Simplicity Series #45
Sabbath Series—Part 5

The Sabbaths Reveal God’s Power to Restore What was Lost

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

The Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8–17, 23–34)

“Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound … on the Day of Atonement … and you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants …” Leviticus 25:9–10

Every 50 years, Israel was to celebrate a sabbatical year, called the Jubilee. The word comes from the Hebrew, yovel, which speaks of the blast of the trumpet—the ram’s horn—and suggests the idea “to bring forth with pomp and joy.” In Hebrew thought, the ram’s horn was always associated with the ram caught by its horns in the thicket in Genesis 22:13, and sacrificed in Isaac’s place. The key thought in the Year of Jubilee is restoration, and the main issue in the Year of Jubilee is restoration of birthright.

The word “restore” in the Old Testament, using several words, suggests “a turning back, a return, to revive, to reward.” Like the shepherd who brought in the lost sheep (Luke 15:6), it was the return or restoration of something that had been lost. This restoration was always cause for joyful celebration (Luke 15:5–7, 9–10, 23–24).

The Key Provisions of Jubilee

It is critical to understand that the Year of Jubilee applied only to the children of Israel. It was uniquely focused on the people of God and was designed to ensure their prosperity and blessings.

When Israel entered the Promised Land, God portioned out the land according to the twelve tribes (Joshua 13–21). Each member of the tribe was then allotted an inheritance within that tribe’s portion. This division was actually a trust arrangement, as it was God who owned the land, and Israel was its caretaker (Lev. 25:23).

There are three main provisions of the Jubilee year, all of which relate to the concept of restoration:

  1. Liberty
  2. Property
  3. Family

First, they were to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10). Any Israelite who was a slave, usually due to poverty, was to be released from slavery (Lev. 25:39–41, 54–55). This theme of liberation leads all other provisions (Lev. 23:10).

Second, all property was to return to the original owners (Lev. 25:13–17, 23–28). In reality, the land was never sold permanently, but was, rather, leased for the purpose of farming. Again, the land did not belong to the people, but to God (Lev. 25:23).

Third, the Year of Jubilee provided that “each of you shall return to his family” (Lev. 25:10b). Family cohesion and inheritance were to be maintained. This shows something of God’s estimate of the family—both nuclear and extended (Eph. 3:14–15).

As the children of Israel rested through the Jubilee year, it was also a test of faith. Would they trust God to provide sufficient harvests in the previous year to see them through a year without planting and harvesting, and into the harvest of the following year? This marvelous festival/provision, like the Sabbatical Year, was apparently ignored by the nation.

According to William Bauer (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on Jubilee), all indications point to the fact that, due to unbelief, Israel never celebrated the Jubilee! He notes that Josephus, the Jewish historian, never mentions Israel ever celebrating the Year of Jubilee.

A God of Restoration

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want …He restores my soul.”
Psalm 23:1–2

The theme of restoration runs throughout the Bible. Although it is inseparable from the theme of redemption, it is too often overlooked.

In the story of Joseph, there is the time when his brothers come to Egypt to buy grain, to sustain them during the famine in the land of Canaan. As their sacks were being filled with grain, “Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey” (Gen. 42:25, emphasis added). Interestingly, he did this to ultimately restore his father and family to himself.

In the story of Ruth, Elimelech—by a series of bad decisions—not only forfeited his family inheritance, but lost his life and the lives of his sons as well. When Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (“the house of bread”), it is up to the second brother of Elimelech to redeem the land, and to take Ruth as his wife. He refused his duty, and thus Boaz (“in him is strength”—a type of Christ), redeems the land and marries Ruth. As if this were not enough, she then bears him a son, Obed (“servant”), who is the grandfather of King David. When he is born, the village women say to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:14–15, emphasis added).

In the touching story of David and Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, restoration is the central theme. “So David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually’” (2 Sam. 9:7, emphasis added).

Again, in the story of Elisha and the Shunamite woman, there is a time of famine in the land. Elisha instructs the woman to go away until the crisis is over. When she returns after seven years, someone else has claimed her land and profited from the harvests. When she returned at precisely the opportune moment (read 2 Kings 8:1–6), the king commanded, Restore all that was hers, and all the proceeds of the field from the day that she left the land until now” (2 Kings 8:6b, emphasis added).

In the days of Nehemiah, when Israel had returned from the Exile, many were so poor that they had to mortgage their lands in exchange for food. In addition, those who were rich were keeping them down by charging interest on their debt—something forbidden by God (Exod. 22:25; Deu. 23:19–20). Nehemiah became very angry and said, Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them” (Neh. 5:11, emphasis added) By this action, those who were on the verge of severe poverty would have become quite prosperous!

Signposts to the Messiah

Each of the stories above relate to the Jubilee through the theme of restoration. In each of them, the restoration was above and beyond what could have been expected! And in this, they also point us to the greatest Restorer and restoration of all time—the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You shall be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Isaiah 49:5–6, emphasis added

Is it not interesting that in His very first recorded public message, when Jesus spoke at His hometown synagogue, He used a passage and a theme that anticipated a far greater Jubilee?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Luke 4:18–19; Isaiah 61:1–2a

The Coming Future Jubilee

One thing the prophets and apostles always do is point our eyes forward. For the believer, the best is always yet to come. After the healing of the lame man by Peter in Acts 3, a large crowd gathered. Peter used the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel message to them. But the terms he used were definitely Jubilee language.

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His prophets since the world began.”
Acts 3:19–21, emphasis added

Here, Peter speaks of the coming Kingdom Age as a time of restoration of all things. Imagine a time in that future kingdom when all your losses would be restored—above and beyond “all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20)!

In the Year of Jubilee, it didn’t matter if you lost your land by injustice, poverty, disability, or even by disobedience. All that you had lost, all that belonged to you, was fully restored. Even when God judged Israel for their persistent sin and unbelief, God promised that what had been taken in judgment would be restored:

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”
Joel 2:25, emphasis added (see 1:4)

Just imagine the day when all that we have lost shall be restored. This does not discount that eternal rewards will be allotted according to our faithfulness. I cannot help but believe that “the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18) will be far greater than we can even imagine!

One day, we who believe will experience a millennial Jubilee. For a thousand years, we will revel in the blessings of the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reigning over this Earth in perfect justice and power. The Earth and all that is in it will be restored to a beauty and fruitfulness like we have never seen. And like Ruth with Boaz, we will glory in our great Kinsman-Redeemer and share His kingdom. How we need now to look toward that time, and to live in the light of it!

“Then He who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.”
Revelation 21:5

“Looking for [that] blessed hope” (Titus 2:13),

Series Navigation
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