‘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.’
The Old Testament jubilee was meant to be a type of the entire New Testament dispensation in three points, imaging by its Sabbatic character the Gospel rest in Christ, by its unreserved deliverance of captives and slaves the Christian redemption from guilt and spiritual bondage, and by its universal restitution of property to the poor and needy the fulness of that inheritance which is treasured up for all the faithful in Christ, whose unsearchable riches, like the national possessions, opened up by the jubilee, enrich all, without impoverishing any who make good their title.
I. The first element of jubilee gladness, common to the Jew of old and the Christian amid the celebrations of the Gospel age, is the joy of distinction or of privilege.—There was not a single memorial of blessing or promise, temporal or spiritual, which the jubilee did not recall, and hold up before the eyes of that most-favoured nation. The Jewish theocracy had for one of its main features a system of Sabbaths curiously and profoundly arranged for the interpenetration of Divine and political principles. Every half-century formed a grand Sabbatical circle. The fiftieth year, or year of jubilee, settled at the outset the great problem that no other people ever solved except through ages of struggle and revolution.
II. Its design and effect are evident.—(1) It was a bar to monopoly of the land. (2) It was a perpetual lesson in hope and encouragement. It was a constant assertion of equality. (3) It fostered patriotism, a virtue that thrives best on the soil. It kept alive in every man a sense of ownership in his country. (4) It was an inwrought education of the family, fostering a sense of its dignity, and guarding the sanctity of marriage and legitimacy of birth.
III. Though a political measure, it is informed with spiritual significance.—It shadows forth the recovery from evil, the undoing of all burdens that weigh down humanity, the eternal inheritance awaiting God’s children when His cycle is complete.
(1) ‘This wonderful system not only kept houses and lands from accumulating in the hands of a few, and preserved a race of independent freeholders, but it was a constantly recurring type of that blessed time which awaits us, when the tyranny and wrong and oppression of time shall pass away in the golden light of millennial bliss. How sweetly does the word “redemption” recur, as if it were sweet to utter. Oh that our lives were more constantly permeated by the thought that we have been bought back to God by precious blood, and have inalienable rights!’
(2) ‘When Lincoln freed the American slaves, he simply proclaimed a freedom which scores of thousands had died to win, but for which the slave himself had done nothing. He had only to hear, and believe, and walk out, and he would have all the power of the United States to make the proclamation good. Just so; I have only to hear, and believe, and walk out, and I shall have all the mightiness of God behind me to make good His great Proclamation of release from my debt to the broken law; of liberty from the tyranny of sin within, and of circumstance and evil powers without; of reinstatement in all the possessions proper to a child of God; of return to God my spirit’s home; and of a future blessed with rest, and peace that passeth understanding. Jesus has won this jubilee for me.’
(3) ‘A fresh start! I need it sorely. Not only every seventh year, but every seventh day. Not only every fiftieth year, but all the time. I need to begin again. I need to forget my sinful past. I need a new grip on myself and my duty. I need a clean slate, a new sheet of paper. And I can get it all from Thee, O most indulgent Father!’
(4) ‘What are the blessings of jubilee? We have all been told that in true Gospel theology there are three R’s—Ruin, Redemption, Regeneration. But we may with strict truth say, as we think of the notes of the gospel trumpet, that in the message of the Gospel there are five R’s. First, Remission; second, Release; third, Restoration; fourth, Reunion; and the fifth and crowning blessing of the jubilee, Rest.’