Our founding fathers had a vision for our nation. They envisioned a land where freedom would reign. They were tired of the tyrannical practices of the King of England, who "refused his Assent to Laws" which were necessary for the public good.
Who "dissolved Representative Houses ... for opposing ... his invasion on the rights of the people."
Who "endeavoured to prevent the population of the[se] states."
Who rendered "the Military ... superior to the Civil power."
Who "cut off ... Trade with all parts of the world."
Who imposed "Taxes ... without ... Consent."
Who "deprived ... in many cases, ... the benefits of Trial by Jury."
Who "excited domestic insurrections." 
After many efforts to resolve these things peacefully, our founding Fathers declared their independence from Brittan, writing,
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Rather than a government of tyranny, they envisioned a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And after the War of Independence, they wrote our constitution, which begins with these words. ...
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
And so, they established our nation. And thus began the American experiment. The founding fathers did all that they could do to protect our liberty. They knew of the corrupting nature of power; they had experienced it in the king of England. And they knew that there had to be checks and balances. That's why they established three branches of our government: the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch. Each with their own unique powers. And each accountable to each other.
They knew that the powers of the government ultimately had to be accountable to the people, thus, the democracy. Strictly speaking, of course, we are not a pure democracy, but a representative democracy. We elect officials, who will represent our concerns in the government.
And right here is the accountability that gives us freedom here in the United States. If we don't like what they are doing, if we feel that our freedom is being neglected, we can elect others to take their place who will establish our freedoms once again.
Now, as we come to our text this morning, we will see God establishing a principle of freedom with His nation, the nation of Israel. The freedom that God established with Israel was not a political freedom of democracy. Rather, it was an institutional freedom that gave everyone a hope of redemption. In other words, as bad as things may get, there is a time when all will be made right.
The title of my message this morning is this: "Hope of Redemption." I invite you to open in your Bibles to Leviticus 25. It was no accident that the Liberty Bell that rests in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is inscribed a verse from this chapter. "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). Because, our country is all about liberty. And this chapter is all about liberty. Let's begin in verse 1.
The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.
These verses describe, ...
1. The Sabbath Year (verses 1-7)
Every seven years, the people of Israel were to let the land lie fallow -- no sowing, no planting, no pruning, no bringing in a harvest. Every seven years, the land would get its rest. Now, there was room to glean from the land, from what grew up volunteer.
Verse 6 says that the land would provide food for the slaves and workers and the sojourners. Verse 7 says that the cattle and wild animals could eat from the land. But nothing could be stored up in the barns from the harvest. And one of the questions that naturally comes to mind is this: How can you live a year without tending the land? Especially in an agrarian society, where all depends upon what grows from the ground? The answer is simple: God.
Do you remember when God provided Manna in the wilderness for the Israelites? He provided it every day. This flake-like substance would rain down from heaven every day (Exodus 16:4). And it would only last for only a day. When some of them tried to gather enough for two days, it "bred worms" at night and "stank" in the morning (Exodus 20:16). But the day before the Sabbath, they gathered twice as much. And when they did so, there were no worms in the morning. Neither did it stink (Exodus 16:24). And so God provided for Israel throughout their desert wanderings.
This is incredible! The Manna would turn rancid if you kept it overnight. Unless, it was the day before the Sabbath. In that case, the Manna would not go bad! I don't know of any food like this in the history of the world. But, this is what God can do.
When Israel needed food that didn't go bad, then God provided for them. The same is the case with the Sabbath year. With the land laying fallow for a year, God could easily have provided a bumper crop the year before to take care for two. In fact, as we shall see with our next point, God can do this for three years. "I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years" (25:21).
He did this in the days of Joseph. Remember: Seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine (Genesis 41:25-36). The seven years before were sufficient to provide for the seven years after. And so likewise here. God can be trusted. If He commands such a thing, then He will meet the requirements for us to keep the command.
Do you trust God? Are there things in your life that you know that you need to be trusting God for? Finances? Job uncertainty in your life? Relationships? Future things? God called Israel to trust Him by resting the land every seventh year. What has God called you to do to trust Him?
I trust that you can see the blessing all over this command. It wasn't supposed to be a burden. It was supposed to be a delight! Enjoy a measure of Sabbath rest every seven years? For the entire year! Can you imagine what it would be like during the year leading up to this year? The sixth year before the farming utensils are put away? The sixth year before the work load is greatly diminished? The only thing that I can compare it to is an extended vacation. Where you look forward to it for months! Maybe a trip to Florida or Texas or the Caribbean!
Now, the sad thing is this: we have little proof that a Sabbath year was ever kept by the people of Israel. There are hints that it may have taken place a few times. When Israel returned to the promised land after the exile, we read of their pledge to keep that Sabbath year, "We will forego the crops of the seventh year" they said (Nehemiah 10:31). But, such a pledge my simply be like our passage this morning -- a pledge before the fact.
Whether or not they actually followed through with their intentions is up for debate. We don't know. All we know is that they pledged their obedience. Perhaps this is because they keenly felt their disobedience during the exile. Because, at the end of 2 Chronicles (36:21) God said that they would be in exile 70 years so that land could enjoy its Sabbaths that Israel had neglected for so many years.
In other words, for years, Israel failed to give rest to the land. And so, as God removed them from the land, the land became desolate and was able to enjoy all of its years of rest that Israel never gave.
So, when it comes to trusting God, will you be like Israel of old? Or will you trust God?
We have seen, The Sabbath Year (verses 1-7). Let's turn our attention now to ...
And it's here that we really begin to see the hope for redemption. Verse 8, ...
"You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
Every fifty years, that land would return to its original owner. There would be seven Sabbath years. And after the seventh one, there would be another, a jubilee year. For many, this would be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. But, for others, they may have been able to experience it once when they were young and again when they were old.
The best that I can compare this to is the celebration of our nation' independence. When our country turned 200 years old, we celebrated the "bicentennial." In 2026 our county will turn 250 years old. I'm sure that we will have another similar celebration. When that times comes, you may become familiar with the word, "sestercentennial," which means "250." Or, the celebration may be called the "quarter-millennial" celebration.
I was old enough to remember the first celebration, but was only a child. When the next celebration comes around, I will be on the verge of retirement. For those only a bit younger than myself, they were too young to remember the first celebration. They will only experience one such celebration in their lifetime.
What a grand time the "jubilee" would have been. The word "jubilee" comes from the Hebrew word, "yobel," Which literally means, "ram's horn." The idea is that the horn is blown and liberty is proclaimed throughout the land! It's a year to celebrate.
And in this year, the land didn't simply rest, but land ownership was restored. That is, restored to what it was when the LORD originally apportioned the promised land. Which, when Moses wrote these words, was only in the future.
In this way, the people of Israel were given their freedom. In essence, there was a promise that nobody would come and take their land permanently. Because, every fifty years, all would be restored! And here's hope! If ever the fortunes of your life turned sour, and you needed to sell your land to get some cash to live, there would be this day, the jubilee, at least once in your lifetime, when you get your land back!
It may be that you lost your land from a catastrophe. Some hailstorm came through and wiped out your crop. Or a swarm of locusts came and ate up your crop,. Or some unknown wasting disease killed your animals. Or, it may be that you lost your land from laziness. Perhaps you slept during the harvest. And so, you were compelled to sell your land.
Well, It mattered not what your circumstances were. Come the year of jubilee, and you would get your land back! Perhaps the good favor of the LORDwould shine upon you once again. Or, you could learn from your mistakes. In this was hope!
And I can't help but to think of the parallels here with Jesus. It really matters not what you have done in this life. Perhaps misfortune has come upon you as you grew up in a home that didn't know the LORD. And so sin reigned, and you learned its ways. Or your father died when you were a child, and you grew up with little direction in life. Or you flat out failed in following the LORD. Yes, your parents taught you in the ways of Christ, but you rebelled! There is still a hope of redemption for you. You simply need to turn from your sin and trust in Jesus! He's the one who brings in the favorable year!
Do you remember when Jesus preached in the synagogue at Nazareth for the first time? He unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read the following (from what we know of as Isaiah 61). "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19a).
This passage has allusions to the year of Jubilee, the year when God's favor would rest upon Israel. When the poor would receive back their land. And when captives would be set free! This is what Jesus came to do! He came to grant us freedom! He came to redeem us! And in Jesus, we have "Hope of Redemption!"
What Israel would experience in part during this year, we experience in whole! For, Jesus doesn't simply restore the land for a season, only to be lost if circumstances in our life turned sour, where we need to wait again another 50 years until all may be restored again! No, Jesus restores us for eternity. He redeems us from our sin that we might dwell in God's country for eternity! And the year of jubilee was a picture of the true freedom that Christ came and brought. It's what Jesus proclaimed in that synagogue. I's what Jesus preached as He traveled throughout Israel. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!" (John 8:32).
Back to Israel. The way this worked was this: no one really bought the land. Instead, you could say that they "rented the land." They were purchasing crops, not the land. Look at verse 13, ...
"In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.
And, like the Sabbath year, this would cause Israel to trust the LORD, but even more so. It was one thing for the land to lie dormant once every seven years, and trust the LORD to provide whatever might lack. But, it was another thing to trust the LORD during the year of Jubilee, as the land would lie dormant for two consecutive years.
But, beginning in verse 18, the LORD clearly explains how He will bless the land on the sixth year. He explains how He will provide enough crops for the seventh year (the Sabbath year), and for the eighth year (the year of Jubilee) and to carry you through until harvest of the ninth year! God makes very clear that His hand would be upon Israel through these years.
"Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. And if you say, 'What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?' I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.
Now, sadly, we have no historical record that this was ever celebrated. The Sabbath year is one thing; we have some hints that perhaps it was followed on occasion. But nowhere do we have any indication from any source of history (archaeology or ancient writings) that this year of Jubilee was ever celebrated!
But, what they missed on this earth, has been granted us in Jesus. Let's enjoy our jubilee.
Let's move on to my third point. Now we come to the ...
In this section, we see the LORD telling of how you can have your land again. The principle comes from verse 23, ...
"The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.
The land that Israel would eventually come to occupy was not their own land. It was God's land. And Israel was to forever remember that fact. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the LORD's and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it." I'm sure that in the early years of Israel's existence, they understood this. They were wandering in the desert for 40 years. But God gave them a land.
It's a little bit like when we moved into this building four years ago. I remember in the early days filled with thankfulness that God had given to us a building. No longer did we need to rent a facility. But, we had a place that we could use for ministry. And thankfulness to God filled this place.
And I don't believe that it has left us. I know that it hasn't left me. God has given to us a building to use for His glory. It's not ours. It's His.
But, how easy it is that in years to come, we forget. Rather than holding this building with an open hand, allowing the LORD to use it as He wills, we can become possessive, holding on tightly to our things, as if we have some entitlement to this place.
But, church family, let us never forget that "we are sojourners" here (verse 23). There will be a day when we pass this church onto another generation. And may they be faithful to steward these resources. Until that time, we are simply stewards of what God has given to us.
And so likewise was Israel in the land. They were stewards of God's land. And God said (in verse 24), ...
And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land.
In other words, if you fell into hardship and had to sell your land, you always had the right to buy it back. Unlike today, once a real-estate transaction takes place, it's done. Someone can't come in and demand that you sell your home. But, they could in Israel.
And in this way there was freedom. Nobody was able to come in and take your home or your land without your say. Nobody was able to come in and keep your land if you had the means to purchase it again. And beginning in verse 25, we have the details of how this is to work out.
"If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.
Simple enough. There is "Hope for Redemption." And here's the hope -- as long as you were alive, you had the ability to come and redeem your land. Or a rich uncle had ability to come and redeem your land. And if all of that didn't pan out, at least there was the year of jubilee.
Now, there were some exceptions, mostly pertaining to cities.
"If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.
This only makes sense. As you build and develop cities, they change drastically, and increase in value. It would be impossible to determine exactly who owned what, and what is fair to redeem. Except in the case of the Levites, who were only given cities (Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21:1-45). They lose them, and they wouldn't be able to recover. So, they can be redeemed.
But, in all this, there is hope. Hope for redemption!
God also instructed the Israelites on how to deal with the poor, that the poor might have ability to be redeemed. In other words, don't bury them too far into debt that they simply cannot get out. But, deal with them fairly. Or, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18).
"If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
It is easily the case that those without means are taken advantage of. I had a taste of this a few weeks ago in my dealings with PayPal Credit. Quite frankly, it was awful. And I want you to know about it. I want you to spread the word.
In recent months, Yvonne paid for about $160 of items with PayPal Credit. I didn't even know that PayPal Credit was any different than PayPal. You probably don't either. Both of them use the same password. And one would think that they are one and the same. But beware, they are not.
Anyway, she didn't realize what she had done. She didn't realize that she was paying with PayPal Credit, and not PayPal. But, no worries. I would have assumed that it worked just like my PayPal works (i.e. deducting the payment automatically from my credit card or bank account). However, such was not the case. With PayPal Credit, you have to go into their website and perform the transaction manually. So, as a result, I didn't pay off the balance. With rare exception, when something gets lost in the mail, we always pay off our credit card each month. Now, regarding PayPal Credit, it's not that I was unwilling to pay off the balance on the PayPal credit. I simply didn't even know that I had to do this.
So, PayPal Credit emails me on several occasions telling me that I needed to do something with my account. But, having received multiple scam emails just like those that I received, wanting me to sign in to a spoof PayPal account, and trick me into entering my credit card information, I assumed that this was the case and didn't check it out. PayPal had no need to ever email me something with concern over my account, because they already had my credit card information. They can deduct whatever is needed.
In fact, I looked up any email that I have received from PayPal and they always write at the bottom, "Please do not reply to this email. We are unable to respond to inquiries sent to this address. For immediate answers to your questions, visit our Help Center by clicking "Help" located on any PayPal page or email."
Well, lo and behold, I get a statement in the mail telling me that I'm behind on my payment. Check this out. For a few months of not paying (I think it was 3 months), I was charged interest at 19.99%!! A ripoff at that. But, what was worse, is that I was charged a $25, and then $35 late fee! That means that I owed almost double of what I initially charged on my PayPal Credit card in a few months! That equates to something like a 300% interest rate.!
Here's what I wrote to PayPal Credit in response to a survey they asked me to take: "This is HIGHWAY ROBBERY! Really, something is dreadfully wrong with this. If this business were local, I go to the better business bureau or write a letter to the editor or something to shame this incredibly unfair practice! Especially with the difference in business name (between PayPal and PayPal Credit, a difference of which I knew nothing until my call a few days ago)."
Now, to their credit, they did reduce my fine to about $20, even though I requested that they take it away entirely. I was just ready to be done with it. So, I settled. What I experienced is the experience of many who live beyond their means and cannot pay off their credit card. I was just shocked enough, because it doesn't happen to us. We pay off any credit card that we own. But, it is American business preying upon those who can't afford it.
God prohibited such things in Israel so that people might have a chance to redeem their possessions. Thus, you see the love and care of God.
Let's look at my last point this morning, ...
And here we get a picture of what Christ has done on the cross. He has redeemed people.
Now, before I read it, know that there are some things in here that are repugnant to our ears. Because, when we think of slavery, we think of slaves brought over in ships against their will and treated cruelly. Now, I'm not denying that this didn't happen in Israel. But, such treatment of other human beings was clearly condemned by God (verses 43, 46, 53 below). Furthermore, much of the slavery in the days of the Jews was either voluntary, or induced to pay off a debt.
A good parallel in our society is the slavery incurred by those who enlist in the military. They voluntarily subject themselves to the rigors of our armed forces in return for the benefits (pay, education, career path, retirement benefits, etc.). While they are in the military, they are well-provided for with housing, clothes, moving expenses, etc. But, enlisting does limit one's freedom and does subject one to danger. But, for many, it is worth it.
Though we think that we have freed ourselves from slavery, know that (according to Biblical definition), we still have slaves in America. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."
Anyway, let's read, ...
"If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
"If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger's clan, then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Rather than going into the details of all these things, let me make a few observations:
First, God cares for His people. He doesn't want His people to be slaves (verse 39). If you are a part of God's economy, there is a hope of freedom that you can enjoy.
Second, God provides for the redemption of people, bringing them to freedom. This comes in Jesus to all who believe and trust in Him! Ephesians 1:7 says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace." Many songs today focus upon our redemption. It is a glorious reality.
In Israel, people became slaves for various reasons (laziness, hard times). But, a brother could come along and redeem you! So that now you are free. This is exactly the parallel between what happens to us. We were slaves in our sin. But now, we have been set free! "The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Jesus redeems us from our slavery!
In Jesus, "we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13). Christ came "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:5).
For the Israelites, their redemption came when the year of jubilee rolled around, or when they found a close relative who had the means and the willingness to purchase their freedom. But, for us, this redemption has come in Jesus. We simply need to believe and the year of the jubilee has come upon us.
Has this made an impact on your life? Jesus has set you free not to do as you want, but to do as you ought. This is true freedom. Christ Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).
Our American forefathers created our country based on the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We know that these three things are only truly found in Christ. May He be our true Life, Liberty and Happiness.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
May 10, 2015 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.