Leviticus Bible Study (Atonement)

Leviticus 25-27, Hope In Jubilee

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The book of Leviticus ends with hopeful instructions for the people. The message of Leviticus has been the message of holiness and atonement. God is holy and the people must therefore be holy. God will make the people holy through atonement and by giving them instructions to follow so that they can remain in fellowship with him. The final three chapters of Leviticus describe the rich blessings and provisions of God for his people for all areas of their lives. By seeing God’s provision and blessings for his people in the past, we will have confidence for our lives today that God will provide and bless us in Christ.

Sabbath Year Blessing (25:1-7)

The first seven verses of chapter 25 is the institution of the sabbath year law. The people would sow and reap in their fields for six years. But on the seventh year the land was to be at rest, a sabbath. There is nothing that could be reaped from that field for the whole year. Think about the blessing that God was providing for them at this time. It is hard for us because we are separated from the agrarian society. We just go to the store and do not recognize what a commitment it was to not sow or reap during that year. The people were going to put their trust in the Lord to provide for them that year. Think about the fact that it wasn’t like when the year was over that there would suddenly be food in the field. After the sabbath year was completed, the people would have to prepare and plow the field and sow the seed, waiting until the harvest. The people were put in a position to wait for the Lord to provide. Also, during the feast of shelters/booths, the law was to be read to all of Israel in the sabbath year. What a blessing that they would not have to work the field for one full year and God was going to provide for them. God will provide. Just as he would provide for them in the desert until they reached the promised land, God would provide for them when they lived in the land. We grasp a better sense of what the New Testament scriptures are teaching us about trusting in the Lord with all our heart and be anxious for nothing. God will provide for his people.

Jubilee Blessing (25:8-55)

The rest of Leviticus 25 records the law regarding jubilee. The jubilee was to be on the fiftieth year. Verse 10 gives us the picture of what the jubilee year was for. It was the proclamation of liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. Everyone was able to return to his property and return to his family. If you were enslaved because of your debts, you were set free. If your land was owed by another because of your debts, it was set free and given back to your family. Not only this but the jubilee was also a sabbath for the land. Now consider the math: every seven years was a sabbath year and the fiftieth year was jubilee which was also a sabbath. This means that the land would rest for two years in the jubilee: the prior year being a sabbath year and the next year being the jubilee year. But what a blessing this was for the people. Listen to verses 20-22:

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. (Leviticus 25:20–22 ESV)

God said not to worry because he was going to give them three years worth of food: the sabbath year, the jubilee year, and the year to sow until the harvest came later that year. God will take care of you completely. The people were set free from their debts, set free from servitude, and God provided all they need for three years during that time. The reasoning God gave for this is found in verse 23. Everyone and every thing belongs to the Lord (land, crop, and people). God owns it all and has charge over it all.

There is a word that is used to describe what is happening to the people, the land, and the animals in the year of jubilee. You can scan your eyes through the chapter and notice the word “redeemed.” This word only occurs in chapter 25 and chapter 27. It is used fourteen times in chapter 25 and nine times in chapter 27. Jubilee meant redemption. Notice the idea in Leviticus 25:25-28. The people were given the opportunity to redeem their property that was lost because they had to sell because of poverty. But if he nor his family could buy back the land, the year of jubilee was a free redemption given by God. Since God owns all, he will be the redeemer and give the land back to the family.

God even controlled the treatment of a person selling himself. Notice verses 39-40 that if a person became poor and sold himself to make payment, he was not to be treated as a slave but a hired worker. He was not a slave because they are God’s servants (25:42) and they belonged only to the Lord. I want us to recognize that what we saw in history regarding forced slavery was not biblical, though people tried to use the scriptures to justify it. Forced slavery was not allowed and whether the person was an Israelite or not, the person was not to be treated as a slave but as a hired worker (25:39, 53).

The Blessings of Obedience (26:1-46)

The message was clear that it was a great blessing to obey the Lord. God was going to care and provide for his people. Leviticus 26:3 calls for the people to carefully know and obey the commandments of God.  The people were to live life according to God’s rules and ways. By doing so, God describes great blessings on the people (26:5-12). Listen to what those verses say. The people would have nothing to worry about. They just had to focus on God and God would give them all they needed. They did not have to depend on themselves. God would be full with food from the land (26:5), would have peace in the land (26:6), have victory over the enemies (26:7-8), and would be blessed so greatly that they would have to throw away their own blessings to make room for the new blessings (26:10). Listen to the great blessings in verses 11-12.

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. (Leviticus 26:11–12 ESV)

God promises to reward his people with both spiritual and physical blessings if they were faithful to the covenant. But then God warns them of failing. From verses 14-46 God describes the consequences of not trusting in the Lord and living life according to his ways. I think it is interesting that there are many more curses than blessings listed. I believe there is the anticipation of our failure to God’s covenant as well as trying to encourage obedience by reminding us of the doom that we experience by rejecting the Lord.

But listen to the reason why God is allowing these consequences on the people. Look at verse 18, “And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again…” Look at verse 21, “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you…” Look at verse 23, “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me…” Look at verse 27, “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me…” God allows this so that the people will turn their hearts back to the Lord. You see this in verse 19 that God is trying to break “the pride of your power.” God is trying to break our stubborn pride. Look at this in verses 40-41. “But if they confess their iniquity…” and “if then their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they make amends for their iniquity.” The result of turning back to God is that God will remember the covenant with them (26:42).

In fact, in verses 44-46 God reveals that he will be faithful to his covenant with them, even if they are removed from the land and taken to the land of their enemies because of their sins. Listen to verse 44, “I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them.” Why not? Because God made a covenant with their forefathers and God always keeps his word. This is why chapter 27 is important for the people. Leviticus 27 is about the need for the people to keep their vows. Why is this important? Because God keeps his word. God keeps his promises. God is always faithful to his covenant even when the people are not.

Jubilee in Christ

So what does all of this mean for us? The jubilee was a time of God’s gracious provision. God would provide for the people spiritually and physically. God would care for his people, setting the people free from their debts. Isaiah uses this imagery when he made his prophecy of comfort and hope. Turn to Isaiah 61.

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. 8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:1–11 ESV)

Isaiah declares that he is clothed with the Spirit of God to bring good news to the people. What is the good news? The good news is to the poor, afflicted, and brokenhearted. It is the proclamation of liberty to the captives and freedom to those who are bound. It is the proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor. It is vengeance on the enemies. It is comfort to those who are mourning. Praise and gladness will be given to the people (61:3). The people will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. They will restore what has been torn down. They will be called priests of God and ministers of our God. God will make an everlasting covenant with the people (61:8) and they are the offspring of the Lord (61:9). Isaiah predicted a great jubilee to come, the proclamation of good news that will reverse the fortunes of his people so that they are no longer enslaved. Please listen to the words of Jesus as his ministry opens in the Gospel of Luke.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “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.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. (Luke 4:16–22 ESV)

The year of jubilee has arrived when Christ came to the earth and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. We are set free from our sins in Christ and given the rich blessings of being priests of God, ministers of God, and the offspring of God. We have been rescued from our enslavement to sins. We have been redeemed in this jubilee. None of us could redeem ourselves. No one in our family could solve our problem. But God owns all things. He is Lord over people, land, and animals. So God redeemed us from our sins. God set us free through the blood of Christ. Jesus stands up and says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” We are in the jubilee. Now be faithful to the covenant and enjoy God’s rich blessings. God will provide for his people, physically and spiritually. God is with us. All we must do is trust in the Lord and rely upon him by living according to his ways, not our own.

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