Advent Reader -- Day 5
At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord's time for canceling debt has been proclaimed. (Deuteronomy 15:1-2) ----------
Count off seven sabbath years -- seven times seven years -- so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumped throughout your land. 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. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you. (Leviticus 25:8-12)
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)
"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 favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:18-21)
Throughout the Old Testament, God's people were waiting. Every struggle, every hardship could be endured, because they believed that one day a Messiah was coming; and in the day of his coming, there would be freedom.
Certainly, the Israelites did not understand exactly what this meant. They hoped for freedom from foreign oppression. But there is another idea that was God's ignored intention all along -- freedom from debt.
The bondage we feel when we are in financial debt is great and can lead to all kinds of trouble. God knew that and had arranged a plan to save his people. No one was to remain indebted for a lifetime. Every 50th year, a trumpet would sound, and people would receive back their property, because it was all really God's land anyway.
But there is more to the Jubilee that Jesus declared. An act of sin incurred a debt. It required a sacrifice; payback involved loss of life. The wages of sin are death.
The Jews of Jesus' time knew this well; the temple floor ran red with the blood of offerings. The practice of making atonement was part of their culture. But when Jesus came and publicly declared the year of the Lord's favor, it is doubtful they had understood it all.
Jesus declared a Jubilee from sin, the cancellation of sin's debts, the olley-olley-oxen free, the cry of God calling all the slaves, all the prodigals, all the losers home to start over again on level ground.
What a celebration we will have when we realize what this really means!
This Christmas, before we go out and spend all of our money, perhaps we should take a few minutes to thank the One who was born to pay all our debts.
Generous and gracious heavenly Father, I confess that you have given me more than I could ever need. And yet, the more you give me, the more I want to keep. The more you open your hands, the more I close mine. Help me to see that the year of Jubilee is about far more than freedom from financial debt. Help me to remember that I have been delivered from the crushing debt of sin. Thank you for sending your Son into the world to declare the ultimate time of Jubilee, writing off my debts and absorbing the cost through his death on the cross. Help me to realize that your favor does rest on me -- not because of anything I have done but because of what was done on my behalf. Teach me how to live as a free person. In Jesus' name. Amen.