Today’s Bible reading* has a lot to say about the Year of Jubilee: Everyone gets a do-over. A reset. A recalibration.
God goes into great detail about what this looks like. Debts are cancelled. Properties are returned to their original owners. Slaves are released. All in one year.
The Year of Jubilee occurred every fifty years, basically once in a lifetime. Everyone knew when the Year of Jubilee would be; no one would be surprise when the clock reset and everyone got a reset. A do-over. A recalibration. Time to remember what’s truly important.
But I’m sure that knowing when the Year of Jubilee was going to be caused people to alter how they lived the last few years before the Fiftieth Year. I’m sure people were tempted to take out a large loan, knowing that when the Year of Jubilee came, they wouldn’t have to pay off the debt because it would be cancelled. And people would be tempted to not take out a loan in the first few years after the Year of Jubilee because they knew they would have to pay off the entire loan.
The Year of Jubilee sounds a lot like the principle of Sabbath, which God also addresses in today’s reading. The Sabbath principle establishes a reset every week. God’s people were to work six days and rest the seventh day. It’s not that we need to kick back and take it easy. Sabbath was established to mirror God’s week of creation. After creating everything in the created order, God rested. It wasn’t because God was tired, but simply He wanted to rest. We, being in God’s image, are to be like Him. God designed us to not work 24/7, so He established the Sabbath. In other words, we aren’t designed to work every day of the week.
But God doesn’t stop with Sabbath days. He even established a Sabbath year. Not only did God design His people to rest, but every seventh year, the people were to give the land a reset. Even the created world was given a do-over. A reset. A recalibration.
God says that work is a good thing, but for many, work has become an idol; it stands between people and God. He also says that rest is a good thing. On the Sabbath Day and the Sabbath Year, God didn’t intend for His people to fill their Sabbath going to all-day sporting events with their family and friends. Instead, they were to rest. They were to fast from work. They were to use the day to reset and refocus their attention on their Creator. Everyone needs a do-over. And everyone needs a Year of Jubilee. A year of reset. A year of do-over. It comes down to stewardship of our bodies. Stewardship of our relationships. Stewardship of the created world.
But what do we do? First of all, remember that Leviticus was written for God’s people. Our American society, though originally founded on Christian principles, is now a post-Christian culture. Our post-Christian culture fills our weekends with kinds of activities for our kids. Sporting events. Dance recitals. Band competitions. Camping trips. Sometimes one can feel like we need to go back to work just so we can catch our breath. At some point, we need to stop. We need to say, “Enough”. We need to reset through rest.
Many years ago, I heard a Bible teacher respond to the question, “Should Christians rest on the Sabbath?” He said, “Yes. Christians should rest on the Sabbath … so they’ll be refreshed to go to church and be with God’s people on the Lord’s Day!”
Even though we live in this American, post-Christian culture, I wonder what would happen if God’s people — just God’s people — were to celebrate a Year of Jubilee every fifty years? Everything resets. Everyone gets a do-over. I really think it would affect our nation on several levels. Unfortunately, I don’t know that we could — or would — ever do it. We don’t even rest one day a week.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: