Beyond Jubilee

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 25.9-10
9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.

Luke 4.16-19
16 …He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, 
because he has anointed me 
to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
and recovery of sight for the blind, 
to set the oppressed free, 
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Reflection: Beyond Jubilee
By John Tillman

Weekly sabbaths bring us freedom and joy in this world. This freedom and joy grows more expansive as we ponder the sabbath of years and Jubilee.

Sabbath years built, in an exponential crescendo, to Jubilee. After seven septennial sabbath years, trumpets were to announce liberty throughout the land. Liberty from debt. Liberty from enslavement. Liberty that brought a national reset of property and land ownership. Every 50 years, the “monopoly game” was to be folded up, properties redistributed, and the game started over with all participants on equal footing once more. This was to remind Israel that the land did not belong to them. It belonged to the Lord. 

It is difficult for us to imagine such an economic system. In the dominant economic systems of their world and ours, the game never stops and each generation starts the game with an inherited benefit or handicap. Generational wealth and poverty are features, not bugs, of every world economic system in history. 

Biblical laws are intended to be a check on our tendencies toward greed, violence, and inequity. Jubilee was a systemic reboot, restoring the moral code God desired—equity, justice, righteousness, unity.

Talking about Jubilee upsets some people. Some dogmatically demand implementation of Jubilee in today’s economic terms, even though they would not submit to any other laws from the Old Testament. Others work just as stubbornly to deemphasize or even ignore Jubilee because it conflicts with their economic beliefs. (It is beyond the scope of this devotional to discuss how some of us have greater religious devotion to and faith in sociological, economic, and political ideas than we do in scripture or theological ideas…)

We must remember that many systems and laws in the Bible, like Jubilee, are bandaids on gaping wounds. For example, Jesus challenged laws regarding marriage and the sabbath, saying they did not complete God’s intention or will. (Matthew 19.3-12; Mark 2.23-28; Luke 6.1-10; Luke 13.10-16) We have little evidence of how Israel enacted Jubilee, but to whatever degree they did, it was insufficient. Great inequities persisted. (Deuteronomy 15.7, 11; 1 Samuel 2.8; Isaiah 41.17; Matthew 19.21, 26.11)

Implementing Jubilee would be insufficient. The gospel compels us to go beyond it. As the sacrifice of Christ surpasses the sacrifice of lambs, and our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, our sacrificial generosity should surpass that of Jubilee. (Matthew 5.20)

In Jesus, Jubilee is now and forever. Jubilee is the gospel. (Isaiah 55.1-2; John 7.37; Revelation 22.17

May our voices and actions be jubilant trumpets declaring liberty, freedom, and joy.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; I call upon you all the day long. — Psalm 86.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Leviticus 25 (Listen – 7:41)
Psalms 32 (Listen – 1:34)

Read more about The Gospel and the Year of Freedom
Equity is the default setting of God’s spiritual economy.
Leaders (princes) must set an example, creating fairness and justice.

Read more about Loving God by Loving Others
When we collect all the profit to ourselves we are stealing by keeping what you instructed us to leave for the poor.

The Gospel and the Year of Freedom

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 46.18
18 The prince must not take any of the inheritance of the people, driving them off their property. He is to give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that not one of my people will be separated from their property.’ ” 

Leviticus 25.13-17
13 “ ‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property. 
14 “ ‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. 15 You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. 16 When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. 17 Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the LORD your God. 

Reflection: The Gospel and the Year of Freedom
By John Tillman

The “year of freedom” refers to the system of Jubilee described first to those entering the promised land. It first divided the land equitably, and then ensured that ownership would reset after a period of years, each family receiving back property lost or sold, being released from indentured servanthood, and being forgiven debts.

For former slaves, this would prevent the foolish or unfortunate from becoming enslaved and prevent the greedy or fortunate from becoming oppressors. There is little evidence, however, that Israel ever faithfully followed the system of Jubilee despite agreeing to it multiple times. 

The brown-skinned authors of scripture did not write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to endorse or condemn economic theories that would be created by white men centuries later. As much as partisans might like it to be, the system of Jubilee is not an endorsement or condemnation of collectivism or individualism. Many current economic and political practices have points of friction with scripture. 

Scripture challenges and convicts all man-made systems, governments, and economic practices of their errors and hubris. Approaching scripture with an eye toward self-correction rather than self-justification should be our default setting. 

The theological basis for the concept of Jubilee was that the land belonged to the Lord, not the people. (Leviticus 25.23) Therefore, since they were “aliens and strangers.” The people could “possess” the land with the Lord but could not claim to own the land and neither could their leaders.

May we pray over and reflect upon a few things described or implied by Jubilee and Ezekiel’s new city of God: 
We don’t own anything even if we possess it.
Equity is the default setting of God’s spiritual economy.
Leaders (princes) must set an example, creating fairness and justice.

Our prince, Jesus, sets our example. He owned everything but lived as though he owned nothing. He laid down his rights as king, taking up the cross. 
He had sympathy for the unsympathetic. (That’s us.) 
He canceled the debts of those who deserved no mercy. (Also us.) 
He restored those whose lives had been wasted by their own choices. (Us, again.)

The gospel challenges us to make every year, a year of freedom, granting forgiveness and freedom to others.

May we seek out unsympathetic failures and undeserving debtors and may we show them the same mercy given to us. (Matthew 18.21-35) In this way, we can make every year (even 2020) a “year of freedom.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Yours are the heavens; the earth also is yours, you laid the foundations of the world and all that is in it. — Psalm 89.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 46  (Listen – 4:49)
Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Unsurprising Oppression
“Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”

Read more about A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe
You spoke to the children of Israel saying there should not be poor among them. You instituted the Years of Jubilee and Sabbath.

The Prayer From the Cross

Psalm 30.11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
   Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Reflection: The Prayer From the Cross
By John Tillman

On the day the Church now calls Good Friday, when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” people were confused about what he meant. Some even thought he was crying out to Elijah.

Truthfully, we don’t know exactly what was in Christ’s mind, and we also don’t know that he wasn’t thinking multiple things all at the same time, as most humans do in stressful and painful situations.

The clearest, simplest explanation that I lean toward is that Jesus was intentionally quoting Psalm 22, which appeared in our reading plan on Palm Sunday. Jesus knew that most of his audience would recognize the quote and understand that he was referencing the entire psalm. If I said, “To be or not to be,” many people would recognize that I was referencing Hamlet’s entire monologue and its meaning. People less familiar with Hamlet might be confused. Some might think it was from some other source, such as an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross, ending with excerpts from Psalm 30 from our reading for today.

Make these psalms our prayer, today and over Holy Saturday as we await the joy of resurrection morn.

Praying with Christ, from the Cross (Psalm 22):
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?

All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
   “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
  For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.

Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!

Weeping may stay for the night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.


Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?  — Psalm 22.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 23 (Listen – 6:31) 
Psalm 30 (Listen – 2:41)

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 24 (Listen – 2:58) Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:11)
Leviticus 25 (Listen – 7:41) Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

Thank You!
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Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” (Philippians 2.17)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It’s easy to think that when Jesus referred to laying his life down for his friends, he was referring to his imminent death on the cross. But stopping there simplifies what Jesus did — and what he said — into one single act.

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