Why Jubilee?

By JubileeCentre 19 Feb 2014

The short answer:

We believe that God’s Law in the Bible encapsulates his gracious design for a just and compassionate society, in which the different strands of law reinforce each other in a holistic and comprehensive way.

The year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 is the best example of this – one year in 50 when slaves went free, land was returned to the original family owners, debts were cancelled and everyone joined in a huge party.  This social/economic/cultural event prevented the build-up of intergenerational debt, gave a purpose to extended families, and ensured that every household belonged in a community and every person had a stake in the economy.  This social policy of justice and equality is over three thousand years old, but it’s far from being out of date.

The Jubilee Centre seeks to understand God’s intentions and direction for every aspect of society, drawing from the Law in the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles in the New.  Here we find the keys for unlocking God’s redemptive response to the social, economic and cultural challenges in today’s world.

JC shofarOur symbol is a shofar, or ram's horn, because the start of the jubilee  year was announced to the Israelite community by sounding the ram's horn trumpet.


The slightly longer answer:

Decalogue_parchment_by_Jekuthiel_Sofer_1768The Jubilee was a pivotal aspect of the Law which was to shape the new nation of Israel. It was given by God through Moses after God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. This Law was intended to form the foundation of Israelite society, giving the people principles for how to act justly in every area of life. Jesus would later summarise the Law as having just two purposes: to show the Israelites how best to love God and how to love each other (Matthew 22:34-40). Although the way the Law is expressed in action might sometimes look different as a result of Jesus’ coming, those two principles articulate the spirit of everything that the Bible teaches.

Hidden away in a little-read part of the Old Testament, the Jubilee laws in Leviticus 25 encapsulate the radical heart of God’s vision for Israelite life by setting out the economic principles that were supposed to govern how they treated each other. These were not dry and abstract concepts that had no relevance to everyday life, but ones that impacted every person in the land by guaranteeing a measure of justice and equality for all. They ensured that no one would get into long-term debt, set out working conditions and rights, and required that everyone would have access to a plot of land and family property forever. In turn, that meant that no one would be trapped in poverty without the hope of regaining financial independence. People who fell on hard times would be able to stay with their families and communities rather than having to move away to find work. Debts would never become unmanageable.

Christians can have a tendency to ignore the Old Testament, but Jesus told his listeners that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17-20). The principles God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament more than 3,000 years ago are still uniquely relevant today. They remain the blueprint for God’s design for society – not necessarily in their specific details of sacrifice, what to wear and what to eat, but in their underlying values based in the unchanging character of God.

As American pastor and author Timothy Keller writes, the Law still stands, even though it serves a different purpose. ‘In the life of Christians the law of God – though still binding on them – functions in a completely different way. It shows you the life of love you want to live before the God who has done so much for you. God’s law takes you out of yourself; it shows you how to serve God and others instead of being absorbed with yourself. You study and obey the law of God in order to discover the kind of love you should live in order to please and resemble the one who created and redeemed you, delivering you from the consequences of sin.’[1]

Far from being a set of arbitrary rules, irrelevant to life in the 21st century, the Jubilee embodied the fairness, relational wholeness, prosperity and blessing that God desired for his people. The Jubilee Centre takes its name from Leviticus 25, reflecting its intention to explore and communicate the Bible’s enduring relevance for every aspect of modern life, based in the concern for right relationships.

[1] Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Dutton Adult, 2011), p. 41.

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