The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.
“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
“In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.
“Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.
“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.
“If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.
“If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
“If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
“If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger's clan, then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 25 ESV)
A Maskil of David.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalm 32 ESV)
Something to Consider
Leviticus 25: The Sabbatical Year (every seven years) and the Jubilee Year (every fiftieth year) were two celebrations that promoted rest, redemption and restoration among the Israelite people as a holy nation. As we might expect, both of these celebrations served as ways in which the Israelites were distinct from all other nations, and they symbolized the future rest, redemption and restoration that would be found in the work of Christ.
The Sabbatical Year was a year in which the land was laid to rest and no agricultural activities were allowed to take place. This suggests that it was in the best interest of the agricultural land to rest every seven years in order to not suffer the stresses of over-farming and abuse of the soil. However, this also served as a humble reminder that everything the land produces belongs to God (not the land owner), and He is free to give of His land as He sees fit.
Many years later the apostle John would point out that the Sabbatical rest granted to the land that belongs to God actually prefigures the final Sabbatical rest that will experienced by all of creation at the consummation of all things. John describes the rest, redemption and restoration of creation in saying:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21)
Similar to the Sabbatical year, the Jubilee Year was a year of rest, redemption and restoration for all the people throughout the nation of Israel. Those sold into slavery were set free. Those who for whatever reason had been forced to sell their land were allowed to return and possess it at no cost. And the land that was used for agricultural purposes was to remain at rest just as it had the year before (the forty-ninth year which precedes Jubilee would always be a Sabbatical year).
The Jubilee Year served as a reminder that the land was never actually anyone’s permanent and personal possession. The land and the economy it produced ultimately belonged to God. Therefore, the Israelites ought to more rightly consider themselves as tenants of God’s land rather than possessors of the Promised Land. The laws of Jubilee didn’t necessarily redistribute and equalize all possessions, but they did significantly prohibit the ability to amass large estates. The overarching theme of these laws reminded the Israelites that they were graciously given the privilege to dwell in a Promised Land that ultimately belonged to their God rather than to them personally. We too ought to live in faith of God's provision, and we too ought to recognize that we are simply tenants in this world with nothing to legitimately call our own.
According to the laws of the Jubilee Year, if the land that was sold to buyer could not be redeemed through the seller's own efforts then at the year of Jubilee, his land would be returned to him at no cost to himself. The redemption and restoration of his land was not based on something he did to gain it back for himself but was simply a gift of free grace from God. Therefore, we can easily see how the year of Jubilee was a year of rest, redemption and restoration that symbolized the ultimate rest, redemption and restoration given to us through the work of Christ.
Christ spoke of Himself while reading from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4)
In Christ, we have been set free from the burden of trying to redeem our lives from the curse of sin. There is nothing we can do to secure redemption and restoration for ourselves, but through the free gift of grace from God, we have been redeemed and restored through the ultimate Jubilee - the year of the Lord’s favor found in Christ. Christ has set us free from the captivity of sin. Christ has restored us to our place in the eternal Promised Land. And Christ offers us final and fulfilling rest through the work He has already accomplished on our behalf.