, and the restoration of peace and fellowship with God. In Christ we have been set free from our bondage to sin and evil. Ours is now the glorious freedom of the children of God.
In Jesus Christ the year of Jubilee is now! So right now, my brothers and sisters, we are to live our lives as a Jubilee to the Lord.
C I love the picture of Israel's Jubilee in Leviticus 25. Yet, our Jubilee is far more beautiful. In Israel's Jubilee only Jews were redeemed and granted liberty. Foreign-born slaves were not given freedom. But in Jesus Christ the Jubilee is meant for all – for both Jew and Gentile, for both slave and free.
For Israel, the Jubilee was once every 50 years. For us the Jubilee does not know the restraints of time. Our Jubilee is now and forever.
The Jubilee of Israel covered only a small geographical area – the land of Canaan. Our Jubilee is world-wide, even creation-wide.
The Jubilee of Israel rested upon the imperfect sacrifice of an imperfect priest. Our Jubilee rests upon the perfect sacrifice of the perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ.
D Perhaps you know this, perhaps you don't: do you realize that Israel never once celebrated a year of Jubilee unto the Lord? God commands a Jubilee every 50 years. Yet, it is nowhere recorded that the people obeyed. So, do you know what God had to do? God had to impose a Jubilee upon the people and the land. He gave the land 70 years of rest by exiling the people to Babylon.
Which leads me to question whether we are any better than Israel. Do we celebrate the Jubilee that Israel didn't? We have been forgiven and redeemed, so do we live a Jubilee? Will 2001 be our Jubilee to the Lord?
E To live 2001 as a Jubilee to the Lord means three things. First, in this coming year, we are to live in total faith and dependence upon God. For 3 years Israel could not harvest crops – instead, she had to rely on God and His mercies. This does not mean, however, that we should not work for 3 years. It does mean that we are not to worry about the future – about what we shall eat or what we shall drink or what we shall wear or where we shall sleep. It means we do not worry about a slowing economy, poor prices, possible unemployment, or business failure. Instead, we must trust that God will see us through.
Second, it means we are to show that everything belongs to God. Work as if you are working for the Lord. Study as if you are studying for the Lord. Love your spouse and children as if you are loving Jesus Himself. Spend your money and your time as if it belongs to Jesus – which it does. The way we live and what we do is to show that we belong to the Lord.
Third, we are to make 2001 a year of worship and service to God. There is a song in the old blue Psalter Hymnal that speaks to this:
Another year is dawning!
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast,
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning!
Dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven,
Another year for Thee.
(Old P.H. #475:1,3)
I ask you, will 2001 be for you a year of Jubilee?
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