Jubilee should get us excited. When we read that God has commanded freedom for the oppressed and enslaved, what else could we desire? The only reason that this might cause our hearts to wallow in sadness would be that we are the people getting rich off of enslaving others. For someone who is making their profit off of the enslavement and oppression of their fellow humanity, this kind of law will be quite a bit uncomfortable. Who doesn’t want to be set free? Could you imagine the loss that the credit card companies would have? Could you imagine how much the banks would lose if they had to cancel debts (or loans) on all of the houses they’ve sold? How much college debt have you racked up that might finally go away?
The year of Jubilee was a time of incredible celebration. It stems back to the idea that when in Egypt, you were enslaved. Remember the joy that you had when you were enslaved in Egypt and the Lord brought you out. Remember how God caused for your heart to skip. Don’t forget how you went out in such splendor that even some of the Egyptians joined you. Even pagans could not deny the favor and power of your God upon you. Remember how you were lead like a bride through the wilderness. Teach your children and your children’s children all of these things, and write it on your doorposts so that you also won’t forget. These things are awesome, and continue to be marveled at throughout all generations.
Lets face it, though. The year of Jubilee is not for you. It isn’t for me. How long is fifty years? Will I live long enough to find freedom from the slavery that I cause for myself? If my house loan isn’t paid off, and I pass away, who is going to pay for it? What if in my lifetime the economy goes south, and I end up losing my family farm? What if things just don’t go well, and because of circumstances I end up having to enslave myself to someone in order to have something to eat and feed my family? Will I truly have the opportunity of saying, “Well, in fifty years I won’t have to deal with this anymore”?
Jubilee was marked off by the Sabbath years, and not by when you go into debt. This is true. However, fifty years is a long time for a human being. Most likely, it won’t be me that finds this freedom. It will be my children. If something happens where I can’t pay the bills, and therefore I have to either go into debt, enslave myself to someone, or flat out lose my inherited land, that is going to last even unto the time of my children. How difficult would it be to make the decision to become a slave, if you know that your children will never taste freedom?
Because of the mistakes that I’ve made, my kids will suffer. They will have the vexation of not inheriting the family land. My debt will cause their torment. It will be my fault that they can’t make it in life, because I have set them up for failure – destined them to the grave. This is why God commands every fiftieth year that debts be canceled. It is not so that I don’t have to deal with consequences. It is so that my children don’t have to deal with my consequences. If my children make mistakes of their own, then they will deal with their own consequences. But, for them to deal with the bad decisions that I have made is unfair. God says in another place that He will not hold the child accountable for their father’s sin, nor the father accountable for the child’s sin.
What if God wanted to practice the Jubilee today? What would that look like? What would that mean for we who are Christians to practice the year of Jubilee?
We discussed in Leviticus 20 what it might mean to “follow in the sins of the forefathers” today. What if God would honor this generation by not holding them accountable? What if the slate were wiped clean, and we had the opportunity to make it right? What would you do? Would you take that opportunity?
If you go back fifty years, it puts you in the midst of the Jesus Movement in the 70’s. But this is Jubilee. We don’t go back to the way it was fifty years ago. We get our inherited land back. We get to go all the way back to the way it was at the first. Our inheritance stems from Acts, which actually stems from Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The book of Acts is like a massive Jubilee, where God has restored the ancient roots of the faith unto His people. He has taken us back to what it means to be His sons and daughters (see Luke 3:38 where Adam is called ‘the son of God’ and Exodus 4:22 where Israel it called ‘God’s firstborn son’).
This is why adoption language is so prevalent in the New Testament. We have been given our inheritance back. We are no longer in exile. Exile is not what happens when you disobey God. Exile is the result of walking away from God. We find the pattern in Scripture. First, Israel is under bondage in Egypt. Second, Israel is delivered from Egypt. Third, Israel forsakes the Lord her God, and begins to become Egypt (the nation of oppression). Fourth, Israel becomes oppressed or exiled. This is the pattern.
We find this to be true in our own time. Look through the annuls of church history. All the way up to now, we have seen that this is the pattern, and we’re coming up to the place of exile. What happened at the book of Acts to break the cycle was that they had a Jubilee, a time when they got back to the ancient roots, the first intention of God. The people began to see God’s original plan, both from the Garden and from the birthing of the nation of Israel out of Egypt. This resulted in the people living out the commands given at the first, exactly as they were intended to be lived out.
Somehow, we read of Paul saying to us that we are no longer under law, but under grace. And yet, at least twice we read of Paul taking a Nazarite vow. We find Paul going to the Temple to sacrifice, which wouldn’t have been the first time that he did this (this was the second time that he took the Nazarite vow, and he would have had to sacrifice in order to finish the vow the first time). We read of him telling the Corinthians that he was going to go to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Peter had a vision of a napkin with clean and unclean animals upon it, and God tells him to rise, kill, and eat. Peter’s response is that he has kept kosher, and it would appear that even after this vision Peter continues to keep kosher (see Galatians 2:11-14 for example).
It would appear that the first disciples had talmudim – disciples. But, they didn’t have “disciples” like we think of disciples. Disciples in the Hebraic mind entails that you take these people in, you let them eat with you, you let them sleep in the same home (or room) as you. You live every moment of you life with these disciples. You pay for everything, and they live off of you. They are following you everywhere you go, because the whole point of being a disciple is to examine your life to understand what it means to be a rabbi, or to be a child of God, or to be a Christ follower (however you want to phrase that). In Acts 19, when riot breaks out in Ephesus, we read of these “traveling companions” of Paul from Macedonia. They aren’t merely “traveling companions”. These are Paul’s disciples, his talmudim.
The origination of the “church” in Acts 2, which really isn’t the origination (ecclesia simply means “assembly” and translates the Hebrew word “kahal” – see Acts 6:38 for a reference to the “church” at Mount Sinai with Moses), tapped back into the ancient roots of the faith. This is what I believe we’re being called to in this generation. Sadly, the enemy tries to pervert this, and so we find false movements. Things like the Hebrew Roots movement has broken forth, and from this deception comes the idea that we’re just not supposed to go toward that direction at all. But this is a mistake. Just because someone misuses or abuses God’s original intention does not mean that it isn’t God’s intention. We are still called back to the book of Leviticus. We’re still beckoned to go back to those ancient roots and figure out what it means to be children of God.
Isaiah 37:31 speaks about roots that go downward so that fruit might bear upward. Those roots have to go down deep if the fruit is to bear upward. We might be able to bear fruit by simply reading the New Testament, but that will be a tremendous stumbling block to us. The richness of the Old Testament is the very root and sap from which we draw. To neglect it is to neglect the roots themselves. So, you tell me: Are you following Christ because you want to make it to heaven, or are you following Christ because you are a lover of God?
If it is the latter, then you must consider the ancient roots from which we came. Yes, it is difficult. Yes, many times there are these genealogies and laws that don’t seem to make any sense to how they have anything to do with our lives. Yes, it takes a lot of digging and studying before we can truly come to the knowledge of the significance of the Old Testament. Yes, it often monotonous and tiring. Yes, it is something that will make you stand out like a sore thumb among your peers. Yes, people will tell you that you don’t have to be dedicated to that “law stuff”, and they will make fun of you for it – possibly even calling you a heretic or false teacher. Yes, we are under the new covenant and not under the old covenant, and so the rules and regulations that we read need to be interpreted from the new covenant perspective (a task that takes tremendous effort in understanding both the old and the new before we can even begin to do so). So, yes, in all ways it seems like this is just a bad idea.
However, it is worth it. The eternal radiance of glory emanates from every syllable of the Old Testament. I often find myself skipping books of the Old Testament when I come to them and it isn’t shining through. Often, I find myself in 1 Chronicles and before long I’m putting down Chronicles to take up Ezra (because that comes next in the Bible). Often I get to Job and I get about half way through before I start debating whether I truly want to read this whole thing or not. Often I find myself in Exodus 25-40, and it is just painful to try to read and comprehend. When these moments come, I simply skip it. I’ll come back to it later.
What is more important is that you are immersed in both the Old and the New. The book of Numbers is extremely difficult for me to get into. I don’t enjoy it much. Yet, just like Leviticus, when I begin to see the beauty being shed in these books, I begin to desire to read them more. When I begin to see the allusions, quotes, or connections that the New Testament authors make to some of these books, and I begin to understand more of what they’re saying (and not just what they’re quoting), I begin to desire to saturate in these Old Testament books. Something changes within me.
At the first, we read these books of the Bible and hate them. I know. Most people don’t actually like to read the book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy or Numbers or the last part of Exodus (etcetera). It takes a lot of time and attention to the details before it begins to come together, but when it begins to come together, suddenly our lives are changed. Suddenly the way that we live is less “Christian” and more “Hebrew”. Suddenly we are no longer talking to the other believers in the same manner. Suddenly we’re interacting with people on a much deeper level. Suddenly our worship and adoration of God is intensified. You just look back one day, and you notice how much you’ve grown and changed from studying this stuff.
I believe that God desires to restore the ancient roots to us if we’re willing to listen to His voice. Yet, do learn wisdom. Learn from those who have heard the voice and then taken up the task in their own strength and power. The people who desire to get back to the Hebrew roots, and so they begin to eat kosher, they begin to wear yarmulkes, and they begin to wear their prayer shawls, they aren’t actually getting back to the Hebrew roots. For example (to give one of many), the yarmulke wasn’t even around during the time of the New Testament. Modern Judaism invented it, but we think that it goes back to what Paul said about head coverings (1 Corinthians 11). Paul was talking about the prayer shawl being put over your head while praying or prophesying, not the yarmulke.
Our task is enormous. There are a few who have taken up this task and restored much, but it needs to go further. I would recommend finding books or audio of David Baron, Adolf Safir, Arthur Katz, or even one of my new favorites (and very dear friend) Lars Widerburg. I know that there are more resources, but even the Messianic Judaism movement (which was probably born out of Jews for Jesus) falls extremely short. It isn’t about Judaism; it is about adoption unto the ancient heritage. To a certain extent, I could care less about the modern Jewish practices. To another extent, much of the modern Jewish practices are a later tradition of an early interpretation. Some of what the rabbis teach will truly get you back to the ancient roots, while other things will infect you with humanism if you aren’t guarded. My personal favorite rabbi would be Mordechai Kraft.
As a people, we are called in this generation to restore the ancient boundaries, and to have respect for those ancient boundaries. The altar has been torn down, because we’ve desired our Gentile practices and mindsets over God’s heart and opinion. Once again, if I can be of any service to helping you restore these ancient roots, please get a hold of every means that you can to be in contact with me. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts, find me on Facebook and ask me questions, email me, convince me to start shooting youtube videos (I probably won’t because of my current living circumstances), and whatever else you need to do in order to be edified. Sermon Index has hundreds of sermons by Art Katz, and I recommend them all. Lars Widerburg has two Facebook groups where you can download his books for free (Apostolicity and One Final Sifting). Adolf Safir and David Baron are old enough that many of their writings are free online – open to public domain. If you find other sources, please share them.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.