As I write this, the whole of the UK (even including, I suspect, staunch anti-royalists), are out celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – along with Commonwealth Nations, and indeed much of the world. After all, she’s the first and only monarch to reign for 70 (adult) years in recorded history – and what a grand monarch she’s been! As many have said, ‘we may not like the monarchy, but everyone loves the Queen!’ Similar things are often said of the Church. ‘I’ve got no time for the Church, but Jesus is all right.’ I’m not comparing Jesus and the Queen, but it’s worth pointing out that Jesus (for those who believe his resurrection and ascension) has been reigning for over 2,000 years – which sort of puts 70 years into perspective.
As a nation, we celebrate the Jubilee, and for most people, that’s what it is – a celebration: street parties, retrospectives, a 4-day weekend. But few people realise that Jubilee was originally a biblical concept, designed by God, rooted in the Old Testament law, and much, much more than a celebration – although it was that too.
Jubilee was closely connected with the Sabbath, and Sabbath itself was far more than a day of rest. Imagine you are leaving a land where your ancestors have been slaves for hundreds of years, you’re going to be given your very own land to possess, to live in freely, to enjoy for yourselves and the generations to follow. How would you choose to live? By what laws, regulations, structures? For Israel, this idea of freedom, peace (Shalom), living under God’s blessing and rule – was to be continuously remembered, how? – by keeping the sabbath. So God said (Lev 25:2), ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.’
The sabbath day (seventh) was a sign of their covenant relationship with Yahweh, expressed in a sabbath day, sabbath year, and the sabbath of sabbaths – Jubilee! After seven sevens (49 years), the 50th year. Slaves were freed, lost property redeemed, debts cancelled, animals rested, everything was ‘re-set’ to restore economic and social parity – an incredible blessing! Did it work? Sadly, no.
Like us, the Israelites were selfishly human, concerned for number one. But one day… when our true King returns to rule, I believe God’s Jubilee will truly be implemented, and the celebration will never end.