Scripture: Leviticus 25:1-55
In this week’s lessons, we learn about what happened at the Year of Jubilee, and see what this has to teach us about our own view of wealth and the accumulation of possessions.
Theme: Making Our Lives Count Forever
In yesterday’s study, we saw in Leviticus 26 that the Lord gave a list of rewards and punishments. If Israel obeyed God’s laws, blessings would follow. But if the people disobeyed the Lord’s commandments, curses would be the result.
This is exactly what happened in the later years of Israel’s history, after the civil war that divided Judah from Israel. It happened in the northern kingdom first, as Israel was carried away by the Assyrians. Then, over one hundred years later, the southern kingdom of Judah was carried away by the Babylonians. This is exactly what God said would happen.
However, you notice that at the very end of chapter 26, it doesn’t end on that note. It ends with an emphasis of God’s mercy. If you go to the prophets, which were written later, you find the same thing. You find these terrible warnings of the judgment and the disaster that’s going to come upon the people. But almost every prophetic book ends not on that note, but with an emphasis upon the mercy of God. Because of His covenant with their fathers, God says He is not going to abandon the people utterly. He is going to keep them even when they are in the land of their enemies. Our God is a very gracious God. Mercy is His name.
Leviticus 27 has to do with redeeming things that are the Lord’s. Nobody had to do this, but they would often dedicate people or animals or property to the Lord with a vow. Then their circumstances would change, and they’d wish they could get the person or thing back. You might think God would say, “No, you gave it to me, and it’s mine.” But actually, God gave instructions to show how it can be brought back. The Levitical law was humane and flexible, and allowed for this redemption of what was vowed.
How do we apply all of that? Let me give you three suggestions.
First, we’re not to set our hearts on accumulating riches. There is nothing in the laws for the Year of Jubilee, the rest of the Pentateuch, or anywhere else in the Bible that says we can’t prosper financially. As a matter of fact, there are promises that generally—although not in every circumstance—say that if we follow after God, we will prosper. He will bless us and take care of us. But the Jubilee was a curb on greed, and it was certainly a curb on massive land accumulation, especially at the expense of poor families. It’s a reminder that, although wealth can be good, it can also be an evil and you can use your wealth to oppress other people. Jubilee is designed to restrain that abuse. We live in a very materialistic culture. Our culture tells us that the most important thing is to get rich. We have to remember that we are not to set our hearts on accumulating riches. Has God prospered you? If so, are you using your money rightly? Are you using your resources in a way that honors Him? Has money taken an improper and harmful place in your life? If it has, what are you going to do about it?
Second, everything that we have, we have as a trust from God. This was basic to all the Jubilee laws, because these laws were based on the fact that God owned the land, and He gave it in trust to the Israelite families. They held it as a trust from Him, and they were stewards of what He had given. We’re stewards of what God has given us. You know that perfectly well. Everything you have, whatever it may be—not just your wealth but your talents, your time, your opportunities, your friendships—anything you can think of, you hold as a steward from God, because it belongs to Him and He gave it to you. It is not yours, and God can take it away whenever He wishes. The question is whether you are using it for Him.
The day is going to come when you are going to stand before Him, and you’ll have to give an accounting. Are you going to be disapproved by God in that day? Is He going to say to you as the master did in one of Jesus’ parables, “You wicked, lazy servant!”? Or is He going to say instead, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness”?
Third, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. It’s not enough merely to put worldly goods in their proper perspective, or even to use them responsibly as God’s stewards. You can do that and you can still not grow in the Christian life. What you have to remember is that you and I are not just bodies occupying space that need food and raiment and housing and such things. We are also souls meant for eternal communion with God, and the soul is not nourished on material things. The soul is nourished on the Word of God.
When the devil was tempting Jesus, he said, “You are the Son of God. You are hungry. Here are the stones; turn them into bread.” Jesus replied, quoting from Deuteronomy (that is, the Mosaic law), “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). This truth applies to us. You can accumulate great wealth. You can even use it wisely. You can become a great philanthropist, but still wither in your soul. What we have to remember is that we are to feed upon the Word of God so we might grow thereby.
Earlier in our study, I said that the Jubilee year began with the sounding of the trumpet. One day, according to the teaching of Paul, another trumpet is going to sound for us: “…and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16b-17). Are you cherishing this hope? If you are waiting for the sounding of the trumpet, for the day when you will be caught up to be with Jesus Christ forever, then it will give you a right perspective on the things you possess now, and you’ll live for God in this world. Do you have that perspective? Does that really matter to you? If it doesn’t, the time to do it is now. Don’t wait. Life is short. It’s passing away. Make it count, and make it count right now.
- Though both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel were carried away into captivity because of their sin, on what emphasis do most of the prophetic books end?
- How was the law flexible regarding the redemption of people or things dedicated to the Lord?
Reflection: Are you nourishing your soul on the Word of God, or is your heart divided by an affection for worldly things?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to make you more sensitive and alert to the needs of people around you. How can you minister to them in the name of Christ?
Key Point: If you are waiting for the sounding of the trumpet, for the day when you will be caught up to be with Jesus Christ forever, then it will give you a right perspective on the things you possess now, and you’ll live for God in this world.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message from Romans 14, “The History of the Sabbath.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
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