Did you know that two local churches, Holy Trinity Lutheran and Cache Valley Bible Fellowship, celebrate 50 years of ministry in Logan this year? Holy Trinity’s Jubilee celebration was earlier this summer and CVBF will have their celebrations next weekend. As 50 years of marriage is a milestone worthy of celebration, so is it with a church. Using the word “Jubilee” to describe the celebration provides some redemptive imagery. The biblical image of Jubilee is important to the Christian faith even though not specifically mentioned in the New Testament.
Leviticus 25 outlines the Lord’s instructions for the Jubilee celebration. It shows that the year of Jubilee was the culmination of sevens, "Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years: Seven Sabbaths of years adds up to forty-nine years.” (Lev. 25:8) This 49th year would the start of the year of Jubilee, and the celebration ended with a trumpet blow on the 50th anniversary.
What is the Jubilee and why is it important? Leviticus testifies that just as the people rested on the Sabbath Day, and in the Sabbath Year the land rested, in the Jubilee everything was forgiven, everything was to be restored. Debts were erased, prisoners were set free, and the land that had been sold was returned to their original owners. Jubilee offers us a picture of what forgiveness looks like; one based in the true meaning of the Sabbath.
Should we limit our definition of the Sabbath to mean a day when we do not work, Leviticus 25 shows us that this meaning does not even come close to describing what the Sabbath is. For example, the reason that the land was to be returned to the people to whom the Lord had originally given it on the Jubilee that was that, “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me.” (Leviticus 25:23) The Jubilee reminded the people that He is the Lord over all; it showed them who He is, what He has done and what He will do!
It is in this that we see the picture of grace in the Jubilee. In Luke 4 when Jesus quotes Isaiah in the temple he says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) Jesus came to announce the “year of the Lord’s favor”, the Jubilee spoken of in Leviticus.
Though Israel never observed the Jubilee, in Christ the Jubilee is fulfilled. He came to fulfill the promises spoken by Isaiah; He is our Jubilee who restored all that was destroyed by sin. He is the one who will set the captives free, who “through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil - and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Nevertheless, what does this have to do with the Sabbath and how does this relate to the Jubilee? The answer comes later in Hebrews 4. There the question is, “How shall we enter the Lord’s rest?” The answer is found in the true Sabbath rest that has nothing to do with taking a day off work and all to do with trusting in the Lord and His righteousness.
Hebrews 4 tells us that just as the Lord entered a rest that never ends following creation, so too are we invited to enter into an eternal rest in Christ. This was not speaking of resting from physical labor, but a spiritual rest that is never ends. The rest that we are to enter into is a rest from our works of righteousness. Jesus sets the captives free as they put their faith in the finished work of Christ.
Just as those who belonged to the nation of Israel would have their lands restored in the Jubilee, so too, when we belong to God through Christ, we will receive His grace and mercy finding all our debts forgiven. Jesus, as our Jubilee, declares our forgiveness – everything lost in sin is restored in Christ. Therefore, we no longer need to work for our righteousness for when we put our faith in Christ all is forgiven in this day of the Lord’s favor.