And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 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; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.
In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you. According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops. Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 25:8-17, NKJV).
In those desert days for the Israelites, as Moses instructed the masses about God’s holy law, he revealed a prototype for second chances, an enormously wonderful social system called “Jubilee”.
Every fifty years in Israel’s timeline was a Jubilee year, a full year of freedom, when all debts were cancelled, all slaves were set free and all land was returned back to the tribal owners. In a nutshell, it was a social reset button, which if practiced, would restore families back to each other, balance out the differentials between rich and poor, and bring everyone in level footing, as God’s family once more. Just like the cross.
You may have heard ruckus roars from pulpits across the land shouting “It’s freedom time – shout your Jubilee!”, though usually this is in the context of financial freedom. However, Jubilee is a much broader concept, an offering of spring after a long hard winter, where the Church lives as a freedom agent, dispensing forgiveness, freedom to the captive, equality and social justice, because this is the mandate of King Jesus as He announced to begin His ministry on earth:
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act! (Luke 4:18-19, MSG)
As His servants, we must continue the assignment for freedom and act upon the Jubilee principle. In fact, the timings of God are incredible, because this is the actual year of Jubilee! On September 22, 2015 at sunset, the Day of Atonement will establish the Jubilee year, the 70th Jubilee since Joshua crossed the Jordan, a year to be consecrated to God with heartfelt intent to bring freedom and live in God’s provision, relationally, financially, spiritually, physically and socially.
According to numerous scholars, the first Jubilee came when Joshua crossed the Jordan, in 1367 (See http://www.fivedoves.com/letters/oct2011/bge1010-1.htm) Like this site, many websites are abuzz with wonderings if the Lord will be returning on that date. Some prophesy the Rapture of the Church is scheduled for that date, since it is the “seventy sevens” from Daniel (9:24), and the culmination of many historic dates. For myself, since Jesus Himself said only the Father knows that date (Mat. 24:36, Mark 13:32), I will not be packing a suitcase for heaven that day. Yet the Scriptures reminds us to always be ready, that He will come in a twinkling of an eye, that it will be like the days of Noah, when life will be as usual. Thus, I do seriously consider the times. I do see this year as a grace-drenched opportunity to live in the fear of the Lord. By God’s grace and the Spirit’s leading, let us apply His principle of Jubilee throughout our lives, for one thing is certain: The Lord is coming soon.
Let’s consider what God intended when He planned out the all-encompassing social project called Jubilee. First, it’s not surprising to find that “jubilee” is a Hebrew word which means joy! Strong’s defines Jubilee as “[i]clamor, that is, acclamation of joy or a battle cry; loud noise, rejoicing, shouting, high, joyful sound”. The first recorded Jubilee sound came when the people shouted and the walls fell at Jericho, the first and loudest “Come Home”, God uttered through His chosen people’s cry, as marching in unity and faith, they watched the enemy completely obliterated (see Joshua 6 for one huge faith boost).
If you are the recipient of Jubilee, your joy cry would inevitably erupt when suddenly, like the Visa ads, all your bills balanced to zero, and even better, you get your family back and your family home back after fifty long years. Without a doubt, joy would dominate life if you as a slave, you are suddenly your own person, free to choose your path and free to create life again without impunity. Your creativity, labours and efforts were no longer owned by the master. Your children would not be born as slaves. Freedom in Jubilee Year was meant everyone, with no exceptions, like the invitation to the ball for every fair maiden in the land, whether permission by the stepmother was granted or not.
Jubilee was a war cry from heaven’s lips to earth’s mouth, as social injustices like poverty, slavery, greed, indebtedness, boundary wars, displacement and slavery were all righted by the simple but complete societal turnover with God’s singular message to all to “COME HOME”.
By its nature, Jubilee is not just experienced as freedom. By its intent, Jubilee was God’s plan for the whole Israeli people to rise up and show mercy in action, compassion through release of property and strategic willful forgiveness to each other in obedience to the One who forgives all.
For landowners of other tribes’ properties, Jubilee meant letting go of your labour force, losing property you had been depending on, or handing over property to relatives you may dislike. Jubilee as a business owner, meant forgiving debts for people who failed to pay invoices owed for services you gave, counting payables as zero owing, and managing that reality with grace and stewardship, in trust that God would provide and continue to provide, as you simply obeyed His plan. Like John Perks says, “Favour ain’t fair” but it sure is costly.
In historic Israel, Jubilee was a predetermined dispensing of grace every fifty years, implemented through yielded obedience, God’s Big Idea for setting His people free from their own internal consequences, once in an average lifetime of the Israelite, and by their own merciful actions.
Why? Jubilee denotes that image of trumpets blowing freedom sounds all through the land, a huge party of joy erupting at every level of society as people enjoyed the power of that God-sized reset button. Yet for the rich who had built up investments, properties, businesses through great sacrifice, letting go of their portfolios, equity and real estate was too risky, required too much sacrifice, and in the end, that year-long rest which God decreed for everybody was just simply ignored.
The Jubilee only works in fairness if everyone was on board. How could you give back property if your inheritance was not returned, they must have asked. In the end, rationalism, reasoning, cowardice, all roared louder than the trumpets, and Jubilee upon Jubilee, heaven held their breath and then sighed deep as God’s people refused to obey and God’s plan for freedom was denied.
A few years ago, we were visiting Ottawa with our family, when a national church leader, Pastor Bill Prankhard, decreed he had heard a shout in the Spirit that “Jubilee is here for the nation of Canada!” He exhorted the Church to believe in faith for finances to be restored, children to be released from their slavery of choices, to believe for jobs, property, and healings, and this word deeply resonated in our hearts. With this word of Jubilee, I began to search out God’s heart for our business, for our marriage and for our family, knowing that God had a plan and if we sought Him, He would reveal it one obedient step at a time.
It was the same time as the Arab spring. As we watched the news and saw Egypt topple under the force of social revolution, Jubilee began to take on a new meaning in our present history. As the cheers of the young people crying, “Freedom!” echoed across Africa and the Middle East, a great aching cry for release from oppression swept over the globe. We heard the sound for freedom lifted in city squares, by grieving mothers, by radical youth, by children as systemic indebtedness to dictatorial leaders was challenged and whole societies shifted before our eyes.
Quietly, the Lord began to impress on me to announce Jubilee to my husband for our marriage, to declare the trumpet of joy over broken hearts and an overstressed marriage after the difficult years of launching our first business together. Softly God challenged me to roll back the barrier walls which I had erected against my husband and put back the boundary stones of our marriage. Seriously, the Holy Spirit urged me to shut out those despairing emotions and unvanquished hurts, and choose Jubilee instead for my marriage.
Once we had time to retreat alone together, we committed to Jubilee in our marriage, offering love, forgiving debts, renewing friendship by His grace. As Paul and I cancelled all debts of love owed, we determinedly chose joy to shed the historic shackles of anger and bitterness we held against each other. Intentionally we embraced each other with kindness and tenderness, and reached for freedom, not because of any changing we had made, but because we loved God more.
Jubilee matters to God right now. He longs to see His kids live in mercy, and fulfill His mandate to set the captives free. Jesus placed Jubilee right into the Lord’s Prayer when He taught us daily to forgive our debtors as we are forgiven (Mat 6:12).
I confess that God’s intention of Jubilee, freedom and mercy for our own community is a challenge for me. Who have I moved out of the boundaries of my life that God is calling me to now embrace? Whom have I shackled with judgment and criticism? Whom have I impoverished with my emotional stinginess? Whom else must I declare Jubilee over, regardless of their life, words or choices, just because God is all about freedom, and the one He wants to free the most is me?
I wonder where Israel would be now if they had chosen God’s Plan for Jubilee even once. What would happen if we hit the reset button, declared Jubilee and started a mercy revolution even today? Why wait for it to be announced? Do you have faith to start blowing the trumpet of Jubilee even now?
Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, we lift up our Jubilee horn, the authority and anointing that You have given us, and we blow hard the sound of Jubilee over the people whom You have put in our lives. Father God, we need your grace and your power to walk out the cancellation of love debts. We ask Holy Spirit, that you guide us with each step, each applied choice to offer freedom to those whom we have kept captive by our “rights”. Help us to offer freedom to those whom we have bound relationally with unforgiveness and bitterness; help us to apply the truth of Your great love in each of our relationships, that we may live as God’s kids, remembering the heart of our Father whose Jubilee message remains: “Come Home”.
You are Jubilee, Lord Jesus. You gave us everything for our nothing, paid every debt with Your incredible Blood, we ask You to teach us the way of Jubilee in our lives this day. We bow our hearts before You in worship, Lord Jesus, in simple adoration for the freedom You have given us. Thank You for all the freedom You give to everyone who believes wonderful You and Your word. Thank You for being the Jubilee prototype, the Firstfruit, for us all to follow. Amen.
- God’s grace is the most necessary part of Jubilee. For by His grace, we can forgive, give to those who are undeserving and in turn, set ourselves free from the judgements, bitterness and hurts that shackle our lives. To whom is God’s nudging you to bring Jubilee? Do you have faith in God to walk this out? What is holding you back?
- Jubilee was also about righting social injustice, by wiping out poverty and slavery if the whole society would obey God. Every choice was costly but powerful. What is Holy Spirit leading you to do? Where can you bring grace and mercy at a social level to fight injustice? What does that look like on a Monday morning or Friday evening?
- God has never seen Israel respond in action to the Jubilee horn being blown on the Day of Atonement. What are you planning to do this year, this Jubilee year, to consecrate it as a powerful intentional year of freedom?
- Where do you need Jubilee in your life? Ask God in prayer and keep praying for freedom in your own life. If ever there was a year of grace to access the freedom you need, it is this one.
Next week’s Reading: Numbers 2 -9
[i] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: New American Standard Bible. Updated ed. La Habra:
Lockman Foundation, 1995.