It was my fiftieth birthday on Friday and, unlike so many people reaching a milestone like that, I am thrilled to be this age! Part of it comes from looking much younger than my years. I have had a hard time convincing people that I am fifty. Perhaps if there were a few more obvious wrinkles and stuff I might feel differently.
On Thursday, during a prayer meeting, God said, “Do you know, Mel – it’s your year of Jubilee?” Jubilee years were celebrated every fiftieth by the Israelites and all the instructions are in the Old Testament.
I know about Jubilee years because the concept crops us in one of our units of work – to do with debt cancellation. The Jubilee Debt Campaign that began in 2000 picks up on the practice of cancelling debts.
Doing a little bit more reading up on it – there are essentially two aspects to a Jubilee year - rest and release.
The rest part of it is a reminder that it is linked into the idea of a Sabbath day rest. Just as on the Sabbath day the Jews were restrained from everyday tasks, the ground they grew their crops on also had a Sabbath rest. Every seventh year the soil was rested and the Jews just ate what grew naturally. A Jubilee year is a Sabbath of Sabbaths.
Picking up on this idea of rest, my first inclination was to announce that I would be stepping down from leading worship, preaching, teaching Sunday school and attending mid-week meetings. Rest, eh? No work? The idea didn’t last that long as the Spirit quickly corrected me that is was the absence of “unnecessary work” that was called for. All the energy that I expend on fretting and worrying and striving for stuff – that was what one was to cease doing!
As time goes on, when you have been a Christian fro a while, things creep in – you add to what God has already done – attending meetings, reading the word, praying – some of these things become opportunities for collecting “Brownie Points”. You add to God’s salvation and have a list of “must dos” that you don’t really have to do at all. You do them not to earn Brownie points but because you love to draw close to God. Resting is about not giving that kind of stuff Brownie point power, but just reminding yourself it is all down to the blood of Jesus alone.
The release bit of Jubilee happened when everyone was released from the debts they owed others. Not only were the debts wiped away, but everything you had sold to pay off your debts, whether that be property, personal belongings or yourself into slavery – everything was restored back to its original owner. You owed nothing and you possessed everything. It happened perhaps once in a lifetime if you lived that long!
Release for me comes in receiving back all the stuff that I have “sold” over the ages. My debts were wiped away on the cross and the day I accepted Jesus invitation to surrender everything was restored to me. However, life kicks in and however much you like to think otherwise, over time you might surrender things that you shouldn’t, perhaps for an easier life. You might surrender your passion because when others stomp on it, you withdraw just a little. Disappointments perhaps have a way of redefining your picture of God, or your expectation of what He would wish to accomplish through you. I know that these things are always something you should fight for, and go back time and time to God to have corrected. But wear and tear corrodes many things given enough time.
I am not the same person I was when I became a Christian many years ago. I have gained a lot I never had before, but I have also surrendered at lot of things I should have held on to. This Jubilee year I aim to receive those things back by the grace of God.
I am not sold into slavery but have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb ant it is time to let go of the slave mentality!
So for my Jubilee year I will establish the habit of resting and letting loose the Brownie points, and I will have released to me all the things I am entitled to have. It promises to be a humdinger of a year!