Looking Back, Looking Forward
Leviticus 23:9-24; Luke
James W. Skillen
God's gift of the
promised land to Israel occurred in an era when slavery of various
kinds was taken for granted. People were often permanently
alienated from their land because of conquest by enemies . God's
new order for Israel would change this. In liberating Israel from
slavery in Egypt, the Lord was reestablishing justice. This meant
calling Israel to the remembrance of things past that would help
them learn always to look forward to the ultimate fulfillment of
God's just order for creation.
The year of Jubilee
represents the capstone of remembrance and hope. It is the
sabbatical principle multiplied again and again: one day of rest
every seven days, one year of rest every seven years, and then the
year of Jubilee. Jesus came "to proclaim the year of the
Lord's favor" (Luke 4:19), alluding to the Year of Jubilee
which pointed ahead to the creation's ultimate, never-ending
The people of God must
always be looking ahead, marching forward never trying to hold on
to anything in this age as if it could be pinned down permanently.
The practice of owning nothing permanently in the promised land
was supposed to deepen Israel's appreciation for God's past gifts.
At the same time, no one was to be permanently denied the
opportunity of owning and caring for their own land. In other
words, every family should have its own property on which to learn
the habit of sojourning in God's land and looking ahead to the
year of Jubilee.
"In this Year of Jubilee
everyone is to
return to his own
The only way that everyone can live
in the hope of God's final liberation is if each can be a
responsible steward of God's gifts in this age and never by
enslaved permanently to a human master. Thus, the year of Jubilee
required a restoration of past possessions so that everyone would
be free again to live in anticipation of God's future blessings
and the fulfillment of all creation.
pattern can help us understand the meaning of today's realities,
ranging from inner-city poverty to South Africa's joyous release
from minority rule, from third-world debt to bankruptcy laws. In
one way or another, people who have become enslaved to an earthly
master need liberation into responsible stewardship - freedom to
become tenants of their own property. At the same time, everyone
needs to see that release from past bondage in this age does not
bring ultimate fulfillment for life but only fuels hope for
something more. That more is the final Jubilee in
How can our age of consumerism
lead to enslavement to earthly masters?
Read about the international
Jubilee 2000 initiative, which appeals to the rich countries
of the world to forgive the debts of the poorest countries.
What is good and not so good about this proposal from the
viewpoint of Leviticus 25?
"Consecrate the fiftieth
year and proclaim liberty
throughout the land to all its
- Leviticus 25:10
Meditation 64 from A COVENANT
TO KEEP: MEDITATIONS ON THE BIBLICAL THEME OF JUSTICE, The
Center for Public Justice, 2000.
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