The Law of Jubilee
In the last segment we looked at the Law of Redemption. In this segment we are going to take a look at another law that I believe is tremendously relevant to our topic. The jerseys for our baseball team have the word “YOVEL” across the fronts. It is a Hebrew word that is translated as “jubilee.” To learn more about this “law,” read Leviticus 25. Here is how the law works.
The law stated that just as Israel was to work 6 days and rest on the Sabbath, the 7th day, Israel was to plant and harvest crops each year for 6 years and then let the land lie fallow in the 7th year. This cycle was to be repeated 7 times for a total of 49 years so in years 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and 49 the earth would be at rest. When year 50 arrived, something very special and unique took place. On the Day of Atonement in the 50th year, shofars (ram’s horns) would be blown all over the land announcing the arrival of the year of Jubilee. This is stated in Leviticus 25:9.
“Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land”
The next verse, Lev. 25:10, tells us what was so special about the arrival of the year of Jubilee.
“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family”
This was the year of liberty where every man received back all of his possessions, including his land, and every person was returned to their family. To help understand this, we need to realize that biblical law for the most part, prevented the tribes of Israel from selling their land for perpetuity. In essence, they were given the land by God but God never gave up the title deed. They could live on the land and be supported by the land and even sell the “use’ of the land but ultimate ownership remained with God. Let’s be blunt, God created the universe and has NEVER relinquished his ownership of any part of it to any human being or any other “being” for that matter, including the Christian version of Satan, which by the way is very different from the Jewish version and should give us cause to think if we realize that there is a huge difference.
Going back to our previous segment, let’s say that I fell upon hard times and offered to sell my land to you or let’s make it even worse. Let’s say that I gambled away all of my money, borrowed millions more and lost all of it, spent millions on illegal drugs and ended up bankrupt and the banks and my creditors foreclosed on all of my property and possessions. My debts were so enormous that my assets didn’t come close to covering my debts. Let’s make it even worse and assume that there is no kinsman redeemer available.
Therefore the courts ordered me to go to work as a servant (employee) for my creditors (government) and everything I earned, less basic living expenses, would be turned over to my creditors (government). My situation could be even worse because it is possible that my family would also have to become servants (employees) and work to pay off these debts (government deficits). (Okay I couldn’t resist a little social commentary.)
Despite all of the years of working to pay off the debt, let’s assume that my debts were so large that even if I and my family worked our entire lives we would never come close to paying them off. In essence, we were doomed to servitude for the rest of our lives. Please understand that I cannot blame anyone since this was all my own doing. There is certainly no reason for any creditor to be merciful towards me.
So I work and I work and I work and then one day, shofars sound across the land announcing the arrival of the Year of Jubilee. What happens at that time is a most amazing thing. Every penny of my debt evaporates into thin air. It is gone instantly. Every acre of land that I once owned is returned to me, free and clear. Every debt in the land, regardless of size, regardless of the reason it was incurred, is forgiven and everyone who had to sell their land, possessions, or even themselves is set free. Liberty is proclaimed throughout the land. The land was always been treated as an inheritance and everyone gets back their inheritance. EVERY ONE regardless of the reason that it was lost or sold, gets back their inheritance.
Some of you might be tempted to say that this is grossly unfair to the creditors but it isn’t. You see if you were going to lend anyone money or if you were going to buy property, you did so with the understanding that you would have to forgive the debt and return the property when the year of Jubilee arrived. In fact, the number of years until the next year of Jubilee determined how much you would pay for a piece of property or how much you would lend out. The buyer of a piece of property would determine how much money he could make from the property from the time he bought it to the next Jubilee and then determine what he was willing to pay for it based on those calculations. If, instead of property, we were dealing with a person, again it would be determined what the value of the person’s labour would be until the year of Jubilee that would determine the person’s worth. There was no PERMANENT slavery or bondage. Of course in today’s world, for some people the only Jubilee that arrives is death!
Remember that if I ended up in bondage, I could be redeemed earlier if a kinsman redeemer paid my debt but even if there was no kinsman redeemer available, I would stay in bondage only until the shofars blew announcing the year of Jubilee.
If you are familiar with Israel’s history, you will remember that for 490 years Israel didn’t let the land rest every 7th year. The result was that Israel was removed from the land for 70 years so the land got its rest. This is part of the story of Daniel. Some may see this episode as proof that God “punishes” because apparently God “punished” Israel sending them into exile. You can look at it that way but I am not so sure that is the case. Consider the following possibility.
If I create a universe that includes the law of “gravity” and the law of “lift” and I inform you about the laws and how they work and what will happen to you if you step off a high building without something to provide lift and you plummet to the ground, killing yourself, have I punished you? I don’t think so.
If I set up laws ahead of time and you choose to follow the laws and experience positive consequences or if you do the opposite and ignore the rules and as a result, experience the negative consequences, to some degree I haven’t rewarded or punished you. Instead, I have placed you in a position where you could exercise your free will and your creativity and CHOOSE what experiences you would have within the parameters and boundaries established by my laws. In essence, I am laying down the ground rules and then letting you create the type of universe you want to live in and the kinds of experiences you want to live out. Humanity as a whole, both individually and collectively, becomes responsible for those so called rewards and punishments when in fact, we are simply applying or non-applying the laws that God has created to drive the universe.
For example, humanity has figured out that the law of lift can be used to overcome the law of gravity and as a result we now fly around the world in big metal birds called airplanes. As long as the law of lift is operating properly, everything is great but let something disturb or destroy the law of lift and suddenly the law of gravity takes over and a lot of people are in big trouble. This isn’t God punishing people. This is humanity willing to take the risk that “Mother Nature” will not exert her enormous powers in the form of wind shears or electrical storms while we are aboard an airplane, that man-made parts will not suffer a mechanical failure or that we will not be aboard a flight where there is a catastrophic pilot error thereby allowing us to fly off to business meetings, exotic vacations, etc. God is creative and so are we but with that creativity comes risks sometimes. Bluntly, God sets into place laws. We function by those laws whether we know them or not. You do not have to know anything about gravity to plummet to your demise.
We have anthropomorphize God, i.e. we make God into the image of humanity, acting and reacting like human beings. God gets jealous, God gets angry and in fact, gets so angry that God wishes mankind was never created. That is foolishness. God is not a human being and besides, by Christian theology, God knew every single thing, good or evil, that man was going to do. It is almost oxymoronic to suggest that God was so disturbed by what man did that He wished He had never made man in the first place since He knew everything man was going to do ahead of time and went ahead and made him anyway. Talk about being double-minded! Apparently knowing beyond all certainty what man would do and then actually seeing man do it somehow triggered this massive surge of anger in God to the point that He know wished He had never created man in the first place. And somehow we actually buy into this “Bewildering Sciolism!”
The fact is, God set laws in motion in this universe such as the law of sowing and reaping and to then turn around and suggest that God is punishing us because the laws actually work, be it in a positive or negative way, is ridiculous. As we noted in a previous segment, many ancient philosophers suggested that human leaders discovered that a “god” who rewards and punishes (including in the after life) is a valuable tool to keep the masses in line so we may be wise to stop and really think about all of this. It is time we got past that ridiculousness and realized the enormous power that God has given us. He has instituted laws that we can use to create abundance and life but those same laws misused can destroy us. God isn’t rewarding and punishing us. God is encouraging us to realize that we control our destiny and God is encouraging all of us to wake up and make the right decisions based upon who we truly are, Sons and Daughters of God.
In the New Testament, Peter thought he was really doing something when he suggested to Jesus that forgiving someone 7 times would be going above and beyond the call of duty. Jesus replied by saying that Peter should forgive 70 times 7 times or 490 times. I would suggest to you that Jesus didn’t come up with that number simply off the top of his head. He was making a point. God showed Israel mercy for 490 years. Peter shouldn’t do less than God which by the way is the exact same reason that Jesus tells us to love our enemies in Matthew 5:43-48. God doesn’t ask us to do anything God will not and does not do.
Israel was to follow the physical laws implemented by God and in so doing, learn the spiritual laws that were being foreshadowed by the physical ones and no law speaks to God’s infinite mercy more than the Law of Jubilee. No matter what you have done, forgiveness is on its way. No matter if you could never ever pay the debt, forgiveness is going to be the ultimate conclusion, not eternal punishment. I would suggest that God had to put the Law of Jubilee in black and white because human nature on its own would never consider doing such a crazy thing as wiping clean the slate no matter how rotten the person had been.
More than once, someone has brought up Adolph Hitler when I discuss the Law of Jubilee. Do I mean to imply that God would completely forgive Hitler? My answer is – ABSOLUTELY. Is Hitler so horrible to be beyond the Law of Redemption? If you believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world, would you dare suggest that Jesus’ death wasn’t’ sufficient to pay for even the most heinous sinner including Hitler?
Going back to Matthew 5:43-48 let me ask you the following questions. Would we love our enemies if we kept them in servitude forever? Would we love our enemies if we punished them forever? Dare I ask this – Would God love his enemies (assuming God had any) by punishing them forever?
What God is really after I believe is to see humanity come to the place where a written Law of Jubilee is a reality and every human being has the true Law of Jubilee written upon their hearts. In the spiritual realm where there is no time, but instead only timelessness, we have no need to wait for a shofar to blow every 50 years. There are no days, week or years. There is only beingness and it is a state of being in which there is only Yovel/Jubilee, i.e. liberty and freedom. Forgiveness needs no law to be experienced because the Law of Love has taken over and rules completely. Humanity in this state has truly become ONE with God.
I conclude with this. Fundamental Christianity speaks a lot about a “new covenant.” Jesus spoke of it. But what is the “new covenant?” Well you can read about it specifically in 4 places in the Bible. It is described in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and Hebrews 8 and 10. When one truly experiences the new covenant, their hearts are truly changed. They will not question or doubt the Law of Jubilee. Instead they will understand the joy that comes from living the Law of Jubilee and they will be encouraging every single human being to experience the joy and freedom that comes from extending absolute, pure and infinite forgiveness. They may even get really crazy and suggest that nations consider adopting the Law of Jubilee as the main component to their economic policies.
When the Year of Jubilee is not a year that arrives but is instead a state of being, you will have experienced the new covenant. Should anyone “sin” against you, they will me met with immediate forgiveness not judgment, guilt and condemnation. Sins will disappear in the sea of forgetfulness. Sin will be swallowed up in love, darkness dispelled in light. There will be true joy, freedom, liberty and jubilation.
God asked Israel to do this. Love others as you want to be loved. Forgive others as you want to be forgiven. Jesus has asked his followers to do the same. Do you really think God is going to do less?
God had a plan when creation came into being. I wonder if His plan ended in billions being tormented and punished forever in some place called hell or might it be possible that God’s plan culminates in the loudest blast of a shofar ever heard, filling the universe announcing that liberty and freedom have come for all? Knowing God, what version of God’s plan makes more sense to you?
Blessings, shalom, namaste