Monday, March 9, 2009

The Great Do-Over

The Father of Lies is an expert in the game of misdirection. By offering up half truths and false hopes for what we really need and desire he attempts to lead us away from the one true God, who offers real truth and real hope for all eternity. True believers need to be mindful of the deceivers attempts to mislead us.
I recently heard a radio ad that spoke of the “Bail-out” friendly times we are currently living in. The ad promised to assist any listener who called right away in obtaining their own share of the Trillions of dollars being handed out by Washington. It seems that the “Age of Entitlement” has arrived just in time to meet the needs of the hurting, the unemployed, the broken, and the overextended and yes even the greedy!
I remember playing games when I was a child. When opposing teams had differing interpretations of the rules or accusations regarding a bad call were made, someone would call a “time out” and more often than not we would start over again. It is natural for humanity to desire a “do-over”. We were made that way so that we would need Jesus and desire the salvation He alone can provide. So, whether you are A.I.G., General Motors, Joe the Plumber or John Q. Public having a safety valve, a do-over, a second chance or net beneath you is comforting. It is one of the reasons we all have auto, home and fire insurance. It is also why our banks place that “FDIC Insured” sticker on the bank door. We feel safer, knowing someone is “watching over us” and “has our back”.
But just who is that someone? In whom are we placing our trust?
Our president and the Democrats in Congress are telling America that only the Government is big enough to solve our current financial crisis. The Conservatives will tell you that you need only trust in the free market; that the financial market will self correct if allowed to do so and a new stronger economy based upon this Darwinian “survival of the fittest” will grow out of the recession. But in either scenario money plays the key role in our salvation, either by government handout or wise investment. Both look in the wrong direction for true security.
Who invented the “Time Out” & the “Do-over”
The Creation story in Genesis (1:31 to 2:3):
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Through this simple act of resting God created a sabbatical (from the Latin sabbaticus, from the greek sabbatikos, from the hebrew shabbathon, i.e., Sabbath) or rest from work.
Why did God create the Sabbath? Did God need a rest? The answer to this question is best found by offering another. Why did God create everything else on days 1 through 6? This world was purposefully created by Him, not for Him, but for us, so that we might have a home to live, grow and relate to him. He did not need rest, but He knew that we, as imperfect creatures, would need a hiatus, a period of regeneration, a time and opportunity to refocus our lives and attention on Him. He demonstrated this wisdom by practicing it. This is just one of the ways He showed us His Love, by first loving us.
The Sabbatic yearThe concept of a sabbatical has a source in several places in the Bible Leviticus 25, for example, where there is a commandment to desist from working the fields in the seventh year :
(Leviticus 25:1-5) The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.
The Super Sabbatic Year - the Jubilee Year - annus jubilaeus, "year of jubilee", or simply ha-yobhel, "the jubilee" : The Hebrew word yobhel stands for qeren ha-yobhel, meaning the horn of a ram. Now, such a horn can be made into a trumpet, and thus the word yobhel came to be used as a synonym of trumpet. According to Leviticus 25:9 a loud trumpet should proclaim liberty throughout the country on the 10th day of the 7th month (the Day of Atonement), after the lapse of 7 sabbaths of years = 49 years. In this manner, every 50th year was to be announced as a jubilee year.
The Jubilee Year, being the crowning point of all sabbatical institutions, gave the finishing touch as it were to the whole cycle of sabbatic days, months and years. The Jubilee Year was to be observed after the manner of the sabbatic year, i.e. there should be neither sowing nor reaping nor pruning of vines, and everybody was expected to live on what the fields and the vineyards produced "of themselves," and no attempt should be made at storing up the products of the land . There are three distinct features of the Jubilee Year: personal liberty, restitution of property, and a more simplified life.
Personal Liberty:
The 50th year was to be a time in which liberty should be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the country. While bond slaves must have been the foremost in realizing its beneficial effects, the law was intended to benefit all, the masters as well as the servants. They should never lose sight of their being brothers and citizens of theocratic kingdom. They owed their life to God and were subject to His sovereign will. Only through loyalty to Him were they free and could ever hope to be free and independent of all other masters.

Restitution of Property:The institution of the Jubilee Year was meant to become the means of fixing the price of real property (see Lev 25:15), it excluded the possibility of selling any piece of land permanently (see Lev 25:23), the next verse furnishing the motive: "The land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me." The same rule was to be applied to dwelling-houses outside of the walled cities (see Lev 25:31), and also to the houses owned by Levites, although they were built within walled cities (Lev 25:32). In the same manner the price of Hebrew slaves was to vary according to the proximity of the Jubilee Year (see Lev 25:47-54). This passage deals with the enslaving of a Hebrew by a foreigner living among the Jews; it goes without saying that the same rule would hold good in the case of a Hebrew selling himself to one of his own people. In Leviticus 25: 17-25 we find a similar arrangement respecting such lands that were "sanctified unto Yahweh." In all these cases the original owner was at liberty to redeem his property at any time, or have it redeemed by some of his nearest relatives (25:25-27,29,48 ff; 27:19).
The crowning feature, though, was the full restitution of all real property in the Jubilee Year. The primary object of this regulation was, of course, the reversion of all hereditary property to the family which originally possessed it, and the reestablishment of the original arrangement regarding the division of the land. But that was not all; for this legal regulation was closely connected with the high calling of the Jewish people. It was a part of the Divine plan looking forward to the salvation of mankind.
"The deepest meaning of it (the Jubilee Year) is to be found in the restoring of all that which in the course of time was perverted by man's sin, in the removing of all slavery of sin, in the establishing of the true liberty of the children of God, and in the delivering of the creation from the bondage of corruption to which it was subjected on account of man's depravity" (Romans 8:19) In the Year of Jubilee a great future era of Yahweh's favor is foreshadowed, that period which, according to Isaiah 61:1-3, shall be ushered in to all those that labor and are heavy laden, by Him who was anointed by the spirit of the Lord Yahweh.

A Simple Life:In the 7th and 8th years the people were to live on what the fields had produced in the 6th year and whatever grew spontaneously. The Jubilee Year was producing a "simpler life." They could not help but live simply for two consecutive years. What was the intention of the Lawgiver? Perhaps it was not the simple life as such that God had in mind, but rather the establishment of its moral and religious foundations. "What shall we eat the seventh year?" The answer is very simple and yet profound: "Then I will command my blessing upon you," Nothing was expected of the people but faith in Yahweh and confidence in His power, which was not to be shaken by any doubtful reflection.
The root of the simple life: no life without the true God, and no simplicity of life without true faith in Him. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mathew 4:4)
What became of the Jubilee Year?
The Jubilee Year is well outlined in the Book of Leviticus, but did the Jewish people ever observe the Jubilee Year? There is no reason why they should not have observed it in pre-exilic times If they failed in keeping it, we should not be surprised at all. Not that the Lords idea was flawed; but what is more common than unbelief and unwillingness to trust absolutely in Yahweh? Was it observed in post-exilic times? Here, too, we are in the dark. There is, indeed, reason to believe that the Jubilee Year has never been observed neither in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah nor at any later period. The truth of this seems to be corroborated by the silence of Josephus, who, while referring quite frequently to the sabbatic year, never once mentions the Year of Jubilee.

Whom can we trust?Is God still seeking a relationship with His people? Does He still desire that we have faith and confidence in His power and provision? The answer is Yes, of course! God is steadfastly unchanged in His commitment to loving us. Do His people still need rest (Sabbath) as designed by Him? Do they still need a do-over (Grace) from time to time? The answer is in the way we still seek to fill these God shaped holes in our lives with things other than Yahweh. The answer is in our indivudual hearts. Hearts hopefully open to receive His rest and His grace, never willing to settle for the false hope & security of anything else, whether it be is a government handout or a well performing retirement portfolio. Our true security rests in Gods provision on our behalf of our daily bread and the eternal salvation offered through His Son. As our founding fathers proclaimed....In God we trust!