Jubilee Year

The Cycle of Release and Rest

Michael A. Clark

Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Jubilee, a rare event in our long royal history. It means that her reign has lasted seven times seven years and she is now in her fiftieth year as monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What is the real significance of the Jubilee Cycle to us today?

The word Jubilee itself, although from the Latin jubilaeus, is rooted in the history of our forebears in ancient Israel and is derived from the Hebrew word yobel meaning, "rams horn," (trumpet). We read about the law of Jubilee in Leviticus chapter 25 in the Bible. A long-sounding trumpet passed through all the country to proclaim a year of restoration and restitution throughout all the land. 

A Sabbatical Year fell every seven years in Israel when the land lay fallow for one year. At the end of seven Sabbatical Years, being 49 years in all, a further year, called a Jubilee, took place when the whole land was rested, or left fallow and all land and property reverted to the original owner. In addition debts were remitted and of greater significance, any Hebrew who had been enslaved was released.

The Year of Jubilee served two very important purposes. Firstly, it proclaimed the fact that the land did not belong to individuals, but to the Lord. The Hebrew Israelites were therefore stewards only during their lifetime. They were merely passing through it and their duty was to tend the land for the present only. From this cycle of restitution every generation was given the necessary stimulus to good stewardship of resources and a powerful reminder to treat the land and the environment with respect. 

Secondly, it prevented the wealthy from amassing property and servants to the detriment of the poor and enabled the next generation the freedom to prosper and provide for their families. Jubilee for the Israelites therefore was a time of thanksgiving and rejoicing throughout the nation for the release and encouragement that it gave to both young and old alike.

The Queen is touring the land during her Jubilee Year. It will be an extremely busy year for her, yet the Jubilee is really about rest. In ancient Israel, the time of people in the Sabbatical Year and more so at Jubilee, was concentrated on learning about God, whilst enjoying freedom from their labours. Today, ignorance of the release and rest cycle of Jubilee is perhaps the greatest loss to our society and nation which is suffering the stress of continuous and ever more rapid commercial activity.

The economics of the modern world are driving people faster and faster in their daily round. The Sabbath, or Lord's Day, of rest one day in seven has all but vanished. There is no longer any shape to the week. Our natural body-clock demands sleep every 24 hours and on the larger scales of the week and the years, there is a natural cycle based on multiples of seven, which is the number linked to spiritual perfection.

This is placing enormous demands and stress on employees. While providing a convenience service in our 24-hour and seven-day week of continuous activity, people are literally becoming enslaved to the cause of a commercial god. Already the health of workers is suffering as well as family life. The natural pattern of community life is breaking down. As a nation, in our family, social and community life, we need times of rest and spiritual restoration on the shorter scale of the day and the week. On the larger scale of the years there is a greater need in the life of the nation for release and restitution. 

This is where the cycle of Jubilee is so important, and more so in our high-pressured 21st century. It is very obvious that people today are more aggressive, with crime befouling the lives of millions. There are now 70,000 inhabitants in our prisons and it is estimated that over half of these people have a mental health problem. 

Our nation needs to pull back from the daily grind. We would recover our balance and order in society and in the environment at large by a common sense restoration of the Sabbatical and Jubilee Year. Moreover, our nation needs a true Jubilee of debt release within it and, to honour Almighty God in His perfect Law, there should be a Jubilee of debt release in the Third World.

As a nation with a Christian constitution, we need to wake up to the rest that is available to us in the completed work of Jesus Christ in His Atonement for our sins, both individually and as a covenant nation. His Grace sets us free, not from the Divine Law itself, which is perfect, but from the penalty of His Law. The curse of the law is the penalty, not its righteousness or right ways. It is a consequential fact, that without law there can be no grace! 

The wages of sin is death, through ever-increasing burdens by our ignorance of the Sabbatical and Jubilee cycles. The gift of God, however, is eternal life through release from the penalty of wrong living and the blessing of health and restoration through His Law of Jubilee.

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