A season of jubilee and ‘new beginnings’


AS we begin to enter that “Season of Joy”, the familiar activities associated with it begin to take place. Christmas trees, lights, class parties, Christmas shopping lists and revised budgets! On the negative side, we brace ourselves for the usual – drink driving causing car accidents, drunken brawls, injuries and even deaths. It all seems to be the package that gets delivered at this time.
But all that aside, I wish to bring our attention to the ‘wider season.’ As a pastor, I feel compelled to urge folks to be conscious of the current times we live in. In fact, God desires that His people today to be like the men of the Tribe of Issachar, who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12: 32). The Apostle Paul further advices to “Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days” (Eph 5: 15-17).
According to the Biblical Hebrew calendar, the Jewish New Year begins on the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah), which was on September 20 this year. The Jewish year ushered in was 5778 – i.e., 5778 years since the creation of Adam (as opposed to 6018 years on our Gregorian calendar). God’s calendar is important in many ways.
This article will point out the significance of this coming year (5778 \ 2018) according to Hebrew thought. It will also highlight a certain milestone that is coming the way of a large denomination in PNG – the United Church. Their Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) falls on Jan 21, 2018. We will see how God is preparing this church – and indeed the wider Body of Christ in PNG, for a tremendous harvest coming ahead. Those with the ‘spirit of Issachar’ will be able to discern and prepare for what is coming.
First, some thoughts on the Jubilee:
The jubilee is a celebration of the 50th anniversary, the year following seven sabbatical years (Leviticus 25: 10). When the trumpets ushered in the jubilee on the Day of Atonement, there was joy everywhere as the people in at least one lifetime would experience what true freedom meant. The ‘year of God’s favour’ meant this was something they didn’t earn, neither did they deserve it. It was a God’s gift of grace.
In brief, according to Leviticus 25, we see at least three things that happened during the jubilee:

  • Slave’s were set free
  • Debts were cancelled
  • Land/property was returned to the original owner
  • Since we are no longer under the Old Testament, is there similar teaching in the New Testament? Yes. Jesus talks about it in Luke 4: 17-21. Walking in the synagogue, he picks up a scroll and reads his ‘ministry mandate’ as written by the Prophet Isaiah. The mandate of proclaiming liberty to the oppressed, setting captives free etc., is now given to the church. We preach salvation in Christ. But one thing prophesied about Jesus was to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. This was a reference to the ‘Year of Jubilee’. Jesus then states that the prophecies are now fulfilled in Him. In other words, if we are ‘born again’ in Christ, we have our Jubilee – daily – in Jesus. We have the Good News, we have been released from bondage of sin and oppression, and now, being His children, we walk in the ‘Lord’s favour’!

But prophetically, though, does the period of jubilee still have significance today? Yes it does. God still deals with His people in a special way during the 50th year. That is true for Israel as it is for the Church – both being God’s posterity. In Bible days, the 50th year Jubilee made it possible for every generation to taste and see the grace of God. Everyone in their lifetime experienced what it meant to have their debts paid off, or have the shackles of slavery removed. For once, they saw God bless them and raise them up in new ways.
One story of the Jubilee relating to Israel is quite interesting. Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel was a top Talmudic scholar in Germany. Just before he died in 1217, he prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would rule over Jerusalem for 8 Jubilees (8 x 50 = 400 years). The Turks indeed took control of Jerusalem in 1517 and his prophecy came to pass when they lost the city in 1917 – exactly 400 years (8 jubilees) later!
The Rabbi went on to prophesy that after 8 Jubilees, the 9th Jubilee (1917 to 1967) would see Jerusalem become a “no-man’s-land”. The Holy Land was placed under British Mandate in 1917 by the League of Nations and literally didn’t belong to any one nation. Even after Israel’s war of Independence in 1948-49, Jerusalem was divided by a strip of land running right through the heart of the city, with Jordan controlling the east and Israel controlling the west. That strip of land was called “no-man’s land” by both the Israelis and the Jordanians. The prophecy was correct.
Rabbi then stated that in the 10th Jubilee (1967 to 2017) “Jerusalem would be controlled by Israel”, which proved correct since the 1967 Six Day War. His Prophecy continued, that after the tenth jubilee (2017 / 5777 onwards), the “Messianic end times will begin”. While we do not take this literally as God’s word to us, we would do well to be on our guard and take our walk with God seriously.
It is noteworthy that in every jubilee, despite wars and hostilities, Israel regained some of her Biblical land which God had given in covenant (e.g., Gen 15:18-21; 17:8). Also, in 1998, on Israel’s jubilee (1948-1998), gold bullions taken away from Jewish people during the Nazi era were ‘suddenly’ found and returned to them – both are marks of the jubilee. God’s word is still proven correct.
The season of blessing and joy is also a season of consecration. The trumpets for Jubilee blew on the Day of Atonement – meaning consecration before God is still required even as we enjoy the work of His grace.
As a minister of the United Church, I am excited because 2018 ushers in the Jubilee for the United Church. Our 50th anniversary falls on 21st January, 2018, and of course, the whole year becomes our ‘Year of Jubilee’. But for the wider Body of Christ, it is just as exciting because both the Hebrew and Gregorian calendar years (5778 \ 2018) end with the number “8”. In biblical numerology, 8 speaks of ‘New Beginnings’!
In my next article, I will explain the powerful significance of this to the Church in PNG, and specifically to the United Church.