Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 71 - Autumn (Mar-May) 2022 > Time to Rejoice (by Kira-leigh Josey)

Time to Rejoice

by Kira-leigh Josey

The Sabbath is a sanctuary from the rampant busyness of the everyday. It is not rare for me to spend my week dreaming of the Sabbath rest. It is even more tempting to imagine what an entire week of Sabbath would feel like and how I would feel after it. Imagine not working for a week. Imagine spending time with God, the one who formed us, sees us, knows us and always loves us. It is an amazing picture! It is even more tantalising to envision what a whole year of Sabbath may look like. A year where we could spend time with our God, find rest in his presence and allow him to guide us towards deeper relationships. Surely the idea of a Sabbath year would be wishful thinking! The Bible tells us that it is not. Intriguingly, the Israelites did not have to wonder; they had Sabbath years built into their calendar. These Sabbath years were more than a coincidental addition. These were years imbued with the purpose of communicating heavenly joy.

The Bible reveals the ideals by which the Israelites were to live. Even though it is hard to know how strictly these laws were adhered to in regular Israelite society, they provide a beautiful picture of how God wanted his people to relate to both Him and others in their community.

Every seven years, the Israelites were commanded to keep a Sabbath year or in the original Hebrew 'shmita'. During this year, the fields would lay fallow, and most agricultural activity would cease. Even more amazing is that all personal debts were to be forgiven. This year must have been one which all in Israel looked forward to. It meant that even if you had lost it all, you could start to rebuild again. The agricultural rest emphasises the rest in God which the Israelites were called to observe.

However, even more exceptional than this reoccurring Sabbath year is that every forty-nine years the Israelites would have a Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:8-13 reveals that the year was to be "holy" and should be defined by the proclamation of liberty throughout the land. During the year of Jubilee, it was commanded that each person return to their property, and to their families. This commandment is more significant than it seems. Throughout the previous forty-nine years, those who had fallen into misfortune in the community would sell the land traditionally allotted to them or even more dire, they would sell themselves into slavery, this year was a huge cause for celebration! It is not hard to see why this year was called the Year of Jubilee! You can imagine the euphoria that both the freed and previously destitute Israelites would feel upon returning united to their land utterly debt free. More than that, like the 'shmita', this year was also to be one for rest of body and soul as illustrated by the command to leave the fields fallow.

This year was not intended to pass without notice, it was intended that the entire town would be in on it! The Hebrew word for Jubilee, 'yovel' means rams horn or trumpet and is what was sounded to signal the beginning of this year on the Day of Atonement.

It is no coincidence that the Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was the most meaningful day in the Jewish Calendar. It was on this day that the Israelite's had their sins atoned for through the death of a lamb. This ritual would culminate in the death of Jesus, the lamb of God, on the cross as the ultimate payment for our sins. Thus, it is because of Jesus and the grace he poured out on the cross, that the restorative activities of the Year of Jubilee can occur. Today, we can claim the same rest as the Israelites because Jesus has proclaimed the victory over sin.

The proclamation of liberation throughout this year illustrates the essence of joy in the kingdom of God. Joy in this realm is defined by forgiving others' debts, seeking the good of others, and more importantly deepening our relationship with God. The Year of Jubilee is a reminder that we can experience the joy of new life with God right now because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. We must bring joy to the world because God has bought joy to us, and joy defines His very kingdom. By acting as though the Year of Jubilee is every year, we practice for the joyful eternity we will experience in Heaven.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 71 - Autumn (Mar-May) 2022 > Time to Rejoice (by Kira-leigh Josey)