When the redeemed become the redeemers: Jubilee

In the law, God made special provision to prevent the complete devastation of people who find themselves in debt. What if we all viewed ourselves as the redeemed debtors we are and made it our business to not let God’s generosity end with us?

“If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 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.”

–Leviticus 25:25, 28

In his book on Leviticus, Gordon Wenham writes:

The main purpose of these laws was to prevent the utter ruin of debtors. In biblical times a man who incurred a debt that he could not repay could be forced to sell off his land or even his personal freedom by becoming a slave. When left unchecked, this process led to a great social division, with a class of rich landowners exploiting the mass of landless serfs …

The jubilee year occurred every 49 years. If a man went bankrupt the year after the jubilee, he would have been enslaved for up to 48 years, unless a relative was able to redeem him; but if it happened at a later stage in the cycle, he would have had a shorter time to wait for release. Thus, about once in any man’s lifetime the slate was wiped clean …

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. –Psalm 24:1

Think about it. That’s grace in a world filled with greed. That’s why God would make such a provision. Jubilee foreshadows what Christ would do with our debts. He would forgive them, wipe them clean. And in the famous “Lord’s Prayer” he tells us, explicitly, to forgive the debts of others.

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

–Matthew 6:9-15

I wonder if the present-day Church around the world would receive the same scathing report that Isaiah and Amos delivered. At some point, someone needs to say, “Enough is enough!” I can only call people back to what the Word says about forgiving debts. This gets to the heart of the gospel.

In simple terms, if we have experienced Jubilee, that is, the forgiveness of God and release from slavery, then we get to extend the same grace to others in tangible ways. This is not about earning your own forgiveness. It’s about showing we really received his favor in the first place. Do you see the pattern? The redeemed become “redeemers” of others.

God’s generosity came to you on the way to others. Don’t let it stop with you.

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