It’s a little late perhaps for me to be writing about Jubilee. In Britain, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations have faded into the historical distance somewhat (what short memories we have), being overshadowed by the wonderful summer of the London Olympics and Paralympics, not to mention Andy Murray’s glorious grand slam win.
However, the theme came back into my mind last week as I was preparing for our regional women’s day on Saturday. When a team of us planned this event the Jubilee was in full swing and we felt there was something in that theme which God wanted to highlight to women. I said I’d bring a Biblical perspective on Jubilee. For the Scripture background for this, see Leviticus 25.
The concept of Jubilee is built on that of Sabbath; and Sabbath is part of the original rhythm of life. God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, writing into the Law as one of the 10 commandments that his people should keep the Sabbath. When they were in the desert eating manna, there was no manna on the Sabbath, but the sixth day provided twice as much as usual to see them through. So was instituted a weekly cycle of trusting God for their needs and a weekly faith exercise of collecting enough in the time of blessing to see them through the day of rest.
Then God instituted Sabbath years. Once the people were in the promised land, they were to work hard and faithfully for six years and then allow the land a year off, in which they could not harvest or plant for the next one. They would naturally ask, “What will we eat in that year, and where will we find the seed to plant for year 8?” to which God replied that in the sixth year the harvest would be twice as big as usual if they were trusting him.
So I note that the time of biggest blessing seems to be in year 6. That blessing would come not because they worked any harder, but because God was keeping his promise to care for his people who set aside time to worship and obey their maker. The Sabbath year itself would be a lean one in terms of harvest, but rich in the knowledge of God.
Then comes Jubilee. After seven lots of the seven-year cycles there would be the Sabbath year as usual – year 49. Then in year 50, another Sabbath! Imagine what level of faith was required in the years leading up to and including year 48, that God would provide not only to see them through the usual Sabbath, but also the next year, and in fact the one after that, as there would not be a harvest until late into year 51. Jubilee was the year in which land which had been sold (or, rather leased) was restored to its original owners and Israelites who had been forced into servitude were freed. Slates were wiped clean and fresh starts could be made. As such it is a foretaste of heaven, surely, where wrongs will finally be righted for the people of God. But along with reminding us about social justice, Jubilee also speaks powerfully of faith. It was a lean time in terms of production; a time in which they had to live on the blessings of the past, at the same time as making continuing plans to plant for the future in the following years.
Have you been in a time of great blessing, followed by an apparent slump? Perhaps it is Sabbath, or even Jubilee. Your blessings were on day 6 (year 6; year 48) and now you wonder what is happening. Those are the times to live on the blessings of the past; to remember that God has always provided for you and will do so again; to keep praising him for all he has done; to reorder your life to make sure you are living in integrity and displaying his justice; for when the Sabbath or the Jubilee is over, it’s time to plant again.
Sabbath and Jubilee speak of faith and faithfulness: the regular cycles of faithful work for God and the regular times of enjoying what he has given, always mindful that while we have worked, he has given the increase. Sabbath reminds us that the glory does not come to us, but he sovereignly gives us enough for all our needs. Jubilee reinforces that message.
God remains faithful; we are called to live by faith.