The Year of Jubilee | How It Relates to Us Today

JubileeBy LJ Harry

Jubilee appears out of nowhere—like a Dairy Queen in the parched wastelands of a desert. We have just crossed state lines, leaving Exodus and entering Leviticus. Very few get excited to cross that line in their spring Bible reading because Leviticus is filled with long stretches where we roll up the windows, crank up the air-conditioning, and press the pedal to the floor. There are precious few scenic overlooks in Leviticus—very few places we want to get out, stretch leisurely, and walk around for a bit. Instead, we speed through it as if we’re being chased by a grizzly bear on a Harley.

Leviticus is filled with laws about sacrifices, offerings, and priests. There is that beautiful city of Atonement, but once you fill up with fuel and food and leave, there’s not much to look at until you come to mile marker twenty-five, where you see the bright lights and hear the beautiful music coming from the city of Jubilee. Jubilee is different from every other city in the Scripture, especially in Leviticus, because it’s only open every fifty years. That wasn’t poor planning by the city planners; that was divine design. It was God’s idea.

Celebrating Jubilee

Take a slow drive through Jubilee. Roll down the windows. Listen to the music.

Once Israel made it across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, God knew they would run into some hardships. He knew some of the new landowners wouldn’t be able to own their land for long. Dry springs and wet winters would come, and the crops would be less than bumper. They would have to sell off their land in order to stay alive. But they would not sell their land for good. It was more like a land lease. Because every fiftieth year at the trumpet blast, they were to celebrate Jubilee. And every square acre of their countryside land that was sold to pay their debt would be returned to the family who sold it. It was God’s way of teaching His people that He had given them the land and would give the land back to them. They were just hired help tending the land for the Lord.

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Jubilee even controlled the markets. The price wasn’t set just because it was on a corner lot or featured a fish pond on the back forty; the price was set based on Jubilee. If Jubilee was just a few years away, the land was a few shekels cheaper. They weren’t just selling the land; they were selling a number of harvests until they turned the calendar page at Jubilee. Even if their grandfather gambled the family farm away and the family into slavery, the farm would be restored to them at the year of Jubilee. And so would the family.

The best part about Jubilee wasn’t about the farm; it was about the family. At Jubilee, every Israelite slave was to be freed.

God intended His people to be free.

Whether they were slaves for half a century or for half a month, every slave was set free. God was reminding His people that they were His people. No matter why they landed in slavery, they were to be set free because His people had been slaves in Egypt, but they were not to be lifelong slaves in the Promised Land. God intended His people to be free.

Take a slow drive through Jubilee. Roll down the windows. Listen to the music. You’ll see families dancing in the streets. You’ll see moms and dads playing catch with their kids. You’ll see seniors whose backs were bent by slavery, stand up straight and take a deep breath, grateful to be alive and free. But you won’t see one shovel. Or combine. Or tractor. Or rake. At Jubilee, God gave His people the year off and He gave His land the year off.

Rather than work through the year of Jubilee, God’s people were to trust Him and celebrate. They got to rest and their land got to rest. They had to trust that their God was good enough and great enough to provide for them without their help. For this newly minted free nation that conquered every country in sight, it was a humble reminder that they needed God much more than God needed them. But it was also a loving reminder that God would take care of them if they would just trust Him.

Jubilee sounds too good to be true. Maybe that’s what they thought too. Maybe that’s why there is no record Israel ever celebrated Jubilee. It took quite a bit of humility to give back the land you paid good money to buy and to set your farmhands and handmaids free. And it took quite a bit of trust to believe God was able and willing to feed your family without your help. So when they pulled up to that city of Jubilee, Israel just kept driving and consequently missed out on all the blessings God had to give them if they would just rest in Him and trust in Him.

How Jubilee Relates to Us Today

It would be a hard sell to convince your boss to give you the year off, but could there be some other blessings God has in store for you if you would trust Him? Perhaps He’s waiting for you to trust Him with your ten percent tithe before He can bless your other ninety percent.

You’ll find the city more beautiful than what you read in the brochure.

Perhaps He’s waiting for you to forgive someone you’ve held hostage so He can free you and forgive you. Maybe you’ve been running here, there, and everywhere trying to get thirty-four hours’ worth of work done in twenty-four hours. Hear the voice of God calling you to rest in Him. Rest in a place where you don’t need to run or work. Just walk. With Him.

Let’s not make the same mistake Israel made. As you come to the city limits of Jubilee, don’t speed past on the way to making more money by doing more work. Stop the car and get out. Walk around. Look around. You’ll find the city more beautiful than what you read in the brochure. And you’ll find Him more beautiful as you learn to trust and rest in Him.

LJ Harry is the senior pastor at Mount Vernon Church in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Resources and Links

Simplify: In this weekly devotional, L. J. Harry calls us to stop and reflect on the Christian Life—to see the humor and to enjoy the simple pleasure of life.

A version of this content originally appeared in Pentecostal Life. To see more content or subscribe, visit Pentecostal Life.