Lev_25:9-11. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound, on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you.
IN order that our Lord’s descent from Judah and from David should be clear and acknowledged, it was necessary that the various tribes and families should be kept distinct. With this view many ordinances were appointed for the continuing of every man’s inheritance in his own family [Note: A difficulty on this subject having occurred, God himself decided it, and grounded a new law on that decision. See Num_36:6-7.]. This seems to have been the primary intent of that ordinance which is mentioned in the text. A variety of circumstances in a length of time might produce alienations of property; and if this had been suffered to continue, a confusion of the families and tribes would have at last ensued. To prevent this therefore, God commanded that on every fiftieth year every inheritance should revert to its original possessor. This season was called the Jubilee; which, while it answered many other important purposes, served in a very eminent manner to typify the Gospel.
We may Observe a very strict agreement between the jubilee and the Gospel:
In the time and manner of their proclamation—
The jubilee was proclaimed with the sound of trumpets—
[The tendency of great reverses of fortune is, in many instances at least, to produce a torpor of mind, and a stupid indifference to the things we once highly valued. Hence it was but too probable, that they, who had alienated their inheritance and reduced themselves to the lowest ebb of misery, might sink into such a state of ignorance or indolence, as to let the period appointed for their restoration pass unnoticed. To prevent this, God commanded the trumpets to be sounded throughout all the land; that so the attention of all being awakened, and their spirits exhilarated, every individual might be stirred up to claim the privileges to which he was entitled.]
The precise time on which this sacred year commenced, was “the day of atonement”—
[The day of atonement was the most solemn season in the whole year: the people were required to afflict their souls for sin; and peculiar sacrifices were to be offered for the iniquities of the whole nation. It should seem at first sight that this was an unfit season for the proclamation of such joyful tidings; but it was indeed the fittest season in the whole year: for, when could masters and creditors be so properly called upon to exercise mercy, as when they themselves had been obtaining mercy at the hands of a reconciled God? Or when could debtors and slaves so reasonably be expected to receive their liberties with gratitude, and improve them with care, as when they had been bewailing the sins, by which, in all probability, they had been deprived of them?]
The Gospel also is to be publicly proclaimed in every place—
[One would have imagined that it were quite sufficient for God once to make known the way in which he would pardon sinners, and that from that time every sinner would of his own accord exert himself to obtain the proffered mercy. But experience proves that our bereavement of heaven is not felt as any evil; our bondage to sin is not at all lamented; and, if no means were used to awaken men’s attention to their misery, and to stir them up to embrace the blessings of salvation, the greater part of mankind would rest satisfied with their state, till the opportunity for improving it was irrevocably lost. God therefore sends forth his servants to “preach the Gospel to every creature,” and commands them to “lift up their voice as a trumpet.”]
This too has its origin in the great atonement—
[If, as some contend, the year of our Lord’s death was the year of Jubilee, the coincidence was indeed very singular and important. But, however this might be, certain it is, that, “without shedding of blood, there could be no remission;” nor, till our Lord had expiated the sins of the whole world, could the Gospel be universally proclaimed. But no sooner was his sacrifice offered, than God was reconciled to his guilty creatures; and from that time must the commission given to his Apostles be dated. A very few days had elapsed, when they sounded the Gospel trumpet in the ears of that very people who had crucified the Lord of glory; and had the happiness to find thousands at a time “brought from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Thus clearly was the connexion marked between the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the deliverance of sinners that was purchased by it.]
But the agreement between the two is yet more manifest,
In the blessings conveyed by them—
The privileges imparted by the jubilee were many and of great value—
[There was, in the first place, an universal exemption from every kind of agricultural labour. None were either to reap the produce of the last year, or to sow their land with a view to a future crop; but all were to gather from day to day what had grown spontaneously; and every person had an equal right to all the fruits of the earth [Note: –7, 11.]. A better mode of improving their time was provided for them: public instruction was to be given to all, men, women, and children: in order that none, however their education had been neglected, might remain ignorant of God, and his law [Note: Deu_31:10-13.]. Now also debts, in whatever way they had been contracted, and to whatever amount, were to be freely remitted [Note: Deu_15:1-2.]. But, besides these privileges which were common to other sabbatical years, there were others peculiar to the year of jubilee. If any persons had, by their own voluntary act, or by the inexorable severity of some creditor, been sold, they were to receive their liberty, and to be restored to their families, as soon as ever the appointed trumpets should sound [Note: 9–11.]. Yea, if they had formerly possessed an inheritance in the land, they were to be instantly reinstated in the possession of it [Note: 0, 28.]: so that in a moment they reverted to their former condition, with all the advantage of their dear-bought experience.]
Analogous to these are the blessings imparted by the Gospel—
[Varying their order, we shall first mention the forgiveness of sins. Though the debt we owe to God exceeds all possible calculation, it is all freely, and for ever remitted, as soon as ever the Gospel trumpet is heard, and its glad tidings are welcomed to the soul [Note: Act_10:43.]. Our bondage to sin and Satan is reversed; so that nothing shall ever lead us captive, provided we assert our liberty, and claim our privilege [Note: Rom_6:14.]: being made free by Christ, we shall be free indeed [Note: Joh_8:36.]. And, notwithstanding we have sold out heavenly inheritance, and alienated it for a thing of nought, yet are we called to take possession of it: we are restored to our father’s house; we are brought again into the family of saints and angels; and, with our title to heaven, have the enjoyment of it renewed [Note: Eph_2:19.]. Now too are we commanded to rest from all the works of the law, and from all the works of the flesh; and, every one of us, to subsist from day to day upon the bounties of divine grace [Note: Heb_4:10; Gal_2:20.]. As we sowed them not, so neither are we to reap them as our own, but to receive them on the same footing as the poorest and meanest of the human race; all of us being alike pensioners on the divine bounty. Nor are we to lay up in store of what God gives us; but every day to gather our daily bread. To all these blessings is added that of divine instruction: as we are taught how to improve our leisure, so are eyes given us to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand [Note: 1Jn_2:20.]: and henceforth it is to be our daily labour to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such are the blessings bestowed by the Gospel; nor can any unworthiness in us deprive us of them, provided we thankfully accept them as the purchase of Christ’s blood, and the gifts of his grace [Note: For most congregations it would be more edifying to pass over briefly what was common to the sabbatical years, and to insist only on the blessings peculiar to the year of Jubilee, namely, deliverance from bondage, and restoration to one’s inheritance.].]
In what way it is that sinners are to be converted to God—
[The priest might have expostulated with the Jewish debtors or bond-slaves on the folly of their past conduct; but it was the sound of the trumpet alone that could bring them to liberty. So we may represent to sinners the evil of their past ways, and denounce against them the judgments threatened in the word of God; but it is the sweet voice of the Gospel alone that will enable them to throw off their yoke, and lead them to the enjoyment of eternal glory. This is told us by the prophet; who, speaking of the conversion of the world in the latter day, says, “In that day the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come who were ready to perish, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem [Note: Isa_27:13.].” O that this were duly considered by all who go forth as the Lord’s ambassadors! It is not to preach a scanty morality that we are called; but to publish the glad tidings of a full and free salvation; a salvation founded in the blood of Christ, and suited to those who are weeping for their sins. Behold then, “this is the accepted time; this is the day of salvation:” now the trumpet sounds in our ears; let us all arise, and bless our Deliverer; and improve the privileges so richly bestowed upon us. Then, when the last trumpet shall sound, and the time, which God has fixed for the redemption of his purchased possession, “shall be fully come,” we shall be claimed by him as his property, his portion, his inheritance for ever.]
How solicitous is God to counteract the folly and wickedness of man!
[A subordinate end of the Jubilee was, to counteract the cupidity of some, and the prodigality of others. But it is a very principal end of the Gospel to remedy the miseries, which men have entailed upon themselves. Well might God have said to the whole human race, “Ye have sown the wind, and ye shall reap the whirlwind:” but instead of that, He says, “Ye have sold yourselves for nought, and ye shall be redeemed without money [Note: Isa_52:3.]:” “I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner: turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” Let not then these gracious declarations reach our ears in vain; Behold, “the year of the Lord’s redeemed is come [Note: Isa_63:1.]:” “the perfect law of liberty” is now proclaimed: the Lord himself now preaches “deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound [Note: Luk_4:18-19.]:” he says to the prisoners, “Go forth and shew yourselves.” The Lord grant that none may put from them these words of life, or receive this grace of God in vain!]
How blessed are they who embrace the glad tidings of the Gospel!
[We can easily conceive the blessedness of one, who is in an instant restored from poverty and cruel bondage to the possession of liberty and affluence. But who can estimate aright the happiness of those who are freed from the curses of the law, the fears of death, the bondage of sin, and the damnation of hell? Who can fully appreciate the joy of a trembling and condemned sinner, who by the sound of the Gospel is enabled to call God his father, and heaven his rightful inheritance? Well does the Psalmist, in reference to this very ordinance or the Jubilee, exclaim, “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound [Note: Psa_89:15.].” Surely there is no state on earth to be compared with this. May we seek it as our supreme felicity; and may we all enjoy it as an antepast of heaven!]