REFLECTIONS ON THE REST OF GOD AND THE JUBILEE
Notes for ISOM AT NLRC December 10, 2013
SOME THOUGHTS FOR PASTORS AND LEADERS
We must remind ourselves that those who minister in God’s Church must be those who are prepared to ‘serve’ the Word. This is a continuous ‘deaconate.’ A deacon is a servant, errand boy. Linked with this must be the deepening understanding that the Word and the Spirit are inseparably joined.
- There must be those who serve the Lord and His church in both prayer and the service of the word (Acts 6:1-7).
- The apostles called themselves ‘deacons’ (Acts 6:4). The seven men chosen by the church to serve tables were not called deacons.
- Prayer is not many words; it is the attitude of a life in conversation with God. No minister can truly preach the heart of God who is not in that living conversation with Him.
- Strictly speaking it is impossible for neither the true ministry of the Word to take place without the Spirit, nor the workings of the Spirit to be present without the Word being ministered.
- Word without spirit is called ‘letter’ and kills (2 Corinthians 3:6).
- What appears to be ‘Spirit’ without the Word is at best the action of the flesh and at worst the work of masquerading evil spirits.
- Paul again uses the word ‘deacon’ to describe the ministry of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:5).
- Ministers who live in this conversation with God will increasingly be filled with the wonder of God’s work in both the first and the second Testaments. (The Old and the New). They are conjoined. God does not switch His ways in the New; He lays out those ways in types and figures in the Old and brings them forth in their fullness in the New.
GOD FORMS AND SEPARATES A NATION FOR HIMSELF
A new beginning opens in Genesis twelve. It is the calling of Abraham and the promises made by God to him that constitutes that beginning. From that one man and his wife Sarah will come His Old Testament nation and later, from that nation will come the Messiah Jesus Who will be a blessing to all nations.
- God’s purpose is that He might reveal Himself and presence Himself among His own people and that they be a light to the nations.
- Trace the story, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve tribes that came from him.
- Continue the story, the passage of this fledgling people of God down into Egypt and their growth into a formidable host of people that resulted in their eventual enslavement (Exodus 1:1-14).
- They grew in adversity and increased in the midst of abuse!
- Eventually there were probably well over a million of them.
- God promised Abraham that He would come to his offspring in delivering power after about four hundred years had passed by (Genesis 15:12-16).
- Now, four hundred years later, in the midst of a scenario of seven day a week slavery where God’s people were a rabble in bondage, disheartened and dispirited, faith was still present.
- The enemy also knew the time frame and incited the Pharaoh to kill the boy babies by drowning but Amram and Jochabed were alive to the times and season and would not drown their boy Moses (Hebrews 11:23).
- The boy was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his mother, she would have taught him all she knew of his lineage (Exodus 2:1-11). He was a Jew and born at such a time as this! Deliverance was in the air!
- At forty years old, Moses refused the shape and mould of Egypt and fled (Exodus 2:11-15).
- His puny efforts at effecting deliverance had failed.
- But God appeared as a Burning Bush. An apt symbol for God Whose nature and purpose is like the fiery bush that did not die out but kept on burning (Exodus 3:1-6).
- Moses was called and commissioned to go back and be God’s vessel of deliverance. He was weak enough for God to display His power and strength.
TO BRING MY PEOPLE OUT AND IN
God spoke of this motley crowd of dispirited slaves as “HIS PEOPLE.” He was determined to bring them up out of the house of bondage and into the land of promise. To this end He called Moses as His leader.
- God wanted to thoroughly revolutionize the life of His people.
- To give them a land good and broad and flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:7-8).
- By His power He was going to show the puny nature of the gods of Egypt.
- God called Moses at the foot of the holy mountain and he was to bring the people to that very spot (Exodus 3:5, Exodus 3:12, Exodus 19:2).
- There God would meet with His people. The Mount Sinai was His temporary earthly headquarters and He desired to live in the midst of them in a sanctuary (Exodus 25:2-8).
GOD’S HOLY NATION, HIS PECULIAR PEOPLE
The Exodus story of how God delivered His Old Testament people out of Egypt and brought them to the land of promise was remembered throughout their generations. Whenever they fell away from God’s purposes there were those who wrote Psalms and spoke prophecy’s reminding them of their origins. The whole story is a graphic picture of a greater Exodus through darkness and blood that Jesus accomplished on Calvary and in resurrection when He brought God’s Holy Nation out of the darkness and dominion of their slavery to sin and bondage to guilt into the land of resting in His love and holiness.
- God wanted to surround Himself with His people.
- This is the meaning of the word ‘peculiar’ (1 Peter 2:9, Deuteronomy 7:6).
- God chose them because they were few in number (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
- He loves His people.
- They were to be holy unto Him in the midst of other nations each of which had foul moral practices and worshipped false deities that demanded of them such things as human sacrifice, sometimes even of their children (Moab and Chemosh for example).
- Thus, in our day, the god of this world demands that career dominated women sacrifice their unborn children in the appalling practice of abortion. Pregnancy is inconvenient and interferes with career in the eyes of many. This is nothing less than the worship of modern idols.
- Does God’s holy nation, the church display His ways of family in the midst of these foul gods?
THE LAWS AND STATUTES GIVEN TO GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE
“How I love Your Law,” Exclaimed the Psalmist (Psalm 119:97). This is amazing and it is not a rare statement in the Old Testament. What a gracious set of laws and ordinances and statutes God gave His people. His laws were given to regulate every department of their life, spiritual, moral, social and political.
- The law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7).
- What wisdom is contained in every ordinance and divine arrangement; they are so right (Psalm 19:9).
- They are sweeter than honey and keeping them has great reward (Psalm 19:10-11).
- God first spoke the ten words (commandments) and we must contain His tone as He did so (Deuteronomy 4:12-13). A tone of promise to be sure.
- He then wrote them and then Moses wrote down the detailed ‘small print’ of those ten main laws in a book (Deuteronomy 4:14, Exodus 34:27).
CONCENTRATING ON THE LAWS OF SABBATH AND JUBILEE
We have to set these amazing laws of rest, of Sabbath days and years and Jubilee against this background. What a nation is like unto Israel? What people are like unto God’s New Testament people the church, His nation in the midst of the nations living by His rules and manifesting His ways?
- These rules and ways will be our life and our wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:5-6)
- The life of the children of Israel was to speak to the nations so clearly, more than their words. What kind of nation is this? A god so near to it as the Lord and statutes and rules so righteous? (Deuteronomy 4:7-8).
- These rules and ways of God covered every detail of their lives.
- Nations around about were seven day a week people. They had no Sabbath rests for their land. No apparently foolish years of release when servants were let go freely and no jubilee times when land reverted to its original owners. They had fertility rites, worshipping the gods of the soil. But the children of Israel, what people are like them! What God is like unto their God!
- Carefully read the rules of the Sabbath years in Exodus 23:10-12, Deuteronomy 15:1-18, and the Sabbath and Jubilee years in Leviticus 25:1-48).
- It is essential you read these verses and breath their atmosphere.
- It is the atmosphere of God the giving God encouraging His people to be exactly the same.
- To be a people who forgive, who release their debtors.
- God is the generous giver. So must His people display this manner of living.
- They are not profit crazy! They treat their employees and employers with honesty and integrity.
- They let their beasts of burden rest one day in seven and one year out of every seven.
- They above all things develop a deep dependence upon God and allow Him to display His care for them in giving sufficiency of ‘profit’ from the land in the appropriate years of labor.
- They learn to rest in Him, reliance on Him is a central reality of Sabbath laws
- God is the owner of all. God’s people are stewards. They are not owners. This also is right at the heart of the Sabbath rests written into the pattern of spiritual, moral and social life of the people.
- Liberty for all, release and a regular reminder and reaffirmation that God supplies, keeps, provides in His love.
- Their tithes were merely dues paid from the plenty of the land to make sure that the priests and Levites had sufficient food. They were all to eat of the tithes with joy.
- Tithing is unreasonable and unequal; it does not touch the rich and pinches the poor.
- God instituted something much better, the open handedness of the Sabbath years with all the implications that are present in them.
- Oh for a generous hearted people who give and bless bountifully and not those who are in the grip of some ten percent idea that will give them a return of one hundred fold!
- Jacob (the heel grabber), the mercenary man made a bargain with God but, when God changed his name to Israel (a prince of, or with God) had let everything he possessed go across the brook Jabbok (Compare Genesis 28:18-22 and Genesis 32:23-24).
- Israel was the name of God’s people. He wanted them to live that generous way but instead, more often than not they have lived grabbing profits here there and everywhere and sometimes off the backs of the poor.
GOD’S OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE DISOBEDIENT
It is one of the great tragedies of the Old Testament people of God that they became like unto the peoples around about them. In a word, they were worldly. They followed the customs of the nations around about. They did not keep the Sabbaths God had granted them. Instead they really were those who sought to profit as much as they could from the land, and from abusing one another.
- Whilst it is true that there was always a remnant according to grace, those who believed and obeyed God and kept His ways (Romans 11:5) the majority were disobedient (Romans 10:21).
- The result was that they most painfully went into captivity again. This time it was Babylon. No Sabbaths there. For seventy years they were in the grip of slavery because of the four hundred and ninety years they had not allowed the Sabbath law to operate (2 Chronicles 36:17-21).
- Destruction and mayhem were the result of their long disobedience and worldliness, just as God said would occur (Leviticus 26:34-39).
- Unforgiveness had taken the place of release, abuse of each other and the exploitation of the poor had replaced mercy and open handedness, the result was slavery for the nation.
- Instead of celebrating the feast years of Sabbath, they suffered the abuse of others.
- They did not give God the space to display His excellence and became like the other nations.
WHAT OF GOD’S HOLY NATION TODAY
By this we mean His church. Do they live in His Sabbath rest of trust, as they should? We must ask ourselves and search our hearts. Do those in business have fame in their area of expertise, a fame concerning their integrity in business, their fairness and evenhandedness and generosity towards employees and clients? Do they generously open their hands to the needy and err in the direction of tenderness rather than any form of harshness? Do employees labor with glad hearts from rest in God, contented with their income or join the chorus of complainers in the world?
- The church must give God room to display His faithfulness.
- Reliance upon Him is crucial.
- Releasing people in forgiveness is essential.
- Helping our brother and sister in need should be a joy.
- Generosity of attitude toward all is central to our relationships with our neighbor.
- Our God is great in the midst of us. Give Him room to show forth His greatness.
- We must remember that we are stewards and not owners.
THE BESTOWAL OF THE FULL INHERITANCE
Look carefully at the law of the Jubilee fiftieth year (Leviticus 25:8-46). The trumpet was blown to usher in the year when every one possessed and repossessed what had been lost. Their inheritance was granted to them. So, when the last trumpet blows and Jesus returns He will bring in the eternal jubilee (1 Corinthians 15:52). Everything shall be changed. Everything shall come into its proper place and the mortal shall put on immortality.
- Jesus came from the place of rest (the throne in the heavens) and worked and so returned to the place of rest.
- From rest, to rest is the law of work.
- Thus God has worked throughout all history.
- His people must learn to be like Him and we must work from rest and toward rest. From rest to rest must be in the fabric of our thinking and doing.
- We shall indeed be ‘peculiar people’ if we live this God way!
- We shall be people of peace and rest who are not greedy for gain.
- God shall display His goodness and grant us fruit for our labors.
- We must give God the opportunity to take up His “God Responsibility”!
- He lends us our brains, our powers, our abilities that we might steward them for Him. He grants us skills and abilities so that we can walk with Him in these things.
- We do not own our houses, our flats, our businesses; we are God’s stewards.
- The generous Sabbath life should regulate everything we do and all our relationships, we should exemplify forgiveness, open handedness and faithful dealing in the midst of the nations of this world and become famous for this.
- l. So God shall be glorified and we shall live free in His rest.
Remember, these three studies have been just a few reflections on this most wonderful subject. May we go on to know Him and His ways more and more so that we may be His nation and peculiar people in the midst of the peoples and nations of this world.