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Providing a Fresh Start

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My friend Doug and his eight year old daughter Tracy try to go out to eat one night a month. They have the same routine each month while going through the "drive through" of their favorite hamburger place. Doug orders two fish sandwiches and a large strawberry shake while his daughter orders the “Happy Meal.” The casher takes their money, they drive up to the next window and a friendly young person hands them a sack with their food in it. Doug drives off; however, before handing Tracy her “Happy Meal” Doug reaches into the sack and takes one of Tracy’s French fries. Tracy then exclaims, “Hey those are my French fries not yours!” “Really?” Doug replies. Then he asks Tracy, “Who drove you to get these French fries? Who paid for these French fries? Now really who do these French fries really belong too?” How many of us have ever treated God this way? Have we ever treated something as if it were ours to do with whatever we choose? In reality has not God simply made us stewards of what really belongs to Him?

Would you pray with me? Father, if there is something in my life that I have treated as if I am the sole owner then show it to me and help me surrender it to You it’s rightful Owner. In Jesus Name. Amen.

I love this Country for lots of reasons; namely, that its forefathers recognized its existence under God with liberty and justice for all. God’s kingdom which has been established on earth now for 2000 years not only provides liberty and justice in the earthly sense but for all followers of Christ our liberty and justice is for all eternity and will come with a trumpet sound when Christ Jesus returns!

I wish to present three objectives in this sermon so that we are able to produce two results. The first result is glorifying our great God and Creator Christ Jesus for all eternity. And the second is doing everything we can for everybody we can until Christ comes to take us home. Our three objectives are: summarizing the features of the year of jubilee, and as brothers and sisters in Christ expressing the earthly principals of jubilee in word and deed; furthermore, granting eternal jubilee-like freedom to a brother or sister in Christ.

The jubilee was ushered in with the blast of a ram's horn. In fact, the name "jubilee" comes from the Hebrew word yovel meaning "ram's horn.” After the end of every 49 years the jubilee meant liberty and justice for all. Genesis is the 1st Book of the Bible, the 2nd is Exodus, and the 3rd is Leviticus where this great jubilee celebration is found.

Leviticus 25:8-24 (NLT)

“In addition, you must count off seven Sabbath years, seven sets of seven years, adding up to forty-nine years in all. 9 Then on the Day of Atonement in the fiftieth year,* blow the ram’s horn loud and long throughout the land. 10 Set this year apart as holy, a time to proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there. It will be a jubilee year for you, when each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors and return to your own clan. 11 This fiftieth year will be a jubilee for you. During that year you must not plant your fields or store away any of the crops that grow on their own, and don’t gather the grapes from your unpruned vines. 12 It will be a jubilee year for you, and you must keep it holy. But you may eat whatever the land produces on its own. 13 In the Year of Jubilee each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors.

14 “When you make an agreement with your neighbor to buy or sell property, you must not take advantage of each other. 15 When you buy land from your neighbor, the price you pay must be based on the number of years since the last jubilee. The seller must set the price by taking into account the number of years remaining until the next Year of Jubilee. 16 The more years until the next jubilee, the higher the price; the fewer years, the lower the price. After all, the person selling the land is actually selling you a certain number of harvests. 17 Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the LORD your God.

18 “If you want to live securely in the land, follow my decrees and obey my regulations. 19 Then the land will yield large crops, and you will eat your fill and live securely in it. 20 But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ 21 Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years. 22 When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year.

23 “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me.

24 “With every purchase of land you must grant the seller the right to buy it back.

From the text we just read, let’s begin with summarizing the features of the year of jubilee. These early people were reliant upon the land. And here in the beginning of this great decree of celebration is a certain calculation. In verse 8 we read multiply seven Sabbath years by seven adding up to forty-nine years in all. This was when the trumpet was sounded for the year of jubilee! Every 50th year the people were to set themselves apart as well as the land as holy to the Lord.

Leviticus 19:2 (NLT)

2 “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

What does holy to the Lord mean? For each family every seventh year they were not to plant or harvest all year. This concept was called the Sabbath year. God’s people would plant and harvest for six years but neither plant nor harvest on the seventh year. There was to be no planting which meant sowing seeds into the ground in hopes that the seed will sprout, and grow into a plant thus producing a crop of food. Secondly they were neither to harvest nor store up food for future use that seventh year. However, for their daily food consumption they were able to go and gather whatever the land produced on its own. Practicing the Sabbath year would certainly take faith in God!

Every 50th year the people celebrating jubilee were granted liberty and justice by being able to return to the land of their ancestors debt free. For example if the jubilee existed today in the sense of the way it did back then, all Hawaiian people would have the land of their ancestors returned to them, as would the American Indians and other ethnic groups that have been displaced by foreigners. Something I read about the Indians is that they had no concept of land ownership. “How could anyone own the land?” Consequently, some Indians were taken advantage of, for example selling Manhattan Island for some basic necessities.

James B. North said, “As settlers from Europe began to arrive in the new world, one of the most distressing points of contention to emerge between them and the American Indians was the issue of land ownership. Many explorers representing European royalty claimed land in the name of their sovereign. In the process, these explorers ignored the native peoples already established in the land.

Sometimes settlers purchased land from the Indians; think of the (in)famous purchase of Manhattan Island for about $24 worth of trade goods. On occasion, Indian leaders protested the whole idea of buying and selling land. In the early nineteenth century, Chief Tecumseh reacted, ‘Why not sell the air, the clouds, the great sea?’ Many Indians could not understand the concept of ‘owning’ land. Certain tribes might have hunting rights, agricultural investment, or occupation of the land, but how could anyone own the land?

God had given the promised land to the Israelites. They had possessed it, dividing it among the 12 tribes. But God said that ownership of land could not be transferred ‘because the land is mine.’ We would do well to apply that outlook to our own property today. Sure, we hold titles of ownership to our houses, cars, etc. And we’re free to buy and sell such things as we see fit. But it all really belongs to God; we are the stewards.”

God’s jubilee decree had safeguards in place for this sort of thing so that people would not be taken advantage of. In other words the seller was to ask a fare price. Taking into consideration how many harvests the buyer would get out of the land before the next jubilee. In all transactions the people were to have a fear of the Lord. When people live in fear of God then they will live in respect of God and one another. When Jesus came to earth as the Son of God he taught on this principal of practicing both the eternal and earthly ideals of jubilee in Christ.

Matthew 18:21-35 (NLT)

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone* who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!*

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.* 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.* He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”

Brothers and sisters put to practice the principles of the jubilee year by seeing that everyone gets their earthly liberty and justice. Remember, what James North said regarding land ownership. Remember, what Jesus said regarding forgiving a brothers debt. The church in the 1st century practiced the earthly principals of jubilee.

Acts 2:44, 45 (NLT)

44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.

45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.

How can we carry out this earthly principal of jubilee to the poor, brokenhearted, oppressed, captive, and the prisoner among us? How might we provide a fresh start for someone such as the fresh start that jubilee offered to people every 50 years? For the people of God who practiced the jubilee back then they were promised a miracle of provision. God would provide food for three years. Our church has a Sunday School class called JOY this is an acronym for Jesus, others, and then yourself. Each month JOY gives monies (usually in the amount of $50) to needy individuals and families in hopes of providing sort of a earthly jubilee for them. Because of a fire sometimes this money goes to the construction of a new house or someone needing car repairs. However, God has a much greater eternal jubilee which brings me to the question, why did Christ come to earth? Are you with me? Did Christ come just so that the poor, oppressed, brokenhearted, captive, and the prisoner could have earthly liberty and justice? So that lands are given back and debts canceled? Christ came for a much greater reason then simply meeting people’s physical needs. Jesus demonstrated that he is more concerned about something greater than our sicknesses, our pains, and our sorrows. Jesus is more concerned about forgiving a paralyzed man than healing him. Jesus has demonstrated that His main purpose is eternal rather than earthly.

Matthew 9:2-8 (NLT)

2 Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”

3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?”

4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

7 And the man jumped up and went home! 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.*

Hear me correctly, brothers and sisters practice both the eternal and earthly ideals of jubilee in Christ. Are we at the point where he or she can grant jubilee-like freedom to a brother or sister in Christ? Are you with me? One of the first Scriptures Jesus would read in public is this one.

Isaiah 61:1 (NLT)

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,

for the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted

and to proclaim that captives will be released

and prisoners will be freed.*

2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn

that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,*

and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

The principal of jubilee is still good but now what Jesus has said about Himself is mo-better!

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,

for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,

that the blind will see,

that the oppressed will be set free,

19 and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.*”

Before Jesus Christ every 50 years the trumpeted celebration that is jubilee provided liberty and justice for all.

In Philadelphia Pennsylvania sits the Liberty Bell inscribed with the words of ─

Leviticus 25:10 (NLT)

10 Set this year apart as holy, a time to proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there. It will be a jubilee year for you, when each of you may return to the land that belonged to your ancestors and return to your own clan.

This Liberty Bell tolled at the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8th 1776 and today it is ceremoniously tapped each 4th of July. As dutiful citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom which we are acquiring let’s see both the eternal and earthly ideal of liberty and justice for the poor, the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the captive, and the prisoner. We are able with God’s help to grant jubilee-like freedom to a brother or sister in Christ by caring about their eternal and earthly soul. Let me say it again, brothers and sisters we are to meet everyone’s eternal and earthly need. And we do this by looking to Jesus our Lord and Savior for help.

Eschatology describes what will happen when Christ returns. When we grasp what God through His Son has done then we are able to be His eternal and earthly witness (Acts 1:8).

The Israelites 3500 years ago anxiously awaited the trumpet sound every fifty years; however, the most joyous celebration that a trumpet will ever introduce will be the return of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:52 (NLT)

52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NLT)

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died* will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.

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