A Year of Liberty
by Sam Nadler
And ye shall hallow the
fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the
inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you;
and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye
shall return every man unto his family.
~ Leviticus 25:10 (ASV) ~
The command to
proclaim liberty, first found in
Leviticus 25:10 for the year of Jubilee, is inscribed on the liberty bell in
Philadelphia. One after another, dictatorial regimes from Tunisia to Egypt
are falling, crushed by this same desire to proclaim liberty. However, in
some “liberated” countries, we do not always see this resulting in blessing.
In fact, liberty without godliness seems to produce chaos, insecurity, and
terror. This seeming paradox should bring us back to search the Scriptures
as we consider the question, what is true freedom?
The name Jubilee (in Hebrew yovel which means the sound of the ram’s
horn) became identified by the term d’ror or “release” (Leviticus
27:18; Joshua 6:4). Jubilee was to be celebrated every 50th year following
the 7th sabbatical cycle of years. In Greek, the same word for liberty is
found in Isaiah 61:1, and in Luke 4:18. Interestingly, Yeshua comments on
Isaiah’s command to proclaim liberty is
itself a commentary on the Leviticus portion. In each recurrence to
proclaim liberty we see a development as
to how the Jubilee is applied. What this shows us is that the purpose of
release is so we can return to God - from servitude, from separation of
exile, and from slavery to sin. Let’s take a look at this development.
Consecration of the Year
|You are also to count off seven sabbaths
of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the
time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You
shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh
month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your
land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a
release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee
for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of
you shall return to his family.
Leviticus 25:8-10 ~
Prior to the year of Jubilee, the land was to be given rest
and debts were to be remitted every 7 years for 49 years (Exodus 23:11;
Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1; 31). Only after the seven cycles could
you have the 50th year of true freedom and proclaim liberty. But if the
owner has not been giving the land its sabbath and forgiving debt, a Jubilee
to free all servants would seem over the top - fifty years was probably far
longer than his own lifespan! To use liberty for disobedient living would
only reinforce the problem.
Jubilee was declared on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:9).
The liberty of Jubilee is the fruit of reconciliation which came on that
day. Without realizing what we have been set free from, it may be hard to
set free others from their debts. It gives freedom for those who were not
free, but it requires sacrifice and limitation for those that are in charge.
Thus, Jubilee has its foundation in the reconciliation of the Day of
Atonement. Yom Kippur atonement restored the nation to its service for God,
so His forgiveness is the foundation of our freedom. Through his
forgiveness, everyone is liberated to serve Him alone.
Consecration of the year precedes liberty in the year (Leviticus 25:10a).
Liberty without consecration is desecration. Not only would the land
continue to have a sabbath as during the sabbatical years but now there is
an added dimension of each of you shall return to
his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.
There would be rest for the land and release of all acquired properties, and
Consideration for the Afflicted
When Jerusalem was besieged by Babylon, they attempted to appease God by
declaring a sabbatical year of Jubilee, at least partially by releasing all
their Jewish servants (Jeremiah 34:8-22). However, they soon broke their
agreement and Jubilee was never truly observed. From a purely economic
perspective we can understand why: It basically destroyed the economy that
they had developed for the past years. The wealthy who had accumulated land
would have to give it all back; those who had accumulated many servants
would lose them all. For disobeying God, the Babylonian captivity followed,
as was prophesied: Then the land will enjoy its
Sabbaths, all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’
land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths (Leviticus
26:34; Jeremiah 25:11; 1 Chronicles 36:21).
The fulfillment of forgiveness is found in restoration:
It shall be a jubilee for you (Leviticus
25:10b). By declaring this, we see that there was restoration to the place
of promise. For the land is Mine - and
the land is still His (Leviticus 25:23)! Thus, every fifty years, we were to
hit the reset button. Also the people belong to Him:
For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt
(Leviticus 25:42). The land mattered only to point us to the Lord.
The Spirit of the Lord God
is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the
afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim
liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the
favorable year of the Lord.
~ Isaiah 61:1 ~
Consideration for the afflicted is the character of Jubilee
liberty. Isaiah is picturing the Jubilee year and the release of captives
and the return, not only within the land, but from another land -Babylon.
The hope of the Messiah is found throughout, as Rabbi David Kimchi notes,
“They are the words of the Messiah, who should say, ‘because the Lord has
anointed me’,” and as the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm, “the heavens and the
earth will listen to His Messiah” (DSS 4Q521). The redemptive return is
their coming back to the Land of Judah with their families, but the
preceding chapter reveals that the year of the favor of the Lord is
something far more glorious. In Him is not only fulfillment of the Shabbat
in being our rest but also in Him is found yom shekulo shabbat, “the
day when all is Shabbat.” He is the first and last, in Him is eternal life
Proclamation of Messiah
This Isaiah portion is explicitly fulfilled by Yeshua in Luke 4:16-18. When
He said, Today this Scripture portion is fulfilled
in your hearing (Luke 4:21), He was publicly declaring Himself as
the Messiah as God’s favor. Yet he stopped reading in mid-sentence! He said
the year of the Lord’s favor, but not
the day of vengeance of our God! This
belongs to His second coming and judgment. Messiah came the first time as
the Lamb of God; He will return as the Lion of Judah. Jubilee is for
The promise is that the Messiah will set the captives free. But captives of
what? Often we think of freedom in political, health or economic terms:
slaves freed from an evil master, or a person in bondage to poverty. The
Bible speaks of a deeper freedom and a greater liberty from the mastery of
sin. Sin not only defiles the soul, but also perverts our liberty into a
license that results in an even worse bondage. Biblical liberty sets one
free to fulfill the very purpose of his creation, which is to enjoy a
relationship with God and fulfill His will. As a train is only fulfilled and
free while on its tracks, so we are only fulfilled and free when we are “on
track” in His will, which is revealed in His word. We may have been derailed
by sin, but the enjoyment of freedom is in the application of his word. In
freedom, stay on track, not living by the world’s values, but in Messiah’s
victory and grace. The favor of His forgiveness is our freedom.
Sam Nadler is director of Word of Messiah Ministries in Charlotte, N.C. This
article is reprinted
from Word of Messiah's Shmooze Letter of August 2011 with permission.
Many other fine articles and other
be found at Word of Messiah's website,
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