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THE SABBATH YEAR REST AND THE YEAR OF JUBILEE
(GOD wants us to have rest and liberty)
In Leviticus 25 we come to see that worship of GOD the CREATOR, the FATHER of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and provider of the HOLY SPIRIT, means not only celebrating HIS presence, but also serving HIS purpose. Here, while he was still on Mount Sinai, Moses is given instructions by GOD to institute among the Israelites, a “Sabbath Year Rest” (once every seventh year), during which no crops should be planted or harvested by them. For one whole year the land itself will be allowed to observe a “rest” from all cultivation by man.
The Israelites would be able to cultivate and harvest their fields for six consecutive years, and in the seventh year, no crops were to be planted, harvested, or stored away. Not even the fruit and grain that “grew naturally” during the seventh year could be picked and stored away by anyone except the poor and down-trodden, and the wild animals and livestock (Vs.3-5).
In other words, those who had sold themselves into servitude (Hebrew slaves) to pay off debts to others, those who were hired servants, and any foreigners who lived among the Israelite community, were allowed to partake freely in the “natural crops” of the seventh year, and so too, were the wild animals and livestock allowed to feed, and be fed, from the bounty of the land in the seventh year (Vs.6-7).
Old Testament Law is filled with special provisions for the poor and down-trodden, and it never assumes that their poverty is their own fault. Here in these passages, and also permeated in other passages throughout the bible, we see clearly how biblical law provides for those in need. Here is a sampling of some of those laws;
· Judges were required not to favor the wealthy in civil cases (Leviticus 19:15).
· Family land could not be lost permanently, but rather, had to be returned to the original owners every 50 years (Leviticus 25:8-23). We’ll get to this in just a moment.
· The poor must be allowed to gather food from the natural crops of other’s land, during the Sabbatical year when no crops were allowed to be planted or cultivated.
· Even during the regular annual harvests the poor must be allowed to come onto the edges of the fields to pick grain, and to also gather anything that had fallen to the ground, or, that had been left unpicked after the first picking by the owner (Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 19:10).
· Loans to the poor could carry no interest charges, and sales of food to the poor could not be profited from by the seller. It had to be sold to them at cost (Leviticus 25:35-37).
· All outstanding debt has to be completely forgiven after seven years (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
· A regular collection (once every 3 years) of a 10% tithe on all crops was gathered and stored up locally to be distributed to the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)
These are just some of the ways that GOD has incorporated mercy and justice into HIS laws, as a way to mediate systematically among mankind and to show HIS deep concern for the poor and oppressed members of society. These laws serve to motivate, and indeed, challenge us to find ways to become self-supporting by sharing with others, “GOD’s provisions”, that are not truly ours in the first place, but rather, really belong to GOD, the GREAT PROVIDER to us all.
The Israelites went on to violate this Sabbath Year Rest 70 consecutive times (490 years in all) before GOD intervened and punished them by turning them over to King Nebuchadnezzar, and his Babylonian forces destroyed Jerusalem and transported them into Babylon for seventy years, one year for each Sabbath Year Rest that they violated.
In verses 8-23 we see GOD’s instructions to the Israelites to earmark a “Jubilee Year” by counting off seven “Sabbath Years” (seven years times seven), 49 years in all. Then, on the “Day of Atonement” in the fiftieth year they were to blow the trumpets loud and long throughout the land. This fiftieth year would be set aside as a “holy time” upon which there would be a “release” for all who live in Israel. It would serve as a “liberation of debts and losses” for all who had come into poverty in Israel, giving everyone and their families a fresh new start in life financially and economically.
The “Jubilee Year Law” meant that each person could return to the land that was originally owned by their ancestors, rejoin their clan members, and reclaim ownership of that land. However, they were to remember that it was also a Sabbath Year, and that the laws of the Sabbath year remained in effect as normal. They were to be careful to continue on observing them despite the fact that they may be inspired to celebrate the return of lost property to the family after 50 years.
To keep the Israelites from using their “human ingenuity” to get around the Jubilee law, or, to keep them from using the law to, somehow, take advantage of others, the LORD adds specific details in verses 14-17;
“When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other. When you buy land from your neighbor, the price of the land should be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller will charge you only for the crop years left until the next jubilee. The more the years, the higher the price; the fewer the years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests. Show your fear of GOD by not taking advantage of each other. I the LORD am your GOD” (NLT).
To assure the people and encourage them to have faith in HIS system, GOD promises that, if they continue to obey HIS laws, HE will bless them with a bumper crop each year, and they will always be able to eat until they are filled. And as far as their worries about what they will eat during the seventh years, the LORD promises that HE will bless the sixth year’s crops with enough of a harvest to feed them for three years. In other words they will be able to eat off of the crop harvested in the sixth year, until the ninth year. And they were to remember that the land must never be sold on a permanent basis.
GOD wanted Israel to know that the land was actually HIS property, and that, they were only “tenants” on HIS land. GOD’s land was never intended to be exploited by man for his enrichment, nor, to contribute to the impoverishment of his fellowman. In fact, GOD ends this passage by saying, “You are only foreigners and tenants (in other words “leasing”) living with ME” (v.23b – NLT).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website