Every year had 52 Sabbaths. Also, there was at least an extra Sabbath in every month. At least 12 in the normal Jewish year which was the feast of the new moon. So there were the monthly Sabbaths. Additionally, there was another day added for each one of the three major feasts: Passover, Tabernacle, and Pentecost. Then there was one for the feast of Atonement and virtually for any other major occasion or feast. Jubilee was part of the Sabbath system. Israel was to count seven Sabbaths multiplied times seven; the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be forty-nine years (Lev. 25:8-9). Then there was to be the sound of the trumpet of Jubilee on the 10th day of the 7th month, the Day of Atonement. So there were at least 70 Sabbaths each year. The extension of that was a provision of Sabbaths which is called here the Sabbath of years.
The Lord set up an entire fifty year cycle for the nation. The forty-ninth year would be the ordinary Sabbath year. The year following that would be a Sabbath year and it would be the major Sabbath year which was Jubilee. Every fifty years things were put into a special group.
Jubilee and Israel depended on the participation of God in the affairs of Israel.
Moses gives instruction regarding the Sabbath of years, which was every seventh year (Lev. 25:1-7). Every seventh year there was a time they didn’t plant a crop. They discontinued all the things for the entire seventh year. But what did they do in Jubilee when they had two Sabbath years back to back? So the question is raised, “How will they eat?” The same God who provided the rain for six years also provided the prosperous things that made the land flow with milk and honey. He will provide for them the year they do not have a crop. The seventh year was God’s demand (Lev. 25:20-22).
In the year of Jubilee there was going to be a blessing of abundance of fruit that would be from the sixth year for the next year, the forty-ninth and the fiftieth year. They were dependent on God.
Whenever the Sabbath came every week everyone stopped working. Six days they did work and the seventh nobody was on the job. No farmer was in the field and no merchant was in his shop. No shepherd was with his flock. No soldier stood watch on the Sabbath day. If you were an adversary wouldn’t you think the most opportune time to invade Israel would be on the Sabbath day when all the army is standing down? The fact is Israel did not watch on the seventh day God watched. There were times when Israel might have been surprised but never on the seventh day. God took care of them. So we should not be surprised that they can go six years planting their crops and on the seventh year they don’t plant a crop and yet God sees to it that they ate. There will be such an abundance beforehand that nobody will starve. God will provide. They come to the forty-ninth year and have two years they did not harvest the crop.
There is an important lesson for the people of God to understand that they are in the hand of God day by day, not only in the seventh year. They lived life with an understanding God supplies all they need.
How did Jesus confront the worry syndrome of His day? He tells them not worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:19-34). Why are they anxious about food? What will they wear? He injected God and dependence on God. God who cares for the birds will He not care for us? So seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.
Jesus is calling on people to understand the same principle of the Jubilee and Sabbath foundation. God will provide (Matt. 6:34). Do not fret about all the things that will come. Live life one day at a time. Deal with each problem in life with that day. That is sufficient. Jubilee expected the people to depend on God. Here is a continuing demand, not only for Israel, but for people who claim to be God’s people to understand their dependence on God. Maybe with all of our abundance, diligence and ingenuity we have concluded we can take care of ourselves. That may explain why we fail at thanksgiving at times. We have not learned our dependence on God. God expects us to do our part. But we can no more survive without God than Israel could.
Also, Jubilee was starting over. This cycle of fifty years was a normal cycle. It was a term about completion. For example, Pentecost, the feast of fifty days, also called feast of weeks or feast of harvests in the Old Testament, was not connected to another feast day. It was not counted from Passover. Pentecost occurred in first month of the Jewish calendar year. The Feast of Weeks occurred whenever the harvest took place. They began at the week of the first cutting of standing grain and began counting from that Sabbath. They numbered seven Sabbaths which would be seven weeks and the day following the seventh Sabbath was Pentecost. That was the Feast of Weeks. It was a feast of thanksgiving at harvest time. The first Sabbath marked the beginning of that cycle. Seven weeks were allowed for a complete harvest. The next day was the feast observed as Pentecost.
Similarly, Jubilee was the long cycle in which you had seven agricultural seasons multiplied by seven agricultural seasons and the next year. Then, you started a whole new cycle. Jubilee was a time in which the Lord put it back as He had originally dispersed the land by tribe. The land could not be sold. God said, “The land is mine” (Exodus 25).
At Jubilee the land would return to its owner. If they bought land just following Jubilee then there would be forty-nine years. Actually they deducted the Sabbath year and counted it for the crop. It was sold based on the number of crops that could be expected in the period of time until Jubilee. So they had full range from Jubilee until the next Jubilee (Lev. 25). However, If they bought the land in the thirtieth year it was not worth as much. Actually, it amounted to a lease. They bought it for the lease till Jubilee and at that time it was returned to the family in the tribe that it originally belonged. Also, there was a difference in slaves who were Jews and those who were not Jewish. If a man became very poor and was a Jew he might go and sell himself to a neighbor or he could sell himself like he could sell his land. He could sell himself for seven years. At the end of Jubilee all of the Jewish servants were free. Slaves who were bought as Gentiles were not subject to Jubilee. There was release of all the land and all the slaves. It was a starting over. A man who had been poor and lost his land because he could not care for it got his land back. People who lost their freedom because they were too poor got their freedom back at Jubilee.
Jubilee did not mean release but it was a release. It was a matter of liberty. Did you notice when Jubilee was declared? When the horn was sounded it near the closing preceding of Jubilee (Lev. 25:9) The Day of Atonement was the day the trumpet was blown declaring the release. The blood of the atoning sacrifice was sprinkled at the mercy seat in the tabernacle or temple. It was the Day of Atonement when people had gained some release of their sins. Jubilee was the time in which everything would be set back in order. God would no longer remember their sins. It was a year for starting over.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was the beginning of a fulfillment of Isaiah. The Messiah would come and bring His attendant blessings. (Lk. 4:16-18). Here was a great time in which the poor were returned to their land and the captives were released. All in the acceptable year of the Lord. God has a provision. If that is not exactly the correspondence, then at least it might suggest that kind of correlation. God has a time in which there would be the proclaiming of the acceptable year of the Lord.
In the New Testament the great news is the robe stained with sin may be washed as white as snow. There is a starting over. Jesus will talk about a man whose life has been messed up, corrupted and he will be born again (John 3). The old man is put to death, buried and new man is raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6). All those deal with starting over. The good news was given to be proclaimed by the apostles (Mk. 15:15-16). Man, who because of sin is lost, can be saved. There is not a sin that stains his record that will not be erased.
When is Jubilee again? Fifty years away? No. God’s provision is greater than that. If we walk in the light, continue to try to do what is right after we become a Christian, the blood of Jesus cleanses (1 John 1:7). We have a new start and when we need it we have another new start. When our robes are stained they are cleaned again. The provision is in the blood of Christ.
What gives us our new start at the very beginning to become a Christian? The blood of Christ. What can help us on any other day in which we falter and fall? The blood of Christ. This is Jubilee. It is the Jubilee of Christians. We do not have to live under the burden of sin. Through Jesus Christ, who died, He has provided an occasion in which we can have the release from sin. Freedom from sin and all the joy that belongs to the liberty God grants. An opportunity to begin anew. Start over.
by Rickie Jenkins