Thursday, February 16, 2012

looking for Jesus in Leviticus: "Jubilee," part 3

The Word for today:
Leviticus 27

mark these!!! -- Leviticus 25:8-13 / Isaiah 61:1-4 / Luke 4:16-21
(These three passages should be forever linked in the Bible student’s mind. Carrying, as they do, the idea of Jubilee from seed to flower to fruition, they are so much a part of each other that none of the three makes any biblical sense without the other two.)

God rested on the seventh day, but that was just the beginning.

God then commanded the people to observe a Sabbath rest. Then God decreed that every seventh year the land should rest, as well.

Then God told Israel that following the 49th year (the seventh seven-year period) there would be a year, called Jubilee, when everything was reset to its original condition. The land would be restored to the original owners, servant/slaves would be freed, and debts would be forgiven.

But while the twice-a-century Jubilee hearkened all the way back to God’s original design, it looked forward, prophetically, to the ultimate Jubilee—a day when not just debts and property rights would be forgiven and restored, but sins would be forgiven and sight would be restored and everything would be renewed and reset.

In order to understand the profound and startling spiritual truths which Sabbath and Jubilee are meant to teach us, the Bible student must range from cover to cover in his Bible. So Over the last couple days, we looked at these topics in the beginning--in Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus.

Today, in our concluding article, we’ll need to make a few stops near the middle, at 2 Chronicles and Isaiah, before we arrive at the ultimate Jubilee in the New Testament book of Luke.
Sadly, what we have learned from scripture and from history is that while the people of Israel obsessively, compulsively (even anally) observed their Sabbath rest every seven days, there is no record that they ever observed the 7th-year Sabbath rest for the land, or the Jubilee reset which was to follow the seventh seven-year period.

Another great truth that we can learn from scripture and from history is that while we might delay God’s program, we never alter it.

So, despite the people’s failures to fulfill God’s directives, the land would get its rest. When Israel was exiled to Babylon they were there for 70 years. Why 70? Here’s why:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, [7] who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.  (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; see Jeremiah 25:9-12; 29:10)

Scholars think there were 490 years without Sabbath rest for the land, so God took it upon himself to enforce his plan for the land. (If ever we think that God might have forgotten his own Word, God’s delayed enforcement of Sabbath rest for the land should cause us to think again.)
Prior to the exile, Isaiah had reminded Israel that God had not forgotten the day and idea of Jubilee--when the captive would be released, debts forgiven, and (adding something not predicted in Leviticus) even broken hearts restored:

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, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4)

Before we turn to the final leg of our journey, let’s pause to remember how far we’ve come. We’ve come from pre-history, where God rested; to the Ten commandments in Exodus, where the people were commanded to rest; to Leviticus, where it was decreed that the land should get it’s rest and communities should be periodically restored to their original design and intent. We’ve been in 2 Chronicles (where we saw that most of these directions were ignored, so God took it upon himself to fulfill his own word!) Then on to Isaiah, who reminded us that God had not forgotten the promise of Jubilee, when everything -- even broken emotions! – would be restored and reset.

God put Jubilee into place with his people because he was painting a prophetic picture that ultimately would be realized in Jesus—who took Isaiah’s Jubilee passage as his mission statement when he launched his public ministry. Thirty years old and still relatively unknown, he walked into the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. We’ll let Luke tell the rest:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21)
This scene from the Word of God shows human expression to be incompetent, inadequate, and impotent; our language falls forever short of conveying this scene’s significance. In an out-of-the-way synagogue in the middle of nowhere, Jesus had clearly and unmistakably proclaimed,

I AM the Jubilee.

I am rest for the weary soul.
I am the one who forgives every sin.
I am the one who can re-create the image that has fallen.

I am the restoration, the refreshment, the resurrection, and the reset. Everything starts over again as of now.

Jubilee, ladies and gentleman, is here.

For further study, a postscript:

Matthew had already proclaimed (in his gospel--written for the Jewish mind, for people of The Book) that Jesus was the Jubilee:

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations,
and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way… (Matthew 1:17-18)

“3 x 14” would be thought of in the scripturally-literate Jewish mind as “6 sevens.” Which leaves Jesus as the seventh seven…
There are other hints of Jesus as Jubilee in Leviticus 25, including the picture of the kinsman redeemer which will be enacted in the book of Ruth and in, of course, the person of Jesus Christ.

The early church lived out and celebrated the reality of Jesus as our Jubilee, pro-actively resetting their lives and property. (See Acts 2:42-45 and 4:32-35).
Jesus is the Sabbath of God: “It is finished!” (Genesis 2:3; John 19:30)
Jesus is the Jubilee: “He is risen!” (Matthew 28:7; Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8)

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