Jubilee and Kinsman-redeemer: Leviticus 25

Army’s loudest voice calls Royal SaluteToday’s reading: Leviticus 24-25.

Fresh start. Do over. Clean slate. Start from scratch. Who doesn’t love a chance to begin again, to wipe away the mistakes, to get another chance? Once we grow up those opportunities become more rare. But what if the second chance was built into the way we do things? That would be a reason to celebrate. And if there was one person responsible for making that second chance possible, how we would thank him!

There’s a story that when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, one of the early bulbs took 24 hours to make. A young assistant was given the task of carrying the bulb, only to drop and shatter it. Twenty-fours hours later, another bulb was ready. Demonstrating the true spirit of the second chance, Edison gave the bulb to the same assistant.

Count off seven sabbaths of years–seven times seven years–so that the seven sabbaths of 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 trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you… Leviticus 25:8-10

Jubilee. It’s one of those onomatopoeia words that’s supposed to sound like its meaning. In this case it’s a joyful blast on a ram’s horn, an announcement of celebration, an invitation to rejoice. God ordained that every 50 years the whole nation got a second chance, and that was reason to celebrate. Nothing was more important to the Israelites than their land (because produce and wealth depended on it), and every Jubilee the land reverted to the families who originally owned it – even if they had lost it through economic hardship. Those who had been forced into slavery by hardship would be freed at the Jubilee. Michael Card wrote a great song about it:

The Lord provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so his chosen ones could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness, he longed to see their liberty
And his yearning was embodied in the year of jubilee

The Bible is silent about how well the Israelites kept this command. The silence suggests it wasn’t kept long or well. But God planted the seed and it eventually bore great fruit.

Now, what if you needed to be rescued in the fifty years between the Jubilees? Well, tucked right next to the instructions about the Jubilee, you’ll find the answer, and it’s a person:

If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. Leviticus 25:25

The near relative, or kinsman-redeemer, rescued his brother by buying back what his brother had lost. Ruth and Naomi were rescued by their kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Job cried out in faith, despite his suffering, “I know that my kinsman-redeemer lives.” Isaiah identified him: “As for our kinsman-redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 47:4). Hebrews 2:11 reminds us that Jesus is our brother, and Revelation 5:9 tells how our brother has rescued us:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation…

Jesus, our redeemer, fulfills the long-awaited promise of the Jubilee. He, who rescues us from sin, is both our kinsman-redeemer and our joyful year of liberty. He is the Lord of the second chance and the fresh start.

Here’s a great acoustic performance of Jubilee by Michael Card:

Image by Defence Images on Flickr. CC by-nc 2.0.