This week’s lesson is the last lesson in this quarter of lessons. All of this quarter we have taken a look at God’s instructions to the children of Israel and spoken to the importance of being obedient to His instructions. As we know, disobedience to keeping God’s instructions and following His way have very tragic consequences. However, obedience – keeping God’s instructions – leads to one being blessed and rejoicing in being blessed by the Lord.
The Sabbath Year
The last lesson of this quarter opens the same way as most of our lessons did this quarter with Moses receiving instructions from the Lord to give to the children of Israel (v.1). The Lord instructs Moses to speak to the people and say to them, “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord (v.2).”
Resting the land for a year
Now, there are a couple of things that we need to point out here about the opening to these instructions. Let’s first pay close attention that these instructions were for when the children entered into the Promised Land. There is a very good reason that these instructions were for after they entered into the Promised Land with that reason dealing with the land itself. You see, the children of Israel were still wanderers with no land of their own, so it would have been rather difficult for them to keep these instructions without having a land of their own.
Secondly, the instructions here were for the land to keep a sabbath to the Lord. This is pretty interesting, right? Now, what did this mean? Well, let us consider that Sabbath was typically treated as a holy day of worshiping the Lord and then resting – doing no labor unless it was to the Lord. With that in mind, the suggestion here is that the land would be the one resting.
So, one who might not be familiar with the thought, might wonder, how could the land ‘rest’? Let’s dive into the next couple of verses so that you can get an idea of what God’s instructions are for the land here.
For six years, the Lord says, the children of Israel were to sow their fields – this meant plowing the field and scattering seed for growth. For six years, the children of Israel were to prune their vineyards and to gather fruit from its vines (v.3). However, in the seventh year, it was to be treated as a sabbath – a solemn year of rest for the land (v.4).
What this meant was that the children of Israel were not supposed to plow their fields, sow seed in the field, nor were they supposed to prune their vineyards. The land was to be left alone and allowed to grow and let nature have its course for an entire year.
Could you imagine what this would have looked like? In the midst of summer, I typically cut my grass once every week so that it looks really nice. However, during the spring, I will allow my yard to “rest” every other week, if not two weeks. What I mean by this is that during the spring I do not cut my grass once a week; I may go a couple of weeks without cutting my grass. Why? Because in the spring, I want my grass to run and to grow very thick.
Now, I cannot imagine going an entire year without cutting my yard! My grass would grow out into the street and some! It would certainly be some kind of sight if all of us were to take a year off of doing no yard whatsoever! So, resting the land for the year would lead to some incredible growth in the fields for the children of Israel.
Rejoicing in a year of rest
On top of this, God instructed the children of Israel not to reap a harvest from the field that year nor were they to gather grapes for a year (v.5). So, essentially, every seven years became years of rest for the people as well because they weren’t going to be working in the fields. I tell you what, that follow up year would have led to a lot of work for them in the field!
However, I do want to point out some symbolism here in a moment. This section of our lesson finishes with the Lord stating that what was produced in the fields would be food for the children of Israel and their animals, even though they were not supposed to reap a harvest (vss.6-7). Though they weren’t supposed to reap the fields for a harvest, they could still go to the field and get some food for their households and animals; God was not going to let them starve!
So, yes, the sabbath year was a year of rest for the land and in essence became a year of rest for those that labored in the field. The symbolism that I referenced earlier is in reference to something that we will one day experience. No, we are not going to experience a year of sabbath rest while we are in the world, however, there is a rest that the obedient ones will get to enjoy. This rest, however, will not be just for one year but it will be for all of eternity.
As I mentioned earlier, obedience leads to one being blessed and rejoicing in the Lord. Again, the children of Israel would have this Sabbath year every seven years when they entered into the Promised Land. Our land of promise, for all who are of genuine faith in Christ, is the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. In heaven, we will no longer labor in the “fields”, but we will rest and rejoice in the Lord; we will be able to do this all because we chose to be obedient to His will and way (instructions).
Year of Jubilee
The next section of scripture in our lesson becomes an even bigger reference to the rejoicing and resting that I just spoke of for the genuine believer.
God instructs the children of Israel to count seven sabbaths of years – so they were supposed to count 49 years (v.8). Why was God instructing them to count seven sabbaths of years? In the next verse, we will see that this would lead to the blowing of the trumpet of the Jubilee on the tenth day of the seventh month (v.9).
The Jubilee? As we see in the very next verse, the Jubilee was celebrated every 50 years (v.10). The children of Israel would proclaim liberty (freedom) throughout the land. If you noticed, the trumpet of Jubilee would be blown on the tenth day of the seventh month. This date should sound very familiar to all of you who have been following the Sunday School lessons for this quarter. This date corresponds with the Day of Atonement!
Now, if you remember, the Day of Atonement was a very solemn and somber day for the children of Israel as they offered up the atonement offering to cover all the sins of Israel for the year. The Day of Atonement, you might remember, was not a joyful celebration like that of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Festival of Booths. However, once every 50 years, the Day of Atonement became the Jubilee and there was a great celebration of liberty (freedom).
We will notice that the Lord instructed that possessions were to be returned and that each were to return to his family. What did this mean? The possessions mentioned here are possessions that were sold because someone may have needed money or had to pay off a debt. A lot of us are familiar with the idea of people having to sell some things that may have even been significant to them just to be able to get buy. However, during the year of Jubilee, those items were to be returned!
Again, the next thing that was mentioned was about each returning to their familiar. The person being spoken of here was one who may have gone into bond service to be able to make a living. Bond service, I want to make clear, was not being a slave; God never instructed anybody to be a slave of another.
Bond service, we could consider, was essentially like being a maid or a butler – working for another person. Again, some people may have done this to pay off a debt or just really needed to be able to make some kind of living. However, in the year of Jubilee, bondservants were set free from such service and were able to return back home. As we will see God instruct, the year of Jubilee was to be a year where nobody sowed, reaped, or gathered grapes from the vine (v.11). The year of Jubilee was a celebration of freedom and it was to be holy (v.12).
There is a Jubilee that you and I will see one day, but it will not be a celebration just for a year. The Jubilee I speak of will be for all of eternity! The eternal Jubilee will, again, be a celebration of liberty – freedom – from this world and the bondage of sin. All of those who obediently keep the instructions of God will be the ones to partake in this eternal Jubilee where we will rest and rejoice in the Lord.