Golden Wedding Jubilees are special anniversary celebrations for people who have been married for 50 years. Businesses have jubilee celebrations when they have reached 50 years of serving their customers. God decreed for his people that every 50th year Jubilee would occur in the land into which he was bringing them(Leviticus 25:9-12).
9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 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. 11 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. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
The celebration would be occasioned by what took place during that year-long period. Life would be very different during this period.During this year the land was not to be tilled nor crops planted. Landowners, hired workers, slaves nor beasts of burden were permitted to work during that year. People who had sold themselves into servitude to others because of debt would be released from any remaining obligation and if they had sold their land that was to be returned to its ancestral owners and their families returned to their land.
The overriding theme of Jubilee was rest. It was to be a holy year – a year devoted to the Lord. It was the Sabbath year of Sabbath years. In the requirement of the return of the land, God, who had given it to the families as a gift, was preventing the commercial exploitation of his gift. (Actually the land wasn’t sold but only what it would produce for the time held by the purchaser). With the freeing of slaves God was assuring that people would not be exploited by cruel, greedy men. By the remission of debt God was requiring that people not be used as a means of gain for others – that they would not be seen merely as a resource to be used for profit. This upheld the dignity of even the lowliest and most unfortunate among them.
Along with this theme of rest and release from debt came the harmonizing theme of freedom. Slaves, bound or chained by obligation to work for a master were released to go back to their families and their inheritance. They were free to live their lives unto themselves, not as a master determined. No matter how benevolent – no matter how well intentioned that master might have been, a slave is not free to go and come as he pleases. In the year of Jubilee the bondservants were set free. It was a reminder to people that other people did not exist for the purpose of exploitation, but that human beings exist to serve others and to give them freedom and rest. The masters were really serving the interests of the servant, helping them through tough times.
It is not without significance that the year of Jubilee began on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. This was the day when offering was made for the sins of the people and God set them free from the burden of guilt for another year. This was the time when the sins of the people were symbolically placed on the scapegoat by the chief priest laying his hands on the head of the selected animal and the animal then sent away into the wilderness. Thus, at the outset of the Jubilee year the people were seen as being free from sin as well as from all financial obligations as well.
The observance of the Jubilee was a recurring signpost pointing to the coming of the Messiah who would set all men free from the greatest, most cruel kinds of bondage. Jesus declared when he read Isaiah’s words regarding the coming Jubilee, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was saying that the thing to which the Jubilee had always been pointing was coming to pass. The grand Jubilee of all Jubilees was being fulfilled beginning with his work on earth. Jubilee with all the freedom, release, rest and celebration that involves would be realized to the fullest extent. Paul exclaimed, “For freedom Christ has set us free …” (Galatians 5:1).
If the inauguration of his work was the beginning of the long anticipated event, what was the culmination of his earthly work? When he rose from the dead on that day following the Sabbath it was an occasion of greatest significance. This was the culmination – the apex – of all history – the event that all other events had been leading up to. It is the event that all history since looks back to – and celebrates. Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead – the first to enjoy the freedom of eternal life to which all the children of God and indeed, all creation looks forward. …
“… the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:21-23).
It was the event that gave meaning to even his sacrificial death, for without resurrection there would have been no hope beyond the grave for us. There had been only mourning for the crucified Lord before that morning of the day after the Sabbath during which he was in the grave. But when the cry went up, “He is risen!” the hope of all men of all ages was affirmed and began to be fulfilled. Death had been overcome. The grave could not contain him and it cannot contain those who put their trust in him. The bonds of the unseen realm were broken. Death no longer can hold us because it could not hold him. There will come a time when all who are in the grave will hear the call to come forth and we will join him in that resurrection to eternal life.
But what is the meaning for us while we live in this world and await the coming of that blessed day? If we do not perceive the connection between the annunciation at the beginning of his ministry and the extension of that ministry in the world by his followers, can we really say we are his disciples? If his purpose was to inaugurate the fulfillment of Jubilee and we do not enter into that celebration, have we really understood his mission?
Freedom. We are to live our lives in freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from bondage to man. Freedom from bondage to law. Free to live as people who are free. Free to love. Free to serve. Free as sons of God. Free in Christ.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
The blessing of release from bondage is something that is to be maintained. It is a gift that is given that keeps on giving but only if we keep ourselves free. The only way we can do that is by maintaining our loyalty to the one who set us free in the first place. Our confidence must be in him and not in ourselves to answer all our questions and supply all our needs.
Our freedom is to be used for others. We are free to love which fulfills the whole of the law. This is how we are to demonstrate our likeness to our creator. He created us out of love – his desire that we be with him and live with him. With this freedom we fulfill our creation mandate to tend and care for God’s creation – especially each other.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13).
The freedom he gives us not for selfish pleasure. There was work to do in the garden of Eden. There is work to be done today. By using our God given freedom for his service we manifest our gratitude toward him and at the same time our likeness to him.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).