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In English, jubilation refers to a joyful celebration. In Hebrew, the word yôbēl means “ram” and probably refers to the ram’s horn that was blown to announce the great year of jubilee. It came at the end of the cycle of 7 Sabbatical Years or every 50 years (Leviticus 25:8-10).

It certainly was a time to celebrate. Every Israelite who had become a slave because of indebtedness was released and any outstanding debt was canceled. All land that had been sold to non-family members was returned to the original family.

In essence the year of jubilee was an economic institution designed to equitably distribute the wealth among God’s people. The distribution tracked the sociological pattern of kinship in Israel: the tribe, the clan, and the household. God distributed the wealth (land) to each clan and household according to size and need. In order to protect this system of kinship distribution, family land was made inalienable. An Israelite could never sell his or her land; all that could be transferred was the right to use the land until the next year of jubilee.

This system of distribution was based upon two theological truths: (1) the land belonged to Yahweh, and (2) the Israelites were alien tenants-slaves of God. Instead of ownership, the Israelites understood their rights to the land according to principles of stewardship. They also understood that they once were slaves in Egypt but that Yahweh had “purchased” them for His own possession. They had been freed from Egyptian bondage in order to be slaves unto Yahweh.

It is interesting how God reveals Himself to human beings repeatedly. He still owns all things, still demands that we view ownership in terms of stewardship, and is still in the business of redeeming (i.e., buying back and setting free) human beings, isn’t He?

How about you? Have you been set free from your bondage to sin? Are you now a slave unto God? Do you “own” your possessions according to God’s eternal plan of stewardship or do your things own you? Why not declare a jubilee in your life right now May we truly jubilate because of what God has done for us.

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