When God established Israel by bringing them out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, He gave them Laws, Ceremonies, Festivals, and the extraordinary concept of Jubilee. Israel attempted to keep these Laws. Israel also attempted to keep the Ceremonies and Festivals. But Israel never kept a Jubilee, until...
We live in a debt-ridden society. According to some sources, the debt level of the United States is thought to be at least $16T (sixteen trillion dollars) and according to Yahoo Finance it is increasing by $35,000,000 (thirty-five million dollars) an hour (that's $2B a day!). If the US Government was able to make debt-payments of $75M a year, it would take 14,000 years to pay off this debt! Research by the US Federal Reserve reveals that the average level of personal debt in America is $15,325; the average mortgage is $147,924; and the average University student's College debt is $32,041.According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian owes around $2,300 on their credit card; $14,000 for their car loan; and $7,000 in hire purchases and the like. The average Australian university student debt is $9,000 (although anecdotally we could reasonably suspect that Australian student debts of around $20,000+ are becoming more common).
I was recently at a meeting with a few other Australian pastors where the issue of Church-Debt came up. One pastor was attempting to raise tens of thousands of dollars as a deposit to secure a bank loan for his church. Another pastor had borrowed $2.5M and had been paying 'interest-only' for the past 3 years or so. Another of the pastors had also borrowed around $3M and after 7 years their church still owed around $2.5M. When we were last in the USA, we visited the famous Crystal Cathedral near Los Angeles. At the time there were rumours of its debt blowing out to $50M before it was sold. (The actual figure was later discovered to be much higher.) While in the U.S. I had the privilege of ministering for a great young pastor who took over a church with a $28,000 a month interest bill for their church building loan! He's doing a great job but his job is made all the more difficult because of this massive debt.
Perhaps it's because I grew up under the domestic shadow of bankruptcy that I have such a personal aversion to debt. People often ask me after a crowded Sunday morning worship service when we will commence the next phase of our building program so that we can accommodate more people? My answer is grounded in my personal aversion - when we can afford it.
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
But imagine a country whose national laws required that all debts be cancelled simultaneously every fifty years. This was Jubilee.
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.
The year of Jubilee was to be a year's celebration of debts cancelled, lands restored, forced servitude ceasing. Captives would be released. Those suffering the indignity of poverty would have their ancestral farm-lands returned to them and thus break the yoke of poverty. Those being oppressed by lenders would now be delivered from their humiliation and oppression. For a year, the Jubilee Year, very lttle work was to be done. The Land was to be rested.
That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines.
But Israel never observed Jubilee!
The Land was never rested.
The oppressed were never set free.
Then one day, the Land vomited them out.
¶ "You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out...(Lev. 18:25) and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.
Leviticus 20:22; 18:25
The prophet Jeremiah warned Jerusalem that this would happen. But still no Jubilee. This was not acceptable to God. This was not "the year" of freedom, deliverance, salvation, restoration, and celebration that God had called for.
One day a young man, with one of those funny Nazarene accents that causes people to look derisively in snobbery, opened a scroll in a provincial house of worship. He single-handedly initiated Jubilee.and we are still coming to grips with what He did -
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."
Today we use the term 'Jubilee' to refer to a celebration of fifty years. We use it to describe the length of the Queen's reign, a marriage, or the commemoration of some event. But Jubilee means much more than celebrating 50 years. Jubilee means salvation, deliverance, restitution, healing, and prosperity! When Jesus Christ of Nazareth declared "the year of Lord's favour" - He then immediately announced- Today this is being fulfilled. And indeed it is! I began to experience Jubilee when I was 15 years old when I surrendered my life to Christ and received the forgiveness of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and reconciliation with GOD.
In world that ignores GOD, ridicules GOD, and scorns GOD's laws, it's probably little surprise that the fruit of such courageous injudiciousness includes widespread relationship dysfunctionality and spiralling personal debt levels. Perhaps it's time for us to have a little Jubilee to point the world back to the GOD who loves them and has the best for them if they would but submit to Him, His ways and His Word so that they too could experience the salvation, deliverance, restitution, healing, and genuine prosperity that can only come through knowing Jesus Christ.