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“Count off seven sabbaths of years–seven times seven years–so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 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.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property” (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This is but a section of the Old Testament passage on God’s plan for His people to celebrate this special year – the Year of Jubilee. It was to take place every fifty years and it was announced with a special trumpet. In the Hebrew language the word translated “jubilee” literally means blowing a ram’s horn.  This horn is called a “shofar” and is still used in Hebrew worship today.  This sabbatical year was to benefit every inhabitant of the land. The Year of Jubilee was like a national holiday that lasted for 365 days! And symbolically it was to commence as the horn blew on the sacred Day of Atonement. Ironically, there is no evidence that the Hebrews ever celebrated the Year of Jubilee. This may have been due to their disobedience or the Babylonian captivity but, from all indications, over 30 possible occurrences of the Jubilee year passed without its observation. That is until the coming of Jesus. And maybe this was God’s sovereign plan. After all, it was Christ’s atonement that ushered in the spiritual reality of the true meaning of this celebration.

Jesus Himself claimed that he was the fulfillment of this Year of Jubilee (called the year of the Lord’s favor):

“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).

There are at least four lessons in the Year of Jubilee that foreshadow the ultimate fulfillment of its benefits as found in Christ. These are:

  • A revocation of debt. The Israelites were relieved of their financial debt and through faith in the finished work of Christ we are absolved of our sin-debt (see Romans 6:23) before a righteousness demanding God. As Paul explained, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • A release from slavery. On this 50th year all slaves were to be released from their bondage and prisoners set free. We, too, through the power of Jesus and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit are released from the fetters of our sinful nature. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). Paul mentions this idea in Romans 7:5 and 8:9 as well.
  • A return home: all land was to return to its original family/owner during the Year of Jubilee. This reminds us of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24). The loving arms of his father were extended to his wandering son and their reunion instigated the child’s complete restoration and a great celebration of joy. We, too, through Jesus are, in a sense, spiritually re-united with God the Father.
  • A renewal and rest. During this celebration no one was to plant or harvest crops; the children of Israel were to live off God’s special extra provisions from the previous year; and the land was to rest so it could be renewed. In a similar sense being “in Christ” we experience eternal renewal and rest as we trust in His supernatural provision. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew11:28).

As we look to the New Year may we see it as our Year of Jubilee. And how can we do this? By focusing on Jesus and His spiritual provision. For He alone has revoked our sin-debt, released us from the slavery of the law and the power of sin, allowed us to find our home in Him, and causes us to be renewed by the refreshment that comes from resting in Him. As we bid adieu to 2009 and stride boldly into 2010 may we be ever mindful of this word from God: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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