“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” Have you ever said those words?
I got a ticket for game two of the World Series in 1990 when the Cincinnati
Reds defeated the Oakland A’s on their way to a four-game sweep. As a lifelong Reds fan I found their 2-1 victory so satisfying that I don’t mind if that’s the only World Series game I ever personally attend. I have visited beautiful places like Hawaii, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, and Venezuela, but I may never have the privilege of seeing them again.
For the majority of ancient Israelites, the Year of Jubilee was so rare (every fiftieth year) it happened only once in a lifetime. Some fortunate individuals got to experience a jubilee year when they were young and another when they were old—for example, when they were 20 and when they were 70. Lifespans were considerably shorter in those days, however. Someone who died in his forties might never experience a Year of Jubilee. There’s no record of anyone living long enough to experience three Years of Jubilee, although if you do the math, it’s theoretically possible for someone who lived to the age of 100 or beyond.
To us the Law of Moses seems austere and demanding, but as the name Jubilee suggests, the Lord intended every fiftieth year to be an extended season of joy—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “proclaim liberty throughout the land” (Leviticus 25:10). The Year of Jubilee brought rest from labor, freedom from bondage, reconnection with one’s family heritage, special times of worship, and relief from burdensome debt. It also compelled God’s people to exercise faith, because instead of planting and harvesting their fields as usual, they were to trust the Lord to provide “and eat only what is taken directly from the fields” (Leviticus 25:12).
Free to Live in Joy
Critics of the Bible accuse it of being oppressive, but what if God intends it to be just the opposite—a message that brings liberation and joy? Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). When you drive in the mountains, well-marked roads and guardrails don’t ruin the trip; they keep you safe so you can enjoy the journey and appreciate the view. God’s Word doesn’t prevent us from enjoying life; it provides the framework in which true freedom and joy can be realized.
Listening to a sermon last Christmas, I noticed that the preacher used the word Advent to describe the coming of the Lord. It struck me that Advent is the root of another word: adventure.
There’s something adventurous about a holy God who intentionally built into his Law a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime Year of Jubilee. Even more, there’s something adventuresome about a loving God who came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, and altered history by dying on a cross and rising from the dead.
If you decide to place your faith in the Lord, prepare for a life so hard that Jesus compared it to picking up a cross. But know that in following Christ you also can find rare adventure, spiritual freedom, and lasting joy. You only have one life to live. Why not use it to serve the one who came so “that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11)?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.