The Year of Jubilee, Part 1
Everybody needs a reset at some point. When things go wrong, we wish we could start fresh. Thanks to God’s instructions for the Promised Land, Israel had this opportunity! This week and next we’ll learn about the year of Jubilee, a uniquely identifying part of Israel’s culture.
Every seven years, the Land of Israel was allowed a sabbath rest. This period took care of those in slavery and those who didn’t own land. And after seven cycles of seven years, every 50th year was the Jubilee year, marking a reset of the land. God used this time to allow the Israelites to cancel debts, free slaves, and return sold property to its original owners. But why would God do this? And what does Jubilee teach us about the Good News of the gospel? Find out in this study of a fascinating piece of Israel’s historical culture.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We want to invite you to join us for our free online conference, Awaken. That's March 4th and 5th. Awaken will open your eyes to God's word, equip you for the coming day of the Lord, as well as the rapture of the church and the restoration of God's kingdom. Visit lookup.foi.org to register or to learn more. Again, that's lookup.foi.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, did you say free? The conference is free, so friends, if you're listening please go to the website and sign up. Yours truly will be hosting and I'm also speaking as well. Be sure to come to our Awaken conference. It's going to be a fantastic time. Come. Enjoy.
Now listen, we have a great two weeks lined up for you. We're going to be starting a series on the Year of Jubilee from Leviticus chapter 25. Today we're going to be specifically looking at what Jubilee is, what the Year of Jubilee is for the Israelites and what it meant for them as they were worshiping God and what God was trying to accomplish through the Year of Jubilee.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, Whoopi Goldberg, host of the ABC show The View, made the statement about the Holocaust that landed her in hot water with the network and the Jewish community. During the broadcast Goldberg insisted that the Holocaust was not about race and that it was instead an example of white on white violence. Goldberg apologized for her words. ABC suspended her from The View for two weeks.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my view. Whoopi was wrong. The Holocaust was about the Nazis' systematic genocide of the Jewish people, six million Jewish people, who they considered an inferior race. But, you know, I also want to say this. Can we stop canceling people? Instead of canceling people can we start counseling them?
Whoopi's words, though incredibly misinformed, certainly opened up a nationwide conversation on the Holocaust, which I would say right now is actually very important when you look at the statistics of Holocaust education. Hopefully her mistake on national television led others to not only see the truth, but to teach about the truth of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people just 80 years ago.
Chris Katulka: I have to tell you something funny. At The Friends of Israel headquarters I've kind of become a docent for trips into Philadelphia. Now if you're not familiar with where our international headquarters is, we're located about a 20 minute drive from center city Philadelphia, but on the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey.
So occasionally when our FOI, our Friends of Israel international staff, come from overseas for meetings our international director, Mike Stallard, will often send me an email asking if I'd take their guests on a tour of historical Philly.
I've been surprised at the number of our amazing international staff who jump at the opportunity to see the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was written, or Christ Church, where many of our founding fathers worshiped on Sunday.
Of course I take them to south Philly for the best roast pork sandwich in Philadelphia at John's Roast Pork. It's always a highlight for our guests. And everybody that goes to Philadelphia with me, no matter where they are from in the world, which always blows my mind, they want to see the Liberty Bell.
Philadelphia has done a phenomenal job of creating an educational experience surrounding the Liberty Bell. But this message today I promise is not about me taking you into Philadelphia for a tour and it's not about the Liberty Bell. It's actually about what's written on the Liberty Bell, the verse that comes from Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verse 10. Do you know it?
"Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants." That verse that rings true, no pun intended, is a verse that connected to a significant chapter in the Torah, in the law, in the first five books of Moses. It's a chapter associated with the Year of Jubilee, and that's going to be our subject for the next two weeks.
Have you ever heard of the Year of Jubilee? It's actually a fascinating study. The Year of Jubilee is connected to a study of sabbath actually. Sabbath is the day of rest for the Jewish people that's not only embedded in the law, but it's actually even embedded in God's creation.
Do you remember that after God created everything on the seventh day he rested? That theological concept of resting became an identifying marker of the Jewish people. The Jewish people take a day off from work to worship God. It identified them with the God of creation, who himself rested.
Quite honestly, ancient religions that existed alongside the Jewish people, they never took off from work. There was no day off to worship their god. Sabbath rest for the Jewish people marked them as different among the nation.
So not only did Jewish people rest every seventh day of the week, but every seventh year the Jewish people were commanded to rest the land of Israel, which became a benefit for the poor and needy. Just listen to Leviticus, Chapter 25, starting in Verse 5. It says that "On the seventh year the land must have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath to the Lord. You must not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You must not gather in the aftergrowth of your harvest, and you must not pick the grapes of your unpruned vines. The land must have a year of complete rest.
"You may have the Sabbath produce of the land to eat, you, your male servants, your female servants, your hired workers, your resident foreigners who stay with you. Your cattle, the wild animals that are all in your land, all its produce will be for you to eat."
So, see, what God's doing is showing that on the seventh year there was supposed to be a sabbath rest for the land. There's no organized farming. There's no organized sowing or pruning or reaping. The children of Israel would actually almost revert to their days of wilderness wandering, picking whatever food they could gather that grew naturally.
The land sabbath every seven years was a benefit to the slave and to those who didn't even own land. It was really important, God's way of reaching out to all the different Israelites.
Now let's go deeper with the number seven. Every seven days is a sabbath rest. We just learned that. It's a sabbath rest for the Lord as an Israelite. Then every seven years is a sabbath rest for the land. Now listen, every seven cycles of seven years... Okay, you got to go back into your arithmetic days to do multiplication here... Every seven cycles of seven years becomes a very special year.
So seven cycles of seven years equals 49 years. The Lord tells Moses that on the 49th year, on the day of atonement you must blow the horn and welcome in the 50th year, the Year of Jubilee.
The Year of Jubilee is so fascinating. After coming off a sabbath year of land rest, the 50th year is consecrated, and that's when liberty, freedom and release is proclaimed throughout the land.
First of all, what does this Hebrew word jubilee even mean? The Year of Jubilee sounds like one big party to me, but jubilee in Hebrew is yovel, which actually means a ram's horn. In Leviticus 25, Verse 9, it says that the Israelites are to sound the horn throughout the land to proclaim liberty. Some translations say “proclaim freedom.” Some, like the new English translation, say “proclaim release.”
Either way, every 50 years the Israelites were to do something that I've never seen or heard in history before. You know what I like to call it? The great reset. God gave the land to the Jewish people, and in doing so he also gave them tribal allotments. You remember the 12 tribes of Israel? Families within the tribal allotments were given land to tend to, to build a life on.
I want you to think about all that could be done, all that can change in just 50 years. 50 years ago I didn't even exist to begin with. There were no computers that were in your home 50 years ago, email, cellphones. Think about where you were living 50 years ago, or think about what job you had 50 years ago.
Try to go back to 1972 and consider your financial situation. Maybe you were doing really good in 1972, or maybe you fell on some hard times back then. Think about how much culture has changed in 50 years. Think about how much politics has changed in 50 years.
50 years doesn't seem like a long time in the span of human history, but a lot can happen in 50 years. The great reset, the Year of Jubilee, gives everyone the chance to start over. Listen to what Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verses 10 through 12 says.
It says, "The year will be your Jubilee. Each one of you must return his property and each one of you must return to his clan. That 50th year will be your Jubilee. You must not sow the land, harvest its aftergrowth, pick the grapes of its unpruned vines, because that year is a Jubilee. It will be holy to you. You may eat its produce from the field."
It's almost kind of taking in what happens every seven years with the sabbath rest, though it happens two years actually, back-to-back, the 49th year and the 50th year. But what makes it even more different is that God is saying every 50th year is marked by a general liberty, freedom, a release from debt, servitude, and return of all the land that had been mortgaged or sold to the rightful owner.
Everything went back to the way it originally was so that the land God promised to Israel would be an inheritance to those that he intended it to go to. Remember, 50 years is a long time for things to change, and in one of those years maybe your grandfather as an Israelite fell on some hard times financially, so he sold the property that was his inheritance, that was given to his family by God.
Maybe he leased his own land so that he could farm it, or maybe he sold the property all together. Well, every 50 years that property goes back to the family who are the rightful owners of it and all debts accrued are canceled.
Sometimes life gets hard, so that some Israelites may have even needed to sell not only their land, but they needed to sell themselves into servanthood to another Israelite in order to put a roof over their head or to put food on the table.
According to the law and the Year of Jubilee, God gives the great reset to all Israelites who sell themselves into servanthood, that they could be set free and start over again. Why would God do this? I'll tell you this much, it doesn't sound very capitalistic, does it?
There are two reasons for the Year of Jubilee. But before we get to them, Steve, you have a great product as we're talking about the Year of Jubilee here that we want to share with our listeners on The Friends of Israel Today.
Steve Conover: Yes, Chris. We're looking at the Jubilee in the Book of Leviticus, and as we heard from Chris, Jubilee is closely connected to the land that God promised to Israel. That's why I'm excited to share with you our newest and best selling DVD series, The Common Thread.
Way back in the beginning of the Old Testament God made a promise that changed the trajectory of one man's life. In our Bible study DVD, The Common Thread, you'll begin to see how that very same promise impacts you.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. This whole promise goes back to the promise that God made to Abraham, the promise of land, the promise of descendants, the Jewish people, and the promise of a blessing, that not only will God bless Israel, "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you," but also that through Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed.
So it's going to be... I hope that you join us... We had a chance to go to Israel and to tour the land and to do this DVD right in the Holy Land. It's a fantastic way for you to see how the promise that God made to Abraham connects right to you through your salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Steve Conover: In The Common Thread DVD you'll travel through the Holy Land with our host, Chris Katulka, as he traces God's faithfulness from Abraham to you. Visit foiradio.org to learn more. That's foiradio.org to learn more or to purchase your copy.
Chris Katulka: So we're talking about the Year of Jubilee, the great reset, when God cancels debts, sets slaves free, and returns all property sold back to the original family who owned it. Why? Why would God do this?
First, I love this, it's to prevent a monopoly in the land. God didn't want any equivalent of Jeff Bezos buying up all the land for his personal gain and putting everyone else out of business. The land is Israel's inheritance. It was equally given to each family according to their clan and tribal allotment.
For 50 years Israelite entrepreneurs can gather up all that they possibly can to make a living, but after 50 years the monopoly must end. It goes back to the original owner. God also never intended for his people to become servants. Remember the whole story of the Passover account? The Israelites were in Egypt as slaves to the Egyptians, as slaves to Pharaoh, and God set them free.
God didn't want to bring them to the Promised Land to become slaves again. That's the reason why he wants all men, all the Israelites, to live as free men. It's the reason he cancels debts and servanthood, to give the next generation a chance to build something on the property, on the inheritance God gifted their family.
But probably the most important reason for the Year of Jubilee is the fact that the land doesn't even belong to the Israelites to do whatever they want with it. They're not the owners. They are the tenants of what God blessed them with.
Just listen to what God says to them in Leviticus 25, verse 23. "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. You're just strangers and sojourners with me." You're tenants. God reminds the Israelites that they are tenants in the land. Why can God simply reset everything? It's simple. The land belongs to him. That's what we're talking about in The Common Thread DVD. We want to show you the connection between the land of Israel, the promise that God made to Abraham, and God's faithfulness wrapped up in all of it.
How do we know that the land belongs to him? Well, you have to go back to the covenant that God cut with Abraham in Genesis, Chapter 15 concerning the land of Israel. God vowed to give Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites, the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, Israel.
But remember, God never made the covenant with Abraham. He made the covenant with himself. Abraham is not a signatory on the covenant to the land. Remember? He fell asleep. He was sawing logs while God was cutting a covenant with his chosen people. The only thing Abraham did was draw up the paperwork. It was God who signed it, not Abraham.
So of course it's God's land, and God doesn't just care about those who are doing great financially, gobbling up all the little bits and pieces and corners of the land of Israel. He promised the land of Israel to all of the Jewish people. God cares about those who can't take care of themself and he cares about those who can't afford to keep the land that he gave them or those who fall on hard times.
God wanted to make sure everything reset for the benefit of everyone that God gave an inheritance to for the Israelites. It's actually, if you think about it, a very beautiful picture of the gospel, the great reset.
The moment you became a believer in the Lord Jesus, it doesn't matter what your socioeconomic status is, or your race, or your nationality. Through Christ you receive not only a reset, you receive eternal life. The debt that we owe God because of our sin, it can never be repaid. We were slaves to sin and then God set us free.
He released us from the bondage of sin and he gave us liberty. He gave us freedom. He released us from sin, even though we don't deserve it. Every day for the believer in Christ is a Year of Jubilee. He sets the captives free.
Steve Conover: Chris, listening to you speak, it's been wonderful. It makes me excited for next week, because as I reflect I see the Jubilee demonstrates that God is sovereign. He spoke to his people through nature, the seasons, the land, even time, and the human need for rest, and it seems to be teaching us important lessons on how we move from self-assurance into a greater dependence on him.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. Because if you think about the Israelite who lost everything and at the reset for Jubilee he gets everything back, that's great. But think about the guy who's actually made a good income over the 50 years, who gains all this land and he makes all this money. He has to trust God enough to know that Jubilee is good for not only him, but for everybody else.
That requires trust, because I think in the nature of our flesh we go no, we want more. I want more. I don't want to give it back. But here an Israelite has to trust God enough, to depend on him, to go no, this is the right thing to do, to return everything for the great reset, for the Year of Jubilee. It mattered a lot to God.
Steve Conover: And that's a wonderful lesson for us today.
Steve Conover: Israel on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory.
While Zvi is now in the presence of the Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: We have recently experienced something we've not seen in Israel for many years, a snowstorm with 16 inches. It caused many traffic accidents and downed power lines and loss of electricity. Most people in my neighborhood know me as either a helpful person or as a so-called apostate who tries to lead them away from the faith.
During this snowstorm the Lord performed a miracle by bringing to my door a well-known rabbi who I thought knew me only as an apostate. He came not with a sour face, but with a pleasant expression, and in a kind voice said, "Well, Zvi, you have won the war. I think you can help me. We have no electricity. I've heard you can help."
"Of course. Let us go," I said as I picked up my toolbox. After a few minutes of work the lights came on, bringing great joy to the rabbi and his family. I then recited Isaiah 9:2, "To people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death upon them a light has shined."
Because I was a guest in the rabbi's home, I felt the liberty to speak about the Lord. They invited me to sit and have a cup of tea as we talked. Such an opportunity comes perhaps once in a Jubilee, and I asked the Lord to help me speak. The rabbi was so grateful for what I had done that he vowed never again to speak against me or call me an apostate.
As I was about to leave, the rabbi asked what he owed. I replied, "Oh, there's no charge. God has given me a great love for my neighbors. The Lord said, 'You shall love your neighbors as yourself.' You are my neighbor."
The rabbi then jumped up and said, "Do you actually believe what the Bible says?" "Oh, yes," I replied. He said, "Show me before my entire family where this man, Jesus, is in the Bible." Then I read Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be a ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old and from everlasting."
He replied, "This one in whom we believe never ruled Israel. He was crucified." "You are right," I said, "and everyone stared at him as he hung there." Zachariah 12:10 says, "They will look on me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn."
I could show you page after page where the Bible speaks about this one whom you ridicule. He then quoted Jeremiah 12:1, "Why does the way of the wicked prosper?" I asked, "Who are the wicked? Those who believe in the living God or those who worship a false faith?"
Our discussion became very heated. I know this encounter will produce fruit some day. I pray I will have further opportunity to speak to this rabbi, trusting that one day he and his family will escape spiritual darkness and embrace spiritual light, just as they were brought out of physical darkness into physical light during the snowstorm.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. Today was part one of our series on the Jubilee. Chris, can you tell our listeners where we're headed next week as we continue this study?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. So we have one more left, and we're going to be looking not only a little bit at the history, again, of Jubilee, but we're going to see what Jesus thought about Jubilee. He hints at Jubilee. And even maybe even the prophetic inclinations that are found in this idea of the Year of Jubilee, when God sets the captives free.
Steve Conover: We hope you join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, P. O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, P. O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Common Thread DVD
Way back in the beginning of the Old Testament God made a promise that changed the trajectory of one man’s life. In our new bible study DVD, The Common Thread, you’ll begin to see how that very same promise impacts you!
Travel through the Holy Land with this DVD as our host Chris Katulka traces God’s faithfulness from Abraham to you!
Awaken Online Conference
March 4-5, 2022
Christ is coming again soon! But what are the warning signs we should be looking for? And what lies ahead for believers? AWAKEN will encourage and equip you for the coming Day of the Lord, the Rapture of the church, and the restoration of God’s Kingdom!
Join us online for this FREE, 2-night virtual conference featuring The Friends of Israel’s expert Bible teachers!
Apples of Gold: The Miracle in the Snowstorm
Most people in Zvi’s neighborhood knew him as either a helpful person who would come to their homes to repair things without charge, or as a so-called apostate who tries to lead them away from the faith. When an unexpected snowstorm hit Israel, Zvi worked to help those without power. He encountered a wealthy rabbi while he fixed his family’s electricity. Listen to how Zvi got the opportunity to minister in the middle of the storm.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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