“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour. He shall not exact it of his neighbour, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess—if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.
The idea of a Jubilee is strongly ingrained in our thinking as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has kept on causing them to be celebrated and particularly the 25th, 40th, 50th, 60th, and most recently the 70th. The word Jubilee has over time come to be particularly associated with the reign of a monarch but that is not its biblical background.
The people of Israel were commanded by God to celebrate a ‘Jubilee’ every 50th year, a year in which, debts were cleared, slaves (a category of people very different to those who were part of the abominable African Slave trade and indeed ‘modern’ slavery which is rife around the world), land was to be rested and if, for some reason passed to others in the preceding years was to be restored to its owners. See Leviticus 25 for a full understanding of this special year.
However the Jubilee year coming after seven sevens of years was just the culmination of the way God ordered the lives of his people with a Sabbath every 7 years which could be described as a mini jubilee!
Consider today the passage above from Deuteronomy 15 and reflect on the blessings and benefits of such gracious provision from a gracious God.
Experience tells us that we all need rest, which is why the Sabbath provision at creation is so essential and surely one of the reasons for the disintegration of our society is that the majority do not observe this, and dare I say, particularly our MPs and especially those who are Government Ministers, for whom Sunday appears simply to be another working day albeit in a different place.
Granted we do not now live in a theocracy but could we, should we, learn from God’s instructions for the 7th year. From these verses the provision of the 7th year and the instructions had the consequence that there will be no poor among you.
There was however a condition for the receipt of this blessing ‘if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.’
The consequence of obedience was blessing, the corollary of this being that disobedience would nullify or at least greatly diminish the blessing. This sad reality is starkly put in v.11 in the same chapter – ‘there will never cease to be poor in the land’. This could mean that the people had to strive to enact the instructions of the sabbath year to alleviate that poverty although in the light of the subsequent history of God’s people it seems more likely this was warning them that they would fail to do their part in obedience.
There is always a danger in attempting to draw lines from then till now but reading this chapter should, I believe, cause us to look at our nation, indeed all the nations that make up the UK and all the Western world and reflect on why we are in the low spiritual, moral and ethical mess we see around us everywhere we turn.
God hasn’t changed. His promises and provisions haven’t changed and sadly man hasn’t changed since the fall. Jeremiah sums up the situation in these words Jeremiah 17.9
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
That sickness can be treated at the Cross making those who are believers those who should stand out and be different in every area of life. The Cross does not absolve us from obedience but it does make obedience and a transformed life that will challenge a world which is moving further and further away from God’s ideal, a glorious and powerful possibility.