Sometimes don’t you feel as if we are dealing with symbols or abstract representations of the living presence of God rather than actual manifestation? We might capture this reality in ideas from the Bible about: God being with us and speaking to us, the Holy Spirit being given to continue the work of Jesus, God loving us, and the kingdom coming. But we will struggle to experience the manifestation of it unless we are expectant God will actually show himself amongst us.
The Jubilee in Israel was a metaphor of the manifestation of God to come. It demonstrated that when the Messiah came, God would bring his kingdom in a way that transformed all of life. In him God would no longer simply be represented in ideas about his love and power, but by a tangible manifestation of these things in human life.
Leviticus 25:8–55 describes the Jubilee year. Rhythms of grace were integrated into Jewish life – the Sabbath or seventh day was a rest for everyone (male, female, masters, servants, even animals), and the Sabbath or seventh year was a rest for the land—it was to be left fallow to regenerate. After seven Sabbath years (seven times seven or forty-nine years), the fiftieth year was consecrated on the Day of Atonement as a Jubilee or special Sabbath, and liberty was proclaimed for everyone. Specifically, this meant that all Hebrew slaves were set free, all debts forgiven, and land returned to its original owner or owner’s family according to the inheritance of land given to each adult male by Joshua when the Israelites reached Canaan.
If you lived in Isaiah’s time, over 700 years before Jesus, you would understand that in the Jubilee cycle the mercies of God had a literal, restoring, liberating impact on people’s lives. Families were reunited, those who worked hard as slaves woke up in their own beds with the freedom to do as they chose, and their joy was like ointment on the wounds inflicted by their slavery. It brought new hope, a new start, fresh opportunities. Pure grace.
Can you imagine if this happened in 2016 in your nation (and we need some imagination given current attitudes to property and finances)! What would it mean for a couple struggling to pay their mortgage? Surely it would cause them to dance!
My point is that the Jubilee tells us that God intends to be powerfully manifest in ways that transform human life. This is reinforced by the fact that Jesus demonstrated that his ministry (and that of his followers to come) would, just like the Jubilee, tangibly impact human life (see Acts 4:18-21). Forget about abstract metaphors, the Jubilee metaphor is what Jesus picks up to show what God intends to do. Like Israel’s legislated fifty-year calibration to shalom, it was subversion by an economy of God’s goodness and love. The Lion of Judah roared mightily with expressions of love in the face of evil… (Barefoot Revolution, Chapter 1).
If we cry out for God’s kingdom we must align our expectations with what God intends to do as demonstrated in the Jubilee cycle and in the ministry of Jesus.
How would you describe your own expectations?