Belonging and Belongings (Leviticus 25)
Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: Leviticus 25:1–55
Belonging and Belongings
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
July 8th, 2018
I. Tell Me About Your Belongings
What belongs to you? No, think about it for a minute. Think about your belongings. If soldiers knocked at your door in the middle of the night and said, “You have ten minutes to gather your belongings and evacuate”, what would you take?
Now turn that word around for a minute and think about yourself. Do you have a strong sense of belonging? Do you know where you belong, or to whom you belong?
For many, these are not easy questions. But I want us to hold onto these ideas as we look back to the third book of the Bible, the book of Leviticus. If you haven't already done so, turn over to Leviticus 25.
II. The Passage: "It Shall Be a Jubilee for You" (25:1-55)
This morning we want to pick back up where we left off in May. If you were with us then, you might recall that God, through Leviticus, was addressing, beginning in chapter 18, the question, “What does it look like to live a life that is set-apart for God?”
As we saw last time in chapter 23, living a set-apart kind of life means having a consecrated calendar. For the people of Israel, those whom God has redeemed from slavery in Egypt, this meant honoring a weekly day of rest, the Sabbath, and gathering several times throughout the year for feasts, holy days during which the people were called to remember God's works.
In chapter 24, we took a little digression to talk about the weekly Sabbath and the responsibilities of the priests. But as we pick up again with more details about the consecrated calendar of God's people, listen to how chapter 25 moves beyond days of the week and weeks of the year. Look at verse 1...
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.
Let's stop there in verse 10. Now, there are 55 verses in this chapter. We are not going to read and discuss every single verse. But as we've done before, we will touch on almost every part of this chapter, and talk about how they all fit together. We'll do that by breaking things down into three sets of ideas: sevens and Sabbaths, property and poverty, and inheritance and identity.
1. Sevens and Sabbaths
So first of all, did you notice how the first ten verses of chapter 25 describe two distinct calendar items? First, verses 1-7 talk about a seventh-year Sabbath, and verses 8-10 (actually verses 8-12) introduce a fiftieth-year observance. Why every fifty years? Because that's the year that follows the seven times seventh-year, that is, the forty-ninth year.
As we read in the opening verses, this seventh-year Sabbath was for the sake of the land. This is simply a reminder of what God first told the people in Exodus 23:10, 11...
"For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.”
Not only was this an opportunity to let the soil rest and recharge in terms of nutrients, but more so, it was an opportunity for the people to trust that God would provide for all their needs. Though they could not plant or harvest, we read in vs 6, 7 that the people were able to eat from whatever grew by itself. And all the people were able to eat, including the poor (as we heard in Exodus 23).
But about that fiftieth year, known in verse 10 as “a jubilee”? Well if you look at verses 11 and 12, it was also a year in which the land was to rest (i.e. no farming). But it was much more than that. When on that Day of Atonement, in the forty-ninth year, a special trumpet was sounded, it meant that a season of freedom, a season of liberty had commenced. That liberty is described in verse 10...
...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.
2. Property and Poverty
That description takes us to our second set of ideas: property and poverty. If we were to move forward past verse 12 and look at the the remaining 43 verses of this chapter, we would discover the specifics of this jubilee emancipation. Returning to one's property and to one's clan was a kind of 'reset'.
It meant that land that had been sold would return to its original owner, and that those working off debts were released from their financial and vocational obligations. Much of what we find in the rest of the chapter simply deals with how this “jubilee” year should affect land sales and things like debt-servitude. Property and poverty.
So for example, when land was sold, it was really more of a lease, with payment being calculated (v. 15) in terms of how many crops the land could yield before the next jubilee year. In terms of poverty, Israelites were (v. 25) encouraged to (financially) redeem property that had to be sold by an impoverished relative. Or if a relative needed a loan, there should be no interest charged (vs. 35-37). Similarly, if that impoverished relative or neighbor wanted to become your servant, you were (vs. 39, 40) not to consider him a slave, but a hired worker.
But all of this would 'reset' in the year of jubilee. Land restored, servants released, and debts forgiven. Even if a Hebrew sold himself to a foreigner who lived among the Israelites, he would be set free in the fiftieth year.
Now, Exodus 21 stipulated a release of purchased servants or slaves every seven years. This, along with Sabbath-year debt forgiveness, is confirmed in Deuteronomy 15. How the every seventh-year release worked with this fiftieth-year release, the jubilee release, is not completely clear. It may be that the jubilee was much more focused on poverty in terms of property, of a broader restoration to one's ancestral inheritance.
3. Inheritance and Identity
And that idea brings us to our third set of ideas: inheritance and identity. Though the details are not given until the book of Joshua, you may recall that every tribe of Israel received an inheritance in the Promised Land, a possession, a defined allotment of acreage in Canaan. And just as God portioned out the land, He would also preserve those boundaries, to make sure that each tribe maintained their inheritance.
You see, if the land was sold and ownership shifted, eventually these tribal allotments would fade away. In the same way, if tribal members, through famine, foolishness, or family feuds, lost their land and sank into poverty, then unity and community among each tribe might also fade away.
But the jubilee addressed those concerns. It reset things back to God's original design. It was a restoration of God's gracious provision for the nation. In most cases, at least once in a person's lifetime the jubilee meant you had a chance to start over.
But there are important clues in this passage that point us to something even bigger than these socioeconomic safeguards. Look with me at two verses from chapter 25. Verse 23...
“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.”
Also verse 42: “For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.” (and that point is restated in the final verse of the chapter, verse 55)
Do you understand what God is saying? There are glorious realities that stand behind the jubilee, realities that are far more important than land rights and protections for the poor. Those things are by no means unimportant. But legislation about my or our belongings can easily obscure the unassailable truth that ultimately everything and everyone belongs to God.
And this helps us understand the ultimate purpose behind this fiftieth-year release and restoration. Why the jubilee? It was given as a corrective, by God grace, to maintain the truth about my belonging and belongings. (2x)
When arguments arose about debt and personal freedom, God wanted Israel to remember that every master and every servant were first God's servants. They all belonged to Him. He redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. In the same way, when arguments arose about land rights, God knew they needed to be reminded of the fact that ultimately the land was his. Yes, they lived on the land. Yes, they leased and worked the land. But it was not theirs. They were simply “strangers and sojourners”, living on God's land.
Not only did all of their belongings belong to God, but so did their lives. God wanted the people to understand and joyfully declare what at least one generation declared. Listen to I Chronicles 29:11-13...
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.  And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
III. Radical Restoration, Radical Realignment
Now, as a follower of Jesus, as a child of God, you may already be making connections between this chapter and your own story. You may already be thinking about the jubilee in light of Jesus. And that's exactly what we need to do. I believe when we turn to the NT, to the New Covenant, we see two clear connections to the jubilee. We could say two ways in which the jubilee is fulfilled in Jesus.
First, just as the jubilee meant God's gracious restoration and release for Israel, we too have experienced debt forgiveness, emancipation from slavery, and the hope of our inheritance, all through Jesus. Paul touches on these same three ideas in Colossians 1:12-14. Paul tells his readers,
[you are] giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And in Colossians 2:13–14, Paul expands in this...God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Brothers and sisters, our jubilee year began on Good Friday and has never ended, and will never end. God's purpose for his people has always included, and will always include, restoration and release. That doesn't mean your mortgage lender is going to call and say, “Oh, just forget about your outstanding balance.” No, it's far better than that. We have, freedom from the Mount Everest of our sin-debt before God. And we a far more beautiful inheritance. We have, as Hebrews 11:16 puts it, “a better country, that is, a heavenly one”.
But the jubilee not only points us to restoration through Christ. It also points us to a realignment in Christ. To be more specific, the realignment of my perspective. And to be even more specific, the realignment of my perspective on my belonging and my belongings.
As Leviticus 25: 23, 42 emphasized, the specifics of the jubilee are grounded in the truth that ultimately everything and everyone belongs to God. Now think for a minute. Is your everyday life grounded in that truth? Do you see things through that lens? Do I, do you, need that same kind of corrective. Absolutely. And the NT wants us to think in these terms.
Romans 7:4...Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
I Corinthians 6:19, 20...Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
II Corinthians 5:14–15...For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Did you see how Paul spells out the implications of the fact we now belong to God, having been ransomed by Christ's blood? If your life belongs to another, you should live for that other. You should bear fruit for God. You should glorify God in your body. And your belongings should be viewed in light of your belonging to God. If you are His, then all that is yours is His, right? All should be used for his purposes, for his glory, right?
Now, at this point, we may be feeling a kind of poverty; a sense that we don't have what it takes to live that kind of life (even if we know it's right). And we may be afraid of what it will mean to surrender ourselves to that truth. Well, let me reassure you, that is a common feeling. And God knows that. Listen to a similar question, and to God's response in 25:20-22
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.
The jubilee was not only a reminder of what God had given. It was also a reminder of what God would give. And if we have the fullness in Jesus, how much more will God provide for us in the face of our fears. He will give both a renewed faith and a fullness of provision. True joy does not come through focusing on what belongs to us. No. True joy comes when we focus on the One to whom we belong. Let's ask Him even now for this perspective.
More in Living Leviticus
July 22, 2018Spiritual Vows and a Voluntary Spirit (Leviticus 27:1-34)
July 15, 2018Just Justice? (Leviticus 26)
May 20, 2018His Light, My Darkness (Leviticus 24)