Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 11 2019 - Leviticus 25:1-24 – Land Sabbath and Jubilee

Today's reading reminds us that the weekly Sabbath was only a part of the Sabbath observance given to Israel. In addition there was a one-year-in-seven land Sabbath and one-in-50-years year of Jubilee – it is from this legislation that we derive the term "Jubilee".

The Sabbath laws were God's gracious provision for his people, not only to provide them with rest but to remind them that they were a redeemed people and to focus their minds on the day when their redemption would be complete and there would be blessing without labour and without pain.

The weekly Sabbath was a perpetual reminder of how God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to live before him as a free people. Yet the six days of labour each week reminded them that they must continue to eat their bread through the sweat of their brow – they still lived in a fallen world. After the six days of labour there was the seventh of Sabbath rest, reminding God's people that the great day of their final redemption was coming. Celebrating Sabbath anticipated the joy of that coming day.

The seventh year land Sabbath and the year of jubilee extended that principle. For one whole year in seven Israel was to eat the fruit of the land without sweat or labour and in so doing anticipate, ceremonially at least, the complete removal of curse and the perfection of redemption in the renewal of creation. The theme of paradise restored is clearly present in the description of Leviticus 25: there is to be no arduous labour (vv. 4, 5, 11); servants, strangers and cattle all enter into rest (vv. 6, 7); people are to enjoy the fruits of the land as the gift of God (vv. 7, 12, 19); there is to be release from bondage (v. 13 etc.); God's people are to dwell with him in the land (v. 23).

Jesus began his public ministry by reading from Isaiah 61:1-2 in his home synagogue in Nazareth:

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,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

He then declared, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Isaiah 61 refers back to the instructions concerning the year of Jubilee that we have read in Leviticus 25. Jesus is saying that with his coming the kingdom of God has arrived, "The year of Jubilee has come!"

By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has freed those who were made captive by sin and death. He calls those who are burdened and heavy laden to enter into his rest now but also to anticipate that fulness of Sabbath rest that will be ours when he returns. In that day, all creation will enter into the rest which God has promised in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We no longer struggle on through our week looking forward to the Sabbath. We begin our week with the Lord's Day in which we celebrate the triumph of our Saviour. We live our week in the light of his triumph, though still looking forward to the fulness of redemption which will be ours at his coming.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminders you gave your people of old that they were a redeemed people. Thank you that you taught them to look forward to the day when one, anointed by your Spirit, would free them from all oppression. Thank you that Jesus the Messiah has come and has redeemed us through his shed blood and triumphant resurrection. We long for that day when "creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." As we look for that day, help us to point others to our glorious redeemer.

Peter Misselbrook