Tuesday, July 21, 2009

God Calls People to Jubilee

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending July 26, 2009

Purpose: To acknowledge that all we have, all we make, and all we accumulate is really God's – and live accordingly

Scripture Text: Leviticus 25:8-21, 23-24(NRSV)

Leviticus 25:8-21, 23-24
(8) You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. (9)Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. (10)And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. (11)That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the after growth, or harvest the unpruned vines. (12)For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.

(13) In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. (14)When you make a sale to your neighbour or buy from your neighbour, you shall not cheat one another. (15)When you buy from your neighbour, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop-years. (16)If the years are more, you shall increase the price, and if the years are fewer, you shall diminish the price; for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you. (17)You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

(18) You shall observe my statutes and faithfully keep my ordinances, so that you may live on the land securely. (19)The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live on it securely. (20)Should you ask, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ (21)I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years. (23)The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.(24)Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

The year of jubilee was an amazing concept initiated by God, to enhance the life of every member of the nation of Israel. The Lord had initiated the Sabbath, from the beginning, now as the Children of Israel were about to enter a new stage in their life, and were progressing to a land God had given them, He offered even more standards and rules that would help them become a greater nation than the world had ever seen.

The all wise God was trying to teach a nation about conservation, giving, forgiveness, sharing, and stewardship, and many of the other qualities we attribute to the character of God. The concept was fairly simple and logical. First they were to rest the soil every seventh year, by letting it lay fallow, they should not plant or harvest, but rather they should use the time to rebuild their homes and furnishings. The crops that came up by their own seed, or what we would call volunteer crops, were to be harvested by the poor and animals. God promised a three fold crop in the sixth year of each cycle. This promise would also require faith in God's ability to provide as He promised. God further requested that after seven of these Sabbath years they should celebrate an additional year of the Jubilee, so every fifty years or one half a century, the Jubilee would be celebrated.

When the Children of Israel entered into Canaan, the land was divided by lots between all of the tribes of Israel. Each member of a tribe was given an area where they could farm. Since the land was considered to be Gods, they could not pass title for the land, but in fact were only the caretakers of what God had given them. During the Jubilee year everyone was to return to the land they had received, regardless of who was tilling it now, or who had leased it from them, the rights all reverted back to the original owners. In addition, all debts were to be forgiven, and everyone was given a new chance, in effect they were able to redeem themselves every fifty years, regardless of how wasteful or unfaithful they had been.

You can imagine how this would effect the loaning of money in the latter years of the fifty year cycle. It also affected the price one would pay to lease ground, knowing it would revert back to its original owner in the fiftieth year. As we look back on the Sabbath years and resting the soil, it makes a lot of sense. Before commercial fertilizer was so readily available farmers would practice crop rotation and cyclical farming and rest a portion of their ground each year. In more recent times the federal government became involved and paid the farmers not to plant a field, sort of a mandatory Sabbath.

If the nation of Israel had kept the seven year Sabbath and the Jubilee every fifty years, they would prosper, and the poor and enslaved would receive a new start at least every fifty years. They would be a benevolent country, and their crops would produce more in six years than others could produce in seven. Imagine the witness to the rest of the nations.

The nation of Israel practiced this policy up until the time of the exile into Babylon, although it is not clear if it was followed completely. The statues did not apply to homes within the city walls; it applied only to the land that was cultivated.

God was attempting to teach the importance of taking care of what God had given them. The land was the Lords, they were the caretakers. They would also be responsible for those that had less than they, or had lost what they had through no fault of their own or even because of their own foolishness. The lesson was one of obedience to God, and respect for each other and for the land that the Lord had given them.

As you can imagine the year of the Jubilee was well liked by the poor and enslaved, while the rich were less favorable. It says a lot about what God considers justice. We should remember some of the very first words Jesus spoke when He began his ministry in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free".

God expects His Church to continue the work he started, and carry-on protecting this earth, and it’s poor. Why do you think God is so interested in social justice? What does being a good steward of the possessions God has entrusted to us, mean?

How does this lesson apply to the teachings of Wesley? What did he mean when he said “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can?

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