Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Question of the Day

I've been enjoying the marvelous praise song "Days of Elijah", which includes the words:

Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds!
Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call
Lift your voice! It's the year of Jubilee!
And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!

This song, and some posts by Dan Trabue got me thinking:

How can and should the Church live out the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25?

Image via OneYearBibleBlog.


Dan Trabue said...

Great question (and I don't say that just because you referenced me...) and one we

ought to grapple with, seems to me. Clearly, Jubilee themes are prominent in the

Bible. Just as clearly, ancient Israel's economic/governmental system is not the

same as our economic/governmental system.

So, what IS the modern equivelant of leaving a part of your field available for the

needy? What is the modern equivelant of returning land to its original owners and

freeing debt slaves?

For my part, I think that the Jubilee/Sabbath laws were ingenious. It wasn't merely

a "giveaway" but required work. It emphasized that land is not ours to own outright but God's for us to manage. It had some of the benefits of a free market system but limits some of the downfalls of it.

I think the benefit of the system is that it allows for incentives but also realizes the need for reasonable limitations.

But how do we copy that, individually or societally?

John said...

Without doing any substantive exegesis, but merely reading over the passage, I would say that the Year of Jubilee has two themes: Sabbath and second chances.

It is a time of rest. We could practice the Jubilee by celebrating the abundance of God and not forever pursuing more stuff. Fasting is a devotional activity, but it's clear from the OT that so is feasting. We should feast with the abundance that God has given us, but within the limits of Sabbath-taking.

It is also a time of giving people second chances. Every 50 years, people get to start their lives over again. We can live out this on a daily basis by always forgiving, always trying to let people wash away their mistakes and start over in life. Everyone is redeemable and no one is disposable, and our daily choices should reflect this principle.

The use of "Year of Jubilee" in the song is not really correct. The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus isn't so much about what God will give us, but how we, in responsive, give to each other.

Dan Trabue said...

Very nice, John. Yes, I think you're right.

You will notice also, in the text, that the failure to adhere to Jubilee/Sabbath themes is a different sort of sin than most described in Leviticus. If a child is disrespectful, then that child should be killed. If a man causes a neighbor's ox to die, that man must replace the ox. These are individual sins with individual consequences.

BUT, with the Jubilee laws, the direction is to whole nations and consequences are national consequences. God says in Lev 26 (following the Jubilee commands): if you (ie, Israel the state, not the individuals) reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I, in turn, will give you your deserts. I will punish you (Israel, the state) with terrible woes--with wasting and fever to dim the eyes and sap the life. You will sow your seed in vain, for your enemies will consume the crop. I will turn against you, till you are beaten down before your enemies and lorded over by your foes.

Or at least that's how it looks to me from where I stand.

John said...

Yes, that appears to be so, Dan. The responsibility to live out the Year of Jubilee is a collective one. And since we, the Church, have been blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission of God, then we have no excuse to not bring about the Jubilee.

Allen said...

Well, we could celebrate it as did the ancient Israelites--which is to say, ignore it. To my recollection, we have no record of them actually celebrating Jubilee. It makes me think that, sadly, within 50 years of taking the Promised Land, they'd already let the Law slide.

Better song on the Jubilee Year is Michael Card's "Jubilee" on his album, "The Beginning."

Dan Trabue said...

we could celebrate it as did the ancient Israelites--which is to say, ignore it.

Well, that IS how we celebrate it.

Didn't work out so well for ancient peoples, either.

truevyne said...

Let's see. All Christian denominations- churches and members liquidate their assets and share them in common.

Dan Trabue said...

We haven't even graduated from OT Jubilee/Sabbath practices yet. I don't think we're ready for Early Church practices...

Dan Trabue said...

I don't know if anyone is still looking at this thread but regarding this:

To my recollection, we have no record of them actually celebrating Jubilee.

We DO have some hints to it. In the Ruth story, for instance. Where Ruth as a poor widow and a foreigner to boot was allowed to harvest in Boaz' field. In fact, were it not for Boaz (at least) implementing the Israeli Jubilee Code, Ruth may well have died of starvation and we all know who Jesus' great-great (etc) grandmother was, right?

Might the Living Son of God never made it into this realm if Boaz had not adhered to the Jubilee/Sabbath laws?

Something to think about.