24 Mar 2024

Jesus Our Jubilee [Leviticus 25]


Jubilee is to be a celebration in Israel every 50 years. On this special day, the trumpet sounds throughout Israel, announcing the emancipation of all Hebrew slaves, the return of all land to the rightful owners, and the proclamation of liberty for all. It is also a continuation of another year of Sabbath for the land. Jubilee also falls on the Day of Atonement, whereby the High Priest seeks forgiveness for Israel. The Jubilee reveals the heart of God- His compassion, generosity, kindness- for His people and especially for the poor. It tests the commitment of Israel- if they will love and care for one another, especially for the poor amongst them. And it is important in their calling to be a holy and distinct people in the midst of foreign nations. Sadly, Israel never kept the Jubilee as far as biblical records go. But where they failed, the Son of God, Jesus, fulfilled. He alone is the one who can fulfill the prophecy of Isa 61:1,2 to set the captives free. Jesus is our Jubilee, for He died to pay for our debt of sin. May you turn to Jesus for true freedom and forgiveness of sin. May God's people live out lives of love!

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We are nearing the end of the book of Leviticus. This is our second last sermon in this series.

So let me ask you, do you know where this is? This is obviously not very clear ah, this is Singapore, all right. And this is a special bridge. Do you know the name of this bridge? Someone in the first service knew. This is Marina Barrage, around the area, yes. But what is this bridge? Do you know? Who is the one who said Jubilee? Well done! You got it right! Yes, it's the Jubilee Bridge.

This bridge is in commemoration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee in 2015, celebrating our 50th year of independence. The word jubilee is what I want to focus on. The word jubilee means a celebration of anniversary. And this word jubilee actually has Hebrew roots. It's found in the Bible. In fact, it's found exactly in the chapter we have read, Leviticus chapter 25.

In Leviticus 25, it's a set of rules and regulations with regards to jubilee. And this jubilee is going to impact property and people. There are 55 verses there. I've decided to be merciful, to spare Tommy from having to read all 55. And uh, I also will be merciful to you. I'm not going to tell you every single detail there, but I'm just going to focus it all on this teaching of jubilee, this celebration of jubilee in Israel.

I'm going to do it in three simple headings. Number one, we're going to look at the stipulations there, the exact laws and regulations. But besides looking at the stipulations, we need to understand the significance. What does it mean for you and for me as we read these laws? Because I believe a lot of these things there are not applicable for us today. So what can we draw? What can we learn and apply from this? Finally, I want to end off with a symbolism that we must catch.

1. The Stipulations

So let's begin with the stipulations. The laws of jubilee govern two main realms. One, it's about the property in the land of Israel. This is a very sensitive word. Many Singaporeans are concerned about property, and you will learn about property here. Number two, it's about people. So with regards to the property, it's teachings about the rest or the Sabbath for the land, for the property that they are going to have. And also, we're going to see how they are to treat slaves, that's the people.

Property (Sabbath for Land)

So, first of all, let's look at property, Sabbath. First half of Leviticus 25 deals with what they are to do with the land with regards to the Sabbath. So we see in the seventh year, there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath for the LORD.

Now we are very familiar with Sabbath on a weekly basis. Six days shall a man labour, and on the seventh day, he shall rest. But besides the weekly Sabbath of people, there's a sab.., there is a yearly or seven yearly Sabbath for the land. They are to sow and to reap for six years, so you work the ground as a farmer for six years, and on the seventh year, you shall not sow nor prune.

In other words, you shall not be doing any farming work. The land is supposed to be resting. You let it be whatever it is supposed to be for this entire 365 days. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. Now it does not mean that nothing can be taken, because during these times, people can actually go and pick whatever grows during these 365 days, just that they are not to do organised farming work.

But the land and whatever it produces will be food for everyone. So not just for the owners of the land, but for the owners, plus their slaves, plus their workers, plus foreigners, plus the animals, anyone can come to the field that is not farmed and take and eat for themselves. So it's a wonderful year of buffet spread. If you like grapes, go to this farm. If you like wheat, you go to that farm. You just take whatever you need for yourself, it is available for all. This is that seven yearly Sabbath rest for the land.

Now you may ask, what shall we eat in the seventh year? If I cannot use my land for farming, to sell and so on, how am I supposed to sustain myself and my family? What shall we eat in the seventh year if we may not sow or gather in our crop? I will command, God says, my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce crop sufficient for three years.

So at year six, if you obey Me, at year six, I'm going to give you a tripling of harvest, so that you do not need to worry about it. You can eat this year's harvest for another two years and you'll be A-OK.

Besides these Sabbaths once in seven years, there is a super Sabbath or the Sabbath of Sabbaths after seven cycles. So, you shall count seven weeks of years. A week is seven, right? So seven times seven is seven times seven years. So that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you 49 years. So this one, the math is very clear. After seven cycles of 49 years, the next year, the 50th year, shall be a year of jubilee, a celebration of anniversary, a celebration of 50 years.

And on this year, you also, likewise, will not farm. You will not sow. You will not reap. You will not gather. So think about it. For a Jew, a farmer, he works six years, he rests one year. And after seven cycles, at year 49, no farming, at year 50, also no farming. So no farming for two years. Wah, shiok ah. No work for two years ah. That's what they are supposed to do.

But besides the fact that there is a rest for the entire land of Israel, the Bible also says in this year of jubilee, each of you shall return to his property. In other words, if I sold you my land earlier, on jubilee itself, the land will be returned to me.

So in a sense, if you buy and sell property in Israel in those days, technically you buy nothing that is freehold. Because it's all leasehold. After 50 years, there's a reset button, all property goes back to the original owners. So at jubilee, if I have no more land, because I sold it earlier, I will get back my land.

And this jubilee always takes place on the tenth day of the seventh month. If you remember last week, the tenth day of the seventh month, the month of Tishri, is the Day of Atonement. The day where the great high priests make atonement for the nation of Israel, seek forgiveness from God. And on this special day of atonement, every once in 50 years, there will be this sounding of a loud trumpet. You shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land, because this is the proclamation of liberty throughout the land.

This is the day of jubilee. No more work, land will be restored. And later on you'll read, slaves, Hebrew slaves, will be set free.

Now, following this, there will be other rules and regulations about how the land can be actually bought back at any point of time before jubilee. If the seller, or if the relative of the seller suddenly has money, and wants to buy back the land, he can. The redemption of the land. But in essence, we are looking at the jubilee, the jubilee is the central focus, and it's with regards to Sabbaths, it's about the return of the land.

People (Slaves)

And the second half of Leviticus 25 will be about the people, or the slaves. Again it begins with some basic preamble, or principles, about how they should treat the poor. After all, you become a slave because you are poor, you have to sell yourself. But there are some principles before that, about how Israel is to treat the poor amongst them.

If your brother, this refers to a fellow Hebrew, a fellow Jew, if he becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner. So Israel is called fundamentally to love the poor, to help the poor. And in particular, if he needs money from you, if he needs help, then you lend him. But you do not take interest from him, or profit.

So you can help the poor by lending money, but you cannot lend with the aim of earning interest from him. You're just making things worse for him. Take no interest from him, or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him for profit.

Now, we must understand that this teaching is with regards to not exploiting the poor. I don't think the Bible is against the principle of lending money for other businesses for the sake of profit. I don't think that's against Biblical principles, but it is wrong when you try to get profit from the poor.

So they are to love the poor that way. And elsewhere, in Deuteronomy, this is not in Leviticus, in Deuteronomy, this is something really bizarre. You'll, you will not see this happen here. But in Israel, they were supposed to, at the end of every seven years, if someone owes you a sum of money, you shall release him from that debt at year seven.

And this is the manner of the release. Every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD's release has been proclaimed. Again, if you read Deuteronomy 15, I think it's in the context of the poor.

So if you, if you lend someone for business, he's a rich man, he's just fueling his own economy, I think that is not quite forbidden. But if it's a poor man, and he really cannot pay after seven years, you shall release him from the debt. I think that's the idea.

Now, if this man becomes so poor he cannot even sustain himself, he has to sell himself to you to work for you. God says if your brother becomes poor beside you and
he sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave. What do you mean does not make him serve as a slave? Well, he goes on to say, he will be with you as a hired worker. I think this means he's not to serve you permanently as a slave forever because he will serve you until the year of the jubilee and he will be released.

So he's to be released if he's a Hebrew, but if he's a foreigner, he continues to work for you even after that, alright? So for a Hebrew worker, he does not work with you permanently and numbers, and that when he goes out from you at jubilee, he brings himself and his family and his children together.

Secondly, he shall not be to you a slave in that he is not to be treated harshly or cruelly. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly. That's the idea. Not cruel, not harsh, not severe towards this man who has sold himself to you.

Now let's wrap it all up. Wrap up, not end of sermon, but wrap up the stipulations with regards to the jubilee. What we are learning is that on the day of jubilee, this is on the 10th day of the seventh month, once in 50 years, all right? There will be a sounding of the trumpet throughout all the land. There will be no farming for yet another year because year 49 also no work. And on this day, all land is returned to the original owners. All Hebrew slaves are set free as liberty is proclaimed throughout Israel, this is also the Day of Atonement when Israel seeks forgiveness from God.

This is what we can learn so far in the chapter. Again, I did not give you the details about the redemption of the land or the people by the person himself or by the family members. I did not talk about the specifics with regards to the Levites or with regards to rules in cities that are walled up. But in essence, we learn the principle that there's jubilee and there's a lot of liberation that should take place on that day.

2. The Significance

a. God Provides for their People

So, as I've said, a lot of things here do not apply to us. But we can take a step back and try to see spiritual lessons for ourselves. I think, for example, we can learn that God provides for their people. It's a simple principle. That God is the Provider. I mean, that is what you need to believe in, right? In order for you to stop working for that one year, you've got to believe that God will provide otherwise, jiak si mi, what can we survive on?

So I think the lesson we learn is, this is a bit convoluted, I understand, but I hope you get the reason why I'm saying it in this way. Not that they are not to work at all, but they are not to think their work is all.

So Israel must learn that they are to work. Six years they work, seventh year they rest. They are to work. But at the same time, they are not to think that their work is everything, their work is all. That they are the ones who keep themselves alive. That one in seven allows them to realise God is ultimately their Provider.

Now, do we keep such a rule today in Singapore where you work six years and you break one year? Any one of you do this? Well, if your boss is willing to pay you three times the salary at year six, then you go ahead. Otherwise, I think very few of us would say, yah, this is what I must do in my life today. I, I don't think the New Testament commands us to do likewise in today's society.

But I think the principle here is that we must understand. We need to work. The Bible says in the New Testament, if any man does not work, neither shall he eat. You must work. This is the Christian ethos is that we are responsible to work. But at the same time, the Christian ethos understands that even when I work, it is not that my work deserved my sustenance, but that God is gracious to provide me through my work. Because after all, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, give us this day our daily bread.
Daily bread is a gift from God. Yes, we work, but even that work is a gift. That ability to work, that opportunity to work is from God. So let us be reminded, if you earn a good living, don't be arrogant or proud. It is God's gift for you in the first place.

So we need to see that this Sabbath and this jubilee allows the people of Israel to reflect upon the fact that God is my Provider.

b. God Provides for their Poor

Secondly, I think this shows us that God provides for their poor. And it's very, to me ah, a genius strategy. God gives economic mechanisms. I, I didn't study economy. Er, I'm not sure what I'm talking about here is correct or not, but agak agak ah. I think God puts in these economic mechanisms to prevent excessive social inequality.

So that the poor will not be forever poor. So that their poverty is not deeply entrenched over the generations. And the rich will not become excessively rich and cause this wide, rich-poor gap, which I think is happening here in Singapore and in many parts of the world. When you have cap..., I hope I'm not controversial nor political, but when you have capitalism, people who are industrious or resourceful or capable, they get very, very, very rich. And then the poor just keep struggling. And there's very little they can do to catch up.

But God has set these economic principles. Number one, every once in seven years, you can have a buffet of all the food you want. The poor can eat, everyone can eat. Number two, whatever property you lost because you were so poor you had to sell it, you will get it back. There is a refresh, restart, replay button that it levels the playing field. Everybody gets on even keel, so that you have upward mobility possible to you once again.

So I put up a slide. Someone else say one, not I say one. Capitalism makes people unequally rich. Communism makes people equally poor. But God's laws in Leviticus 25 is neither communism nor capitalism. It gives people ownership of land, so that they're not lazy. It's not a welfare state. You have land so that you work and you work hard for it.

But if for whatever circumstance you become desperately poor, you're not forgotten. And there's a refresh button. I hope at least once in your lifetime, every 50 years, there's a reset that you may climb out of that pit as it were. So God provides for their poor in a wonderful way via the rules in jubilee.

c. God Provides for their Posterity

Finally, I also want to say that God provides for their posterity, for their descendants, for the rest of their lineage. Why? Because in this way, when there's jubilee, when there's a reset, when there's a return of the land, the land stays within the family, stays within the clan, and stays within the tribe.

So Judah would not have so much land that Simeon becomes nothing. Or it will sapu all the land of Simeon. The 12 tribes will remain as long as these rules are kept. It's a brilliant strategy, if you ask me.

So, Singapore, in 2015, we celebrated our golden jubilee by building a bridge. For Israel, every 50 years, they celebrate their jubilee by the sound of a trumpet, by the release of slaves, by the release of the lands, by a Sabbath for the land. And it is a day where they remember our sins can be forgiven because there's a priest who intercedes for us.

So it's a beautiful stipulation, and the significance of it all, I think, number one, is that Israel celebrates the goodness of God. When you think about these laws, you think about a good God. There are many people today who think that God is very harsh, very cruel, very severe. Wah, kill all the Canaanites, kill all the evil people. But we fail to see that actually there are wonderful laws in the Bible that clearly communicate the heart of God for His people, for the poor, in a way that none of us would even envisage ourselves.

God is good. God is kind. God is compassionate. It's a celebration. So as they celebrate Jubilee and Sabbath, they think about God upwards. But they also think about themselves inwards, in that they are to be committed to one another in love. The people of Israel is to love the people of Israel. They are to take care of the poor. They are not to exploit one another. They are to give, to, to lend, to help one another. The people of God should be like God, a people of love.

And finally, I think they can then live out their calling as a distinct and holy and special people in the midst of a very different world. Because no other nation, 100% guaranteed, no other nation will have these laws. No other nation will do what they are supposed to do. And if Israel were to do this, keep the Sabbaths and keep the Jubilee, every other nation must sit up and notice, wah, this is a very special people.

Look at the way they treat the poor. Look at the way they are generous. Look at the way they remember God and obey God and trust their God to provide. We have to slog our guts out to provide.

But Israel, eng eng seng seng. Six years work, seven years can relax and God still provides for them. What a special people. That must have been one of the reasons why God gave these laws. I say so much, until so nice, jing ho tiah. Wah, very good ah, very ideal wah. The reality, however, is far from that, because as far as Biblical evidence goes, we don't see any time, we don't see any occasion where Israel actually kept Sabbath for the land or the Jubilee.

In fact, we read in 2 Chronicles, that the reason, one of the reasons that God took Israel and Judah into exile, is because they never gave Sabbath to the land. They never obeyed Leviticus 25. And so God sent them 70 years into exile so that the Sabbaths that were supposed to be enjoyed by the land can be enjoyed.

So God gave these wonderful stipulations, so that Israel may remember God, may serve one another, and be a witness to the world. But Israel failed God in this regard. The sons of Israel, the sons of God in Israel have failed. For centuries they don't do this. No one keeps the Jubilee. No one celebrates the Jubilee. No one has a concept of what it should be like.

But some time ago, there's a young man. He walked into a place of worship and He took out a scroll and He began to read. He read Isaiah 61. He said, The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. That is Leviticus 25 language, liberty. And the opening of the prison to those who are bound to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour.

He stopped right there because the next sentence is the day of vengeance. He stopped right here very precisely and He went on to say, Today, this Scripture, this exact two verses, not anymore. These two verses has been fulfilled in your hearing. The Person who read this and the Person who said this is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ when He was 30 years old as He entered the synagogue at Nazareth.

What is Jesus saying here? By and large, the nation of Israel has never kept Jubilee. There is no freedom, no emancipation, no release experienced by the people. But today, a greater Son will fulfill Jubilee. A greater Son will bring about liberation. A greater Son will bring about release and emancipation. This day, the Scripture is fulfilled in My life. Jesus, therefore, is our Jubilee.

And so, when I read Leviticus 25, there is a prophetic lens in this chapter too. It is pointing to Jesus. Israel never fulfilled God's Word in bringing liberty to the people. Jesus did, Jesus will.

This week, I read about this lady. Her name is Ruth Gottesman. And she's the news, in the news because she donated a huge amount of money. You say, how much? Nowadays, you give $1 million, it doesn't appear in the news one lah. She gave $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She gave, she gave it to all the students and for future students who will study medicine in AECOM.

So, if you want to study medicine today, go to New York. If you can get in, it's FOC, because Ruth Gottesman gave. And I saw a video clip of herself giving this announcement. And once she said what she said, the people erupted, the crowd erupted in jubilation. Because a lot of them are people with student loans that will take many years to clear. But their debt is fully paid. Ruth Gottesman is their jubilee, their emancipation.

You multiply this by a billion, trillion, gazillion times. That's what Jesus Christ means to us. He pays for us a debt that we can never pay. Our sins against a Holy God. How did He pay it? He paid it with His life. When He came and died on the cross to save us from our sins. That is what the Bible is all about. Because that is what our God is all about. He's a God of compassion and mercy and grace. And He wants to bring liberation, emancipation from sin in our lives.

So, I pray today, as you look at Leviticus 25, it gives you a fresh insight. It's not a boring chapter about some boring, tedious laws. No. It's a beautiful picture. A beautiful glimpse into the very heart of God. And it's a beautiful preparation, prophecy of Jesus Christ, who is our Jubilee. And may we, as God's people, who have received this emancipation, this liberation, this freedom, this deliverance, be a people of love, because that's what Israel is supposed to be. That's what the church today is also supposed to be. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Once again, if you're here with us and you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, we pray for you that you would see that there is a solution, there can be a cancellation, a forgiveness, a remission for your sins.

The Bible says Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. On the Day of Atonement, a goat is slain, the blood is spilled for the cleansing of sin. Another goat is sent far away as a symbol of how our sins are sent far from us. But the two goats point to Jesus Christ, how He will die for us, pay for us, and send our sins away. And on the Day of Jubilee, it's about forgiveness. It's about freedom. It's about love. It's about Jesus.

So I pray today, perhaps, you're not yet a Christian. You would walk away today learning, knowing, understanding that there, yes, there is a real solution for your sin. There is forgiveness available for you because Jesus paid it all.

Maybe today you feel trapped in sin. You are doing things that you know are wrong and you don't want to do it, but you still keep doing it. And you're filled with guilt and shame and fear. And you know one day you'll be brought into judgement. You have to be called to account for your sins. Perhaps you're hoping that that would never happen one day. Perhaps you're hoping that somehow you can make up for your sins. I say that's mission impossible because God's standard is absolute perfection.

The only solution is that Someone who lived a perfect life, would die for you. So that He credits to you His perfect righteousness and He takes on your entire debt of sin. And the only One who did this is the Son of God, Jesus, who died and rose again from the dead. I believe many people sitting right here are now praying for you. Praying for those who do not know Jesus, that you will today, one day, turn from your sin and believe in Jesus Christ.

Dear church, my brothers and sisters, shall we not just pause and reflect upon the magnitude of what Jesus did for us on the cross? There may be lots of poor people struggling with poverty today. And they find that they feel like they are in a hole that they can never climb out. But really for us, we are all in this deep, deep hole of sin we can never come out from.

But Jesus lifted us. Love lifted me. And if we have tasted this love of God, this salvation of God, it behooves us to be a people of love. Loving one another, forgiving one another, helping one another, serving one another. And a people who would care enough to bring the message of the Gospel far and wide.

May Gospel Light be like our God, a people of love. Jesus is coming again. The trumpet will sound and those who are His will be gathered unto Him. We listen for the trumpet. We look forward to His coming. And may we be faithful till that day.

So Father, thank You again for this morning. Thank You for a glorious, glorious chapter in a very underestimated and under-read book. But may Jesus, our Jubilee, be received into our hearts once more. Thank You. We pray all this in Jesus' name. Amen.


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