I’m not too sure how many of you know the term Jubilee that is found in the Bible? We often hear of jubilee being associated with celebrations or anniversaries, such as the Queen’s recently celebrated Diamond Jubilee in 2012 when she celebrated 60 years as Queen.
In Jewish faith and culture Jubilee is linked with 50 years. Wikipedia gives us this definition of Jewish Jubilee (yovel) year (every 50th year) and the Sabbatical year (every seventh year) are Biblical commandments concerning ownership of land and slaves. The laws concerning the Sabbatical year are still observed by many religious Jews in the State of Israel, while the Jubilee has not been observed for many centuries. According to the Hebrew Bible, every seventh year, farmers in the land if Israel are commanded to let their land lie fallow. The celebration of the Jubilee is the fiftieth year, that is, the year after seven Sabbatical cycles. According to the Torah, observance of Jubliee only applies when the Jewish people live in the lad of Israel according to their tribes. Thus, with the exile of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (about 600BCE), Jubilee has not been applicable.
Last week Kelly spoke about the Mercy Seat, a concept that has come to us initially through the Jewish faith, and Jubilee is much the same. The practice of Jubilee was given to the Jewish people to ensure that they understood how it was that God wished them to live upon and use the land. It was a reminder that the land didn’t belong to the Jewish people, it belonged to God. We hear about this in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus. Leviticus is the third book of the Torah and deals with rituals, offerings, legal and moral practices rather than beliefs. To follow the teaching contained in the book of Leviticus means that God can continue to live in the Tabernacle in the midst of the people, that God the relationship God wants with the people can continue. What this particular section about Jubilee tells us is how we should be using and caring for the land and those around us. It gives instructions of how long the land should be worked for and when it needs rest always remembering that it is God’s land. What does that tell us about our care for the world, the land, today? What are the challenges that this passage gives us regarding debts, indebtedness, farming and food production? What can it show us about how we care for ourselves and those around us? In a time where the last year has been different to the many years that came before it, how does Jubilee help us to be God’s people in the world today? Jay Robinson