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Daily Devotions – The Sabbatical & Jubilee

Leviticus 25:1-22 (ESV)

The Sabbath Year

25 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land[a] shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves[b] and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

The Year of Jubilee

8 “You shall count seven weeks[c] of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 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.[d]

13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. 14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God.

18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

When Jesus spoke of “the year of the Lord’s favor,” he was referring to the year of the “jubilee.” This teaching comes from Leviticus 25, and is also covered in Deuteronomy 15. The idea is that because the land is God’s, and the people belong to God, God doesn’t want any of his people to be permanently poor or enslaved. The Sabbath year was every seven years, and the jubilee was to be observed after every seven Sabbath years – that is, every 50 years. On Sabbath years, all debts were forgiven, and all slaves were freed. The people and the land also had a year of rest, living off of their savings, and rededicating themselves to God. In addition, on Jubilee years, all the land returned to the original owners. In this way, there would never been a hoarding of wealth. However, the Israelites never followed either command. That’s why God kept sending prophets who scolded the people for their injustice. Jesus intentionally began his public ministry in a jubilee year, as a way to show that God was doing something dramatic, in order to bring about the Kingdom of God, which was like a new jubilee