This chapter contains a merciful provision of God that He made for His people Israel. He ordained that every seventh year was to be what was called a Sabbatical year. In this seventh year, the ground was to lie untilled; there was to be no sowing or reaping in the fields. However, enough was provided by the Lord’s special Providence in the sixth year to last through the seventh and enable the people to sow in the eighth, and still live upon the food that they had laid up in their granaries and storehouses. A clear and unmistakable evidence of the Providential presence of God, and of the faithfulness of His promises, was hereby repeated to the children of Israel every seventh year.
After seven cycles of seven Sabbatical years – that is, 49 years in all – the great Jubilee year was to be celebrated in the fiftieth year. (Of course, God would give the people such an abundant harvest that they would have enough food to last them through this special year also.) In this happy year of Jubilee, the great trumpet was to sound throughout the land; and then every Hebrew servant was to be set free, and every forfeited estate was to be restored – a Divinely ordered arrangement which was intended to prevent the excessive accumulation of property by a select few, and the excessive impoverishment of the multitude of common people around them. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel of Christ, which is addressed especially to the poor; and which is designed to heal the broken-hearted, to give deliverance to the captives, to open the prison-doors of those who are bound, and to preach unto all people the salvation of the Lord Jesus!
The year of Jubilee always began by the special blowing of trumpets, and this took place on the evening of the Day of Atonement. Thus, by all the ceremonies of that special day, the people were first given a full display of the way of pardon. By this, both they and we are taught that the foundation and groundwork of all our blessings lies in the full atonement of Jesus – that is, His blood shed and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat, His being accepted by the Father, and His interceding on our behalf! The proclamation of our Gospel-liberty and salvation results from the sacrifice of our Redeemer. Moreover, no blessing can be ours in that eternal year of heavenly Jubilee that is yet to come, unless we have been “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6) – that is, forgiven, sanctified, and made heirs with Christ. It is only in this way that we can have any assurance that He will have us on His heart and in His eye on that great day when He cries, “The year of my redeemed is come!” (Isa. 63:4)
The people of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. But in reality, this land belonged to Jehovah Himself; and the people were made to understand that they were only His “tenants,” so to speak. Therefore, no man ever had a right to sell any portion of it. The Lord wished each tribe, and each family of a tribe, to retain its original possessions; and so a right of redemption belonged to every person who had been constrained to sell – actually, the term would better be stated as “lease” – his portion of land for a time. He had the right to redeem his property for himself again whenever he was able. If the man grew richer after his poverty, and was able to pay the value of the income that the land would bring in during the years still remaining until the Jubilee (“the overplus,” verse 27), he could immediately take possession of his property again. But even if he was not able “to restore the overplus” (verse 28), his portion of land would still be automatically returned to him at the next Jubilee. If the person had a kinsman who was able and willing to pay the price on his behalf so that he might return to his property before the Jubilee came, then that kinsman had the liberty to do so. This was what transpired in the case of Elimelech and Naomi’s property that was redeemed by Boaz in the Book of Ruth.
The picture of the kinsman-redeemer points our attention to our Lord Jesus! Our Savior needed to be our “kinsman” in order to possess the right to offer the price of our redemption. Hence, He took our very nature and became “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh” (Eph. 5:30). How glorious our prospect, and how sure our redemption, when our Redeemer took on human flesh and blood and became one of us – all out of love for us! By our sins, we forfeited all right to liberty; but what a mercy that Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer, has made us free indeed!
Lord, as we read of the year of Jubilee that the Israelites enjoyed, cause us to see the beautiful picture of that eternal Jubilee in Jesus, wherewith He makes His people free. O Kinsman-Redeemer! You have caused Your Gospel-trumpet to be sounded; may we never may lose sight of what we once were by nature, and what we now are by grace. Indeed, we were once slaves to sin and Satan, serving our own lusts and pleasures; we were even in love with our chains, and averse to freedom. But let eternal praises be given to Your dear name, for You proclaimed liberty to us! Keep us from being entangled again in the old yoke of bondage. Precious Redeemer, we praise the glory of Your grace, wherein You have made us “accepted in the beloved!” Amen.
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