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Scripture reading – Leviticus 25
Leviticus 25 marks the beginning of the LORD’s final instructions to Moses in the matter of His Law and Commandments from Mount Sinai (25:1). This chapter is a fascinating study of God requiring Israel to obey His Law, have faith in His promises, and His promise to bless the people, conditioned upon their obedience.
The Sabbath Year (Leviticus 25:1-7)
We have considered the commandment to keep the Sabbath in earlier devotionals (Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath of the LORD is a day of rest and worship that follows six days of labor. Leviticus 25 introduced the “Sabbath Year,” observed every seventh year (25:2-7).
The Sabbath Year was a year of rest, not only for the farmers, but also for their lands. The people were instructed to labor in the fields for six years, and in the seventh year, they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that volunteered (“groweth of its own accord,” 25:3-7). The farmer was forbidden to harvest the fruit that volunteered the seventh year; however, the poor, servants, laborers, and strangers were allowed to harvest that which grew “of its own accord” (25:5).
The Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:8-17)
The Jubilee Year (25:8-17) occurred on the Hebraic calendar every fifty years and followed “seven sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (25:8). To the people, a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13) was a year of freedom, and an additional Sabbath. The effect was that the lands and vineyards remained idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).
The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (25:9), and the sound of a trumpet marked its beginning. The Year of Jubilee signaled the redemption of a man’s debts, especially for those who may have owed monies to provide for their families. Every man’s possession was restored to his family in the Year of Jubilee (25:10).
To ensure justice was satisfied and neither the insurer nor debtor was “oppressed,” the value of a man’s land was determined by the balance of years before the next jubilee when the lands would be returned to the debtor (25:13-16). To ensure justice and fairness in transactions, the LORD commanded, “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (25:17).
The failure to sow seed on the Sabbath Year meant there would be no harvest at the end of the seventh year and no harvest the eighth year until seed was planted, and there was fruit from their labor (25:18-22). The Jubilee Yearfollowed a Sabbath Year, which meant that Israelites would not plant or harvest crops during the forty-ninth and the fiftieth year.
What was the LORD’S answer to this dilemma?
He promised the Sabbath Year and the Jubilee Year would be abundantly blessed if the people would “do [His]statutes, and keep [His] judgments…[they would] dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land [would] yield [its]fruit,” and they would be filled, “and dwell therein in safety” (25:18-19).
Laws Concerning Real Estate (Leviticus 25:23-34)
Poverty or illness would sometimes force a family to sell their lands. God, however, made provision to recover the lands that were sold in three ways:
A brother or next of kin could buy back the land that had been sold (25:25). The original owner could redeem his land (25:26-27). Finally, the land would be restored to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (25:28).
There was a provision for selling a house and stipulations if the home was in a walled city or a village (where the lands were considered part of the house, 25:29-31). However, the Levites, because they were the priestly tribe, had protections from the loss of lands, for their lands were not to be sold (25:32-35).
Laws Against Usury (Leviticus 25:35-38)
The poor were to be helped, and God prohibited charging them interest (some claim the intent was concerning high-interest rates). God demanded that the poor be treated fairly. As He had extended grace to Israel and delivered them from slavery, the LORD commanded His people to extend grace to one another.
Laws Concerning Servitude (Leviticus 25:39-55)
An Israelite might fall on hard times, and become a bondslave to pay his debt (25:39). No Israelite, however, was to be left without hope. In the Year of Jubilee, all debtors and enslaved Israelites were freed (25:39-43); however, strangers (non-Hebrews) were not released from their debts (25:44-46). Furthermore, an Israelite could be redeemed from slavery anytime (25:48-49). Once again, ensuring justice and fairness, the “price of a [man’s]redemption was based upon the number of years to the Year of Jubilee (25:50-55).
Though the Sabbath and Jubilee Years are foreign to our culture, there are principles in Leviticus 25 that should not be ignored. First, the Sabbath Year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and an acknowledgment by believers that the LORD blesses and prospers His people. The Sabbath Year was also an opportunity to reflect on the LORD’s goodness and provision for His people.
Leviticus 25:23 reminds us that we are sojourners and temporal owners of our possessions: “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (25:23). Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are a temporal owner of your possessions. After all, I have yet to see a hearse pulling a trailer to the grave.
Matthew 6:20-21 – But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Questions to consider:
1) How often did the Sabbath Year occur? (Leviticus 25:3-4)
2) How were the poor to feed themselves and their families during the Sabbath Year? (Leviticus 25:5-7)
3) When did the Jubilee Year occur? (Leviticus 25:8-11)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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