William Kelly Major Works Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,Leviticus Chapter 25
THE LAND AND JEHOVAH'S EARTHLY PURPOSE.
1. THE SABBATH YEAR.
The Feasts had given the entire circle of divine purpose and ways leading up to its effectuation, etc. (Lev. 23). Leviticus 24 presents, in a remarkable and concise twofold, the unfailing priestly light in the Sanctuary, whatever the darkness of Israel might be temporarily to their shame because of their rebellion and blasphemy of His Name. This is vividly set forth in the fruit of a mixed marriage in the same chapter and its unsparing doom. Now follows, in a seventh sabbatic year, and the jubilee when seven sevens of years pass, Jehovah's pledge that His mercy endures for ever, and this for His land, for His people; as it is written in Deuteronomy 32:43, "For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be merciful to His land, to His people."
Jehovah means to bless all families of the earth in Abraham, and in his seed, the true (not the figurative) Son dead and risen; and so the apostle could justify, by its first clause, the gospel to every creature, and those that believe of the Gentiles, rejoicing with the Israel of God, all such fleshly distinction gone in the church. But the fulfilment for Israel, and the nations as a whole awaits the day of Jehovah; when after overwhelming judgments on both, and on apostate Christendom most of all, the Crucified, Jah the Saviour, shall reign over all the earth. In that day shall there be one Jehovah, and His name one, all idols consigned to the moles and to the bats. Yet though mercy will surely bless the nations, even Egypt the old oppressor and Assyria that punished them for their idolatry, Israel shall still be expressly Jehovah's inheritance. No other is holy and pleasant here below. By the Christians, during Israel's night, as for the faithful elders, is seen a better land, that is, a heavenly, and not as by them afar off, but themselves brought nigh and lit up with the light of Christ, their life, known far more fully by sovereign grace. How can any, with the N. T. and the Holy Spirit as now given, doubt it for a moment? No wonder that such children are gloomy, under notions so defective (to say the least), and occupied overmuch with creature evil, to the loss of the spiritual good to be enjoyed; for whatever the reproach and the suffering, we more than conquer through Him that loved us.
The Jews are exiles again, and far longer the time required for their blind hatred of their, of Jehovah's, Messiah. But they shall yet sing, "His foundation is in the mountains of holiness. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the tabernacles of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." At that very time God will have visited the judgments of saints and apostles and prophets on the corrupt city of confusion, which has so long dazzled the eyes of the superstitious as the false eternal, doomed to God's burning, the smoke of which is to go up to the ages of ages, when the earth as well as the heavens rejoice. Neither London nor Paris, neither Berlin nor Vienna nor yet Moscow, has the smallest claim to a sacred title. It is quite easy to understand that successful merchants, soldiers, and scientists think otherwise; but what is the worth of any opinion of man? The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God abides for ever. And the Christian can say so with an emphasis and joy unknown as yet to the Jew, if he but know his calling upwards, waiting for the Lord to receive him to Himself for heavenly glory as well as reigning over the earth in that day.
" 1 And Jehovah spoke to Moses in mount Sinai, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When ye come into the land that I will give you, the land shall keep a sabbath to Jehovah. 3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years shalt thou prune thy vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof; 4 but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest for the land, a sabbath to Jehovah. Thy field thou shalt not sow, nor prone thy vineyard. 5 That which groweth of itself of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, and the grapes of thine undressed vines thou shalt not gather: a year of rest shall it be for the land. 6 And the sabbath of the land shall be for food for you; for thee, and for thy bondman, and for thy handmaid, and for thy hired servant, and for him that dwelleth as a sojourner with thee, 7 and for thy cattle, and for the beasts that [are] in thy land: all the produce thereof, it shall be for your food."
Now here was to worldly ears the strangest edict ever imposed on a people. Nebuchadnezzar, despotic as he was, could not dare to issue it; nor Cyrus the Persian, nor Alexander. Julius Caesar or his imperial nephew would have counted it stark madness. Jehovah laid it down as a matter of course for a people separated to Himself; and this early in their wilderness history. For it is intimated that He spoke it to Moses in mount Sinai, whence they moved early in the second year; as then He told them of their coming to the promised land, though many years through their sinful folly must pass till the rebellious generation was followed by another one. He knew the end from the beginning, and has communicated to His own what was good for them to know, let the miscalled higher critics revile as they may. Nor did Jehovah ever fail to make good the extraordinary means He adopted, as explained in vers. 21, 22. He gave them, while Israel obeyed, the produce of three years on every sixth year, to carry over not that year only but the sabbatic and the eighth, when they sowed and waited for its harvest. It was therefore a constant exertion of divine power and goodness to a people whom He thus encouraged to trust and honour Him. But Israel soon became restive under His control and authority, and contrived to be "like all the nations," growing mad on strange gods beyond any. Retrograding they violated the Covenant, and made it impossible for Jehovah to perform His wondrous part, unless He consented to His own dishonour.
The Sabbath had a great and holy interest from the beginning. It was God's rest from creating to make; but man sinned and failed to enter. It reappeared in His dealings of grace before Israel reached Sinai, when it was marked out after the manna was given, type of rest after the living bread from heaven. But Israel liked not that bread of God, and lusted after flesh, confiding in human ability to keep the law which embodied the Sabbath as a divine command. It became a sign to Israel, a sign of God: rest to faith, when God introduced any new principle in the great book of redemption, Exodus. But Israel despised and ignored His sabbaths, though every week closed with one, and the first month had an added one to which Messiah's death lent a most solemn import, with the sevens till Pentecost; and the seventh month more openly still, with its Day of Atonement, and its Feast of Booths, with its first day and eighth extraordinarily. But the sabbath year was the same writ large to be read and seen by all men. It brought into prominence the land: "a year of rest for the land," of which Jehovah was landlord, and Israel His tenants at will.
O that His people had hearkened, and Israel had walked in His ways! But they would none of Him to their own ruin, to this day even worse than of old, but not for ever. No: the land is His, and He will give it again to them, no longer on the condition of their faithfulness to Him but of His to them in mercy; when they are brought down truly to feel that mercy alone suits either their sin and ruin, or His grace and truth as their Saviour God. God's rights remain to faith when man, yea the chosen nation, sinned away all pretension to right on their part. It is true that an unparalleled tribulation must be the last chapter of the Jew without the true God and His Anointed, alas! under the antichrist, the man of sin, "the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). Yes, Jehovah will be merciful to His land, to His people.
The sabbath year was also marked by the liberation of a brother who had become a bondman to an Israelite; for what anomalies might not be till Messiah come and reign over them? But even during the day of evil through one man's weakness or fault, and another man's availing himself of it for his selfishness, in that land only was the sign of the good time coming, and of Him who is competent to put down all enemies. But even now Jehovah insisted on all that heeded this law, that after six years of bondage the Hebrew slave could claim liberty. "In the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee" (Ex. 21, Deuteronomy 15:12); and when sent free, he was not to "go away empty." The law made nothing perfect; but it was righteous, good, and holy check on man. It was not Christ and redemption, or the Spirit and the new man; so that neo-critics, who complain of things then as not on the Christian level, only betray their illwill and ignorance.
Again, the seventh or sabbath year was Jehovah's release for the insolvent Hebrew (Deuteronomy 15:1-15). It is beautiful and affecting, how the lawgiver was inspired to appeal to the hearts of those who had, on behalf of the poor brother that had not. But the divine mind was clear and express in this beneficent obliteration of debts in the year when His own bounty was so conspicuous to His people, spite of sad and frequent faults.
There was the further care of His wisdom, that "at the end of [every] seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before Jehovah thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing" (Deuteronomy 31:10-11). Thus admirably was it provided, unless rebellious wickedness hindered, that every Israelite, men, women, and children, ay, "and thy stranger that is within thy gates," should hear and observe to do all the words of this law.
But as unbelief led to idolatry, so even before this, to profane the sabbaths of every kind, of days and years, as we find predicted in Leviticus 26:14-15, and also punished in the carrying away to Babylon for seventy years (2 Chronicles 36:20-21). Alas! it is the old, old story of man's failure in every duty, and from the earliest; for what meant the setting up the calf of gold which Aaron made at the people's mandate, before the tables on which Jehovah deigned to write His law were brought down by Moses? These however are only the wretched ways of man. But days come, when all will be recovered by a poor and afflicted and repentant people under Messiah and the new covenant. Then will be fulfilled all the pledges of the sabbath year, and incomparably more, every promise and every prediction to God's glory, and to the blessing of Israel and all the nations; as the heavenly saints will enjoy still higher and richer blessings with Christ above.
Here again note the testimony to Jehovah's beneficence to the humble and the needy and the stranger that sojourned with the Israelite, to their cattle, and to the very beasts in their land: none forgotten, all provided for; though in the sabbath year not a field was sown nor a vineyard pruned, not a field reaped nor the grapes gathered. What a witness for God, if Israel had obeyed! But they disobeyed here as elsewhere; and were it not that Jehovah changes not, the sons of Jacob had been destroyed hopelessly. But He looked on to Messiah and His sacrificial work, awaiting in the latter day their repentance in His grace. Then will He blot out their transgressions for His own sake, and will not remember their sins. Then the deaf shall hear, and the blind see. Then shall the lame leap as a hart, and the tongue sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break forth, and torrents in the desert. And the mirage shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitations of wild dogs where they lay, grass with reeds and rushes. In short, sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
On the other hand it ought to be plain to every reflecting Christian that the type of the recurring sabbatical year of release cannot without violence be applied to the church or to any individual member of it. We have redemption in Christ through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. It is a constant privilege of the gospel. One may have to confess any and every sin into which he falls by the way through unwatchfulness and failure in dependence on God. But the redemption which we received at the start remains unrevoked and unimpaired throughout the entire course of each believer; and the grace which gave it sovereignly then abides in His faithful goodness to the last, providing the advocacy of Christ with the Father and securing our humiliation and self-judgment to the restoration of the soul.
Our relation to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore very different from that of Israel as here traced. And it is of the more importance to seize it, as the tendency ever is to slip from the heavenly and eternal character of our privileges into the earthly and temporal nature of theirs. To confound them has been the bane of Christendom; and the issue is the loss of the "better thing" God provided for us, and the denial of the hopes of Israel in their due place and season.
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE
Leviticus 25:8-13Deeply impressive as the sabbath year is in ushering in this chapter, more outward and imposing and thorough-going is the jubilee when seven sabbaths of years were fulfilled, or forty-nine years. This therefore is next introduced in a general way with details to the end of the chapter.
" 8 And thou shalt count to thee seven sabbaths of years, seven years seven times; and the days of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to thee forty and nine years. 9 And thou shalt cause a sound of the trumpet to go forth in the seventh month on the tenth [day] of the month; on the day of atonement shall ye sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And ye shall hallow the year of the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty in the land to all the inhabitants thereof: a jubilee shall it be to you, and ye shall return [every] man to his possession, and ye shall return [every] man to his family. 11 A jubilee this fiftieth year [shall] be to you: ye shall not sow, nor reap its after-growth, nor gather one of its separations. 12 For it [is] the jubilee; it shall be holy to you; out of the field ye shall eat its produce. 13 In this year of jubilee shall ye return [every] man to his possession" (8-13).
As there was a sabbath day and month, so also a sabbatical year and one after seven times that year; this last being the jubilee, when the cycle of seven sabbatical years was completed. The first two referred to the people with Jehovah; the last two to the land. So it is with us now that the Spirit of God carefully brings out the individual's true and full relation to God, before our corporate privilege is unfolded, as we may read in the Epistle to the Ephesian saints. So here, after days of sin, sorrow, and ruin, it is the day anticipated in these pledges by the way whereon Jehovah who chose Israel will remember His people, even to the joy of the nations long envious and scornful; when He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be merciful to His land, to His people. The land is prominent in the sabbatical year, still more completely in the jubilee.
Hence the explicit care to base the jubilee on the offering and acceptance of the atonement-day, the most solemn sacrifice of the year. The cornet which was to sound so loud, and bring in the proclamation of liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof, was not on the first of the seventh month but on the tenth. The first was a sabbath too, and distinguished by a memorial of blowing the cornet. It too was a holy convocation: no servile work was to be done, and a fire-offering made to Jehovah. But the tenth was the fast, when no work was to be done, with the most peremptory warning that every soul not afflicted on that same day should be cut off from among his peoples, and that every soul doing any manner of work on that same day Jehovah would destroy from among His people. Christ's atonement alone accounts for this. Therefore the repentance in dust and ashes; therefore too the exclusion of any manner of work. His work, His suffering for sin, explains it all.
The "liberty" which immediately follows is the answer to that work of atonement completed and accepted. It is quite a different liberty from that deliverance from the law of sin and death which we know as Christians as traced in Rom. 8, 2 Cor. 3, and Gal. 5. The jubilee is in no way the type of what pertains to the Christian or the church, but of Israel for the land when Jehovah's people shall be brought into their full promised blessing. Pentecost typifies what we now enjoy by the gift of the Spirit, consequent on Christ our passover sacrificed for us, and His resurrection shown in its wave-sheaf and the wave-loaves, till at an untold moment the heavenly saints are changed and caught up to meet Him for the Father's house. Only this was a mystery not yet revealed in scripture but hid in God. After that, when time begins again to be counted, in the seventh month comes a new series of divine dealings to apply the already accomplished work of atonement to Israel, awaked from their long slumber of death on the first of the month, then brought by self-judgment and humiliation under the atoning sacrifice in power of truth, at length the feast of glory for time and even eternity.
It is here too that the jubilee finds its just place and true application; for it has its peculiar place for Israel so marked that it is treated here distinctly from the greater cycle of the Feasts of Leviticus. It has nothing whatever to say to any joy for us in the resurrection when the last trumpet sounds for our joining Christ on high to be with Him above. It concerns characteristically the people and the land; for Christ is to have glory everywhere, and a suited people for the earth as well as the heavens. Here the theologians are sadly astray and short of the truth. And the N. T. is as clear about it, as the O. T. is full of it. The fiftieth year the Israelites were to hallow, and proclaim in the land for all the inhabitants thereof. It is the era when all Israel shall be saved too, when all Zion's children shall be taught of Jehovah, and great shall be their peace. They shall be all righteous, and possess the land for ever as the branch of Jehovah's planting, the work of His hands, that He may be glorified. The type was but the shadow of a greater antitype. But it is of Israel's blessedness here below when Messiah reigns.
"A jubilee shall it be to you, and ye shall return every man to his possession, and ye shall return every man to his family." We can readily perceive how appropriate such consolation is to poor distressed Israel. They had a vested interest there, and from Jehovah, but by their own self-confidence held on the tenure of law, that is, of their own righteousness. Alas! they violated their law in every way. They were as mad as Babylon on their idols, and the Jews were exiled to Babylon, as the rest had been to Assyria. And when a remnant of Jews returned in God's goodness for the coming of Messiah in due time, it was but to reject and have Him crucified by lawless hands; as they also refused the Spirit's call in the gospel, and especially rose up against it for the Gentiles. For all that Jehovah waits to be gracious; and when the Gentiles, instead of standing by faith and continuing in goodness, claim all for themselves in pride and denial of Israel, they too shall become objects of judgment. Then God's mercy shall Dow like a river on Israel repentant and believing; and the jubilee shall sound for the long distant and deaf, the atoning sacrifice being received in faith and true affliction of heart to the denial of self and all manner of work. Liberty shall be proclaimed, and a return shall be for every man, and for every man to his family. As the land shall mourn, every family apart and their wives apart in self-judgment, so all will be united in joy when the restitution of all things arrives. "A jubilee this fiftieth year shall be to you."
Such language has a force to Israel as it has to no other people, because Jehovah gave them the land of His choice for them, as for none else. Still less can the words have fitness for the Christian or the church, chosen out of every family, and brought into union with Christ, so that henceforth as Christians we know no man according to flesh. We belong even now to a dead and risen Christ, and are a new and heavenly family, not man's but God's for glory on high. And what is the possession to which every Christian returns? The notion becomes an absurdity. We had nothing in our natural estate as children of wrath; we had only sins and sin. There was no earthly paradise for fallen man to return to, nor yet possession in the land of Israel for a Gentile. To us all our portion as Christians is above nature and heavenly; and it is what sovereign grace gives us in and with Christ. Only thus could heavenly glory be ours, and all we enjoy as members of His body and shall inherit in that day.
So also the provision that follows, like that of the sabbatical year in vers. 11, 12. "Ye shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in its separations (i. e. the fruit of its undressed vines). For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy to you: out of the field ye shall eat its produce." It is a little testimony to the great change when the land shall be no more barren or reluctant, but yield its increase with all fulness, to honour the great King, and greet His people no longer small but mighty and exalted and blest. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to Jehovah for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." How apply such words to the Christian and the church, save to drag us down from heaven to earth, and to deny Israel's hopes under Messiah and the new covenant! No, it is for them, not about us, that we read, "In this year of jubilee ye shall return every man to his possession."
"Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
They shall fear thee while the sun endureth, and so long as the moon, throughout all generations, he shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace, till the moon be no more.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth.
They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; and the poor, that hath no helper.
He shall have pity on the poor and needy, and the souls of the needy he shall save.
He shall redeem their soul from oppression and violence; and precious shall their blood be in his sight: and they shall live; and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: and men shall pray for him continually; they shall bless him all the day long.
There shall be abundance of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass on the earth.
His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him happy.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things: and blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen.
The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."
THE JUBILEE THE STANDARD OF VALUE
Leviticus 25:14-17The position of Israel on earth was unique. They were the only people over whom Jehovah's name was called. "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen: in order that ye may know and believe that I am He; before Me was no god formed, and none will be after Me." So the apostle, instead of depreciating their privileges, says in Romans 9:4, "Whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the law-giving, and the service, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever." It was they who in their blind unbelief stumbled at the stumbling-stone, the infinite grace of His humiliation, and His obedience unto death - the death of the cross, which shut out from the eyes of their heart the height of His glory far beyond that of the Messiah.
But even in the matter of the land allotted to each Israelite, we see a standard of valuation which was meant to keep before them their peculiar relation to Jehovah, as well as their bright prospect, whatever the failure or the chastening, whatever the change even to exile. For a restitution of all things awaits them on earth under the Messiah, the ground of all their blessings.
" 14 And if thou sell aught to thy neighbour, or buy of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not over-reach one another. 15 According to the number of years since the jubilee thou shalt buy of thy neighbour; according to the number of years of the crops he shall sell to thee. 16 according to the greater number of the years thou shalt increase the price thereof; and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price thereof; for it is the number of the crops that he selleth to thee. 17 And ye shall not over-reach one another; but thou shalt fear thy God; for I [am] Jehovah your God" (vers. 14-17).
But like every thing else here below committed to man's responsibility, the polity of the theocracy broke down through the rebellion of Israel. Those who were nationally set apart to Jehovah sought to be like the nations, that they might have not only a king but other and false gods. Thus the warnings given in His ordinances were trampled under foot. Has therefore the word of Jehovah failed? Far from it. Israel, having gone astray, has borne the chastisement and has yet more and worse to bear before the blessing. But the word of God shall stand for ever: even while the ruin is complete, and before the manifested blessing comes for Israel and the land, we have it for our profit by faith.
To the Jew it ought to have been a precious resource that underneath such regulations as these the principle stood that the land belonged to Jehovah. This secures inalienable title for Israel in the long run. The Gentiles have trodden down the land and its capital for many centuries; but their times shall be fulfilled. The last empire is doubtless to revive in a portentous way, and shall be destroyed, not by conquest or decay, but by divine judgment. So shall be destroyed the Antichrist, the lawless king in the land; the Assyrian, or King of the North; and later his gigantic patron, Gog, Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: these, with their allies and followers too, constitute all the nations of the earth. Their downfall in the day of Jehovah will make way for Jacob to take root. Israel shall blossom and bud; and they shall fill the face of the world with fruit. In that day shall be a root of Jesse, standing as a banner of the peoples: the nations shall seek to it ; and His resting-place shall be glory.
How obvious the comfort thus rendered to the believing Israelite, who would enjoy the blessed assurance of Jehovah's loving interest in His people! Thus He secures the restoration of the property assigned, in spite of all their errors and imprudence, or the over-reaching of others meanwhile. We know that, among Gentiles who know not God, reigns a general anxiety as to both persons and property. To Israel only was there the divine guarantee at every half-century. But what when this beneficent pledge is incomparably exceeded in the great Jubilee! Then "Behold, these shall come from afar; and, behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Shout, ye heavens; and be joyful, thou earth; and break forth, ye mountains, into singing; for Jehovah comforteth his people, and will have mercy on his afflicted ones" (Isaiah 49:12-13). No loss of liberty or land more; "for as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain" (Isaiah 66:22).
But before that day, and as long or far as there was fidelity to Jehovah and His word, they were bound in selling or buying the land, or rather the lease of it, by the jubilee as instituted by divine command. Personal equity was not all, but Jehovah's valuation of the worth of its produce till the jubilee. A regularly recurring miracle accompanied subjection to His law. It was not, as for the Christian and the church, a constant hope of Christ's coming suited to the heavenly people; but the earthly people had their times and seasons, and the value of their sales according to the distance or the nearness of the jubilee. We are not of the world, and should always wait expectantly.
The Israelites were not to over-reach one another; and, if obedient, had a free insurance of life, liberty, and land from Jehovah. "Thou shalt fear thy God; for I [am] Jehovah your God." What could be more simple and sure for an earthly people? If rebellious, how could they expect it? God is not mocked.
INCENTIVES TO OBEDIENCE IN THE LAND
Leviticus 25:18-24Jehovah did not fail to encourage His people in subjection to Himself as their God, and in a way suited to their position in the land He was about to give them. By their own act their tenure depended on their fidelity; but He exhausted all means to explain, and stimulate, to strengthen and cheer them. Yea, He would act on their behalf in mercy and judgment; and they shall celebrate it soon in everlasting song when they own their rejected king.
" 18 Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. 19 And the land shall yield its fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. 20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: 21 then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for the three years. 22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat of the fruits, the old, until the ninth year; until its fruits come in, ye shall eat [of] the old. 23 And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land [is] mine; for ye [are] strangers and sojourners with me. 24 And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land" (vers. 18-24).
Obedience is indeed the essential claim of God on the creature, and the creature's inalienable duty. But even innocent, sinless, man never stood in it, but failed; and this very soon, when tested, as the opening facts of inspired history prove to every soul that fears God and trembles at His word. How much less did or could fallen man recover his balance? One perfect exception at length appeared, the hope of Whom acted powerfully on all who waited for Him in faith; but all others departed more and more sadly from God, and hardened themselves in disobedience and self-will with ever growing boldness of unbelief.
That exception however was the Creator become man; who demonstrated the incurable evil of fallen man, only made worse by corrupting or defying all God's remedial means. Worst of all, He proved favoured man's hatred of God come in nothing but goodness, for God was as far as possible from judging and publishing man's iniquity, but revealing Himself in sovereign grace. Man's answer was enmity to God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their offences. Thereon God would and does now act in Him for His own glory, bringing in the gospel of His grace, and the church Christ's body. Then obedience assumes its fullest. character in; those that are His elect according to, God the Father's foreknowledge by (or, in) the Spirit's sanctification unto obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus Christ. The Christian by grace obeys God as a son after Christ's pattern, though he receives His blood-sprinkling to do it. It is in full contrast with Israel under the most solemn sanction of death if they violated the law (Exodus 24:7-8); as they shortly did thoroughly. But what can we say of our obedience either individually or collectively? Its very nature is ignored. The total ruin of Christianity proper is attested by the boast of Christendom in its twofold shame of Jewish ordinance and of Gentile philosophy.
But the land itself equally attests the no less ruin of the Jew. Does Israel therein dwell in safety? Does the land yet yield its fruit? Do the people of God eat their fill, and dwell therein in peace, honour, blessing and glory? When under the Messiah and the new covenant, it will assuredly be so. No longer will they say, what shall we eat the seventh year? Jehovah will bless them every year, not when, by the political help of friendly Gentiles, the Jews, before the harvest and after the blossom, think to become a ripe grape. Not so: the sprigs shall be cut off, and the spreading branches cut down. They are not yet a people prepared for Jehovah. The veil still lies upon their heart, which has not yet truly turned to Him. They do not yet repent at the feet of the crucified Messiah:; and they shall be left together to the ravenous birds of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth, who shall respectively summer and winter upon them. Yet the same inspired: prophet declares, following up their bitter disappointment, "In that time shall a present be brought unto Jehovah of hosts" of that very afflicted people, not with worldly aid without faith, nor to provisional region half-way, but to the place of His name, the Mount Zion. There shall they be ranged in the land, yet in a wholly different order from that under Joshua, but carefully from north to south laid down in Ezek. 48 and with parallel lines from east to west, then only to be for all the twelve-tribed nationality of Israel.
The Jews are still under the retribution, not only of the law broken in all ways but of the Messiah rejected. So the prophet Isaiah forewarned in his second and still more mature and profound portion, which depraved wits will have to be of his nameless double. Jerusalem is trodden down of Gentiles till their seasons are fulfilled. And the Jews must face a darker page of sin and woe, when the mass of them in the land shall receive the Antichrist for King, as their fathers rejected the true Anointed. Then shall be seen the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory; and when these things begin to come to pass, a godly Jewish remnant look up and lift up their heads, because their redemption draws nigh.
Jehovah will vindicate His rights in that day. "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity," whatsoever the pretensions pride of Gentile may say. "For the land is Mine." Strangers and sojourners with Him had been the men of Israel. But thenceforward He will hide His face no more from them; "for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah." The right of redemption which they were responsible to grant in all the land of their possession He keeps for the fit moment, and will triumphantly proclaim to their everlasting joy. And what unselfish joy will be the glorified church's in that day looking down from the heavenly places, and praising Him who is the giver of every good giving and every perfect gift, and of His Son through whom it all comes righteously, and of His Spirit in virtue of whom it can alone be divinely known and enjoyed.
But Christendom is as faithless to His grace as she is indifferent to His glory on high, and hence has sought that supremacy on earth, which is the proper portion in reserve for Israel, when the Son of man shall reign over all nations and tongues under the heavens. They repentant and restored to their land in that day shall have the place of earthly power in righteousness as His own people. Meanwhile we believe and confess Him as the rejected Messiah exalted to the throne of His Father, and not yet sitting on His own throne, and share His sufferings here below, unknown to the world and refusing its alliance or its honours, but waiting for Him to receive us to Himself for the Father's house, and to be manifested along with Him when He is manifested in glory.
Ignorance of the gospel and of the church's heavenly relationship coveted earthly case and worldly honour soon after the apostles passed away. That departure left room for the rivalry of the West and the East; as later still it gave birth to the Crusaders which are the plainest evidence that the grace and truth which came through our Lord Jesus was practically not only depraved but effaced. It was what struck the Christian Seer with wondering horror, when he beheld, not the chaste virgin espoused to Christ and suffering with Him here below, but the great harlot gorgeously arrayed, pandering to the lust of kings, intoxicating the peoples, and riding the Beast or Roman Empire, but destined to be the object of God's sternest judgments for her corruption, cruelty to the saints, and abominable idolatry. But the end is not yet though at hand, and pride rises high before the irretrievable downfall.
THE RIGHT OF REDEMPTION
Leviticus 25:25-28Here as elsewhere is no hiding of the people's failure in responsibility. Each would surely have his portion in Jehovah's land. Each was to enjoy the sabbath yea. of the land to Jehovah. For each throughout all the land the joyful sound of the jubilee should sound after: forty-nine years, proclaiming liberty and return, each to his possession. Not because they were more numerous or able, nor yet that they were more righteous than others, had they been chosen; but because Jehovah loved Israel, and because He would keep the oath He had sworn to their fathers, He brought them out with a powerful hand from the then greatest kingdom on earth that oppressed them, redeeming them out of the house of bondage, and giving them these pledges of unfailing rest and deliverance for the day when judgment falls on the inhabited earth. But Israel shall have the kingdom under the whole heavens under the Son of man: an everlasting dominion, which. shall not pass: away, and His kingdom which shall not be destroyed.
Yet it is a great mistake to confound this coming day of blessing for His earthly people with the secret hid in God, and thus from ages and generations, for Christ's glory in the heavens and the joint-heirs with Him, His heavenly bride. Restitution of all things now ruined here below is quite different from that glory which is above the world, wherein all distinction between Jew and Gentile disappears; because Christ is "the all" for all on high, in the faith of which the Christian and the church are called now to walk. In the world to come, whatever the blessing to every family on earth, the daughter of Zion shall have the first dominion; for great will be the Holy One of Israel in the midst of her. The glorified above as one with Christ shall with Him share the universe. He is given head over all things to the church, His body.
Meanwhile on the side of man failure is anticipated and provided for; and here is contemplated the first case of loss through poverty, the form which failure must take in this type; and which we know in a still deeper way.
" 25 If thy brother grow poor and sell of his possession, then shall his nearest of kin come and redeem what his brother sold. 26 And if the man have no one having right of redemption, and his hand hath attained and found sufficiency for its redemption, 27 then shall he reckon the years since his sale, and restore the overplus to the man to whom he sold it; and so return to his possession. 28 And if his hand have not found what sufficeth to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee; and in the jubilee it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession."
"If" is a serious word for man. No doubt it is righteous; but the fact is that the first man breaks down and fails in his responsibility. He is fallen and a sinner; and of this Israel in the past is the constant witness. Every help that mercy could furnish, while law governed, Israel enjoyed, priesthood, offering, sacrifice. But the failure was ever more and more; and the rejection of their own Messiah, added to their previous idolatry, made their tenure of Jehovah's land impossible, and their scattering over the earth complete, till the repentance of a godly remnant and return to their Messiah in heart. This will be of Jehovah's mercy enduring for ever, and through the atonement which grace applies to Israel in that great day. For Jesus will then be owned as the Kinsman Redeemer. And He will indeed come to redeem. The right is His, and He will not fail to recognise and apply it, in everlasting mercy.
But Israel must be made willing. And so it shall be in the day of His power. They refused Him to their own sin and shame and loss in the day of His humiliation, proud as man is so often of his poverty, and blind to his need of grace. Kin otherwise will have failed, and their own hand will have attained to no sufficiency. But grace will count that the time of suffering is accomplished, and that iniquity is pardoned through Him that loved His people and suffered for their sins. It is quite a mistake that mankind is here in question, however wide the gospel call. But redemption, whether for forgiveness of sins, or deliverance of the body, is of believers only. The theologians forget relationship, or vaguely misapply it. We hear of a brother who had his possession lost through unfaithfulness, and restored through grace triumphant over all difficulties. And Israel will be the standing and public witness, both of the loss through evil, and of the gain through grace. Yet the merit is not theirs in any way but only of Jesus, as the grace here and in every case is of God delighting in good of His own nature and of His own will, which rises above creature weakness and worthlessness, whatever the fruits of His Spirit in any.
Leviticus 25:29-34It is the people and the land with which Jehovah connects redemption. Both were objects of His gracious choice. Both have fallen under the greatest change through contempt of His goodness on man's part, and opposition to His will, even to rebellion and apostasy. But Jehovah will triumph on behalf of both, but by His own mercy in Christ the Redeemer, when Israel shall sing, Not unto us, O Jehovah, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy loving-kindness and for Thy truth's sake. The redeemed of Jehovah whom He had redeemed from the hand of the oppressor, and gathered out of the countries from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, shall give thanks to Jehovah, and say that He is good, for His loving-kindness endures for ever. What a contrast with man's way who starts with confidence, and whose hopes tell a flattering tale; but, looking no more truly to God than the beasts that perish, he has this of His, hand to lie down in sorrow. And none will have this more bitterly and manifestly than such of Israel as presume on their name and privileges as His people while their heart is far from Him and under the enemy's power. But blessed are all who have their confidence in the Son - in Jehovah Himself. And Zion shall put on her strength, Jerusalem her beautiful garments; and her waste places shall break forth, for Jehovah comforts His people, and redeems her as well as them.
The truth is made more emphatic in the type by making an exception of what man builds, a dwelling-house in a walled city." 29 And if any one sell a dwelling-house in a walled city, then he shall have the right of redemption up to the end of the year of the sale; for a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 But if it be not redeemed until a whole year is complete, then the house that [is] in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations; it shall not go out in the jubilee. 31 But the houses in villages that have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country; they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubilee. 32 But [as to] the cities of the Levites, the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites shall have a perpetual right of redemption. 33 And if a man redeem from one of the Levites (or, one of the Levites redeem something), then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall go out in the jubilee; for the houses of the cities of the Levites [are] their possession among the children of Israel. 34 And the field of the suburbs of their cities shall not be sold; for it [is] their perpetual possession (vers. 29-34).
It was the dwelling-house in a walled city which thus lost its claim to redemption at the jubilee. The seller had the right to gain it back during a full year from its sale; after that, if not bought back, it passed for ever to the possession of the purchaser. Though it was built on the land which God gave the Israelites, its privilege of divine gift was vitiated by the prevalence of man's failure, as a twofold witness may show us. "For every house is builded by some one." It is only man that builds it. But the God that built all things claimed the land as His and gave it to His people as their landlord, to make it all the surer as He will prove it to be in the great jubilee, when every intruder vanishes, and He reinstates His people, who had lost it meanwhile over and over again by their departure from Himself. The land will go out free for the Israelite in that day by Jehovah's vengeance on their wicked enemies, and His mercy toward themselves, at last repentant in dust and ashes and resting on the atoning blood of Him whom they now refuse and despise. But the dwelling-place which each built or took from the Canaanite was no such gift of God as the land of promise.
And this was made still more precise by the added feature of being "in a walled city." For here is not merely man's hand everywhere apparent in his dwelling-house, but yet more the "walled city" marks the presence if not the prevalence of the enemy's power. There is therefore recourse to such a human measure of protection, which tells the tale how little as yet the Israelite enjoys His full privilege when they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it. No doubt it will be because a King shall reign in righteousness, far beyond David or Solomon, His feeble types. And the man who is God, and Jehovah's fellow, shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And then shall the Spirit be pouted from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; and His people shall dwell in a peaceful habitation, and in sure dwellings and in quiet resting-places.
So, when the work of dealing with Israel's enemies is in process but not yet complete, we hear in Ezek. 38 Israel shall then be gathered out of many peoples into the land bought back from the sword. But the chief of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, unmoved by the downfall of the head of the western powers in league with the Antichrist, and even by the destruction of the eastern hordes who opposed the west, persists in his mischievous purpose of self-aggrandisement, and hopes by coming down on Israel's unprotected appearance to become overlord of the earth. "Thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go up to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, to seize the spoil and to take the prey; to turn thy hand against the waste places that are inhabited, and against a people gathered out of the nations which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land." But Jehovah will prove Himself the true and glorious bulwark of His people, and pour upon this last enemy and all his hosts, before the proper reign of peace over the earth begins, overflowing rain and great hailstones, fire and brimstone. So it shall be upon the mountains of Israel; nor will that exemplary punishment suffice. For Jehovah will send a fire on Magog, and among them. that dwell at ease in the isles. Their walled cities, their fortifications, their formidable navies, will be a vain defence, for it is the day when the risen Lord will judge the inhabited earth; and they shall know that He is Jehovah (Ezekiel 39:6).
Hence the house in the country parts, not thus protected, fell under the principle of the land, retained the right of redemption, and should go out in the jubilee. The strength and shield of man must fall in that day, and the defenceless that confide in Him shall triumph, when the fastness of the high defences of men's walls will He bring down, lay low, bring to the ground, into the dust.
On a similar principle too the house of the Levites fell under His care who calls them to be His servants, and had perpetual right of redemption. Even if sold in the city of his possession, it must go out at the jubilee. On the other hand, their fields in the suburbs of their cities could not be sold. They must abide their perpetual possession, as God's sacred gift to them; and this He will see to when He comes whose right it is to repair all wrongs and failures for His own that wait or Him.
The Christian now is in a different position and His glory heavenly; and he shall reign with Christ over the earth. He has already redemption in Him through His blood, but awaits His coming again for the redemption of the body and also of the inheritance. He is united to Christ by the Spirit who strengthens him to suffer with Him joyfully, not of the world as He was not.
THE POOR BROTHER IN DECAY
Leviticus 25:35-38Here we read a new statute respecting the poor brother fallen into decay. It does not touch on what might be done by his nearest relation, or by his own recovery, as in vers. 25-28, but on loving succour where there was no such resource from without or from within. For Jehovah encouraged compassion in His people, of which they had been so richly the objects from Himself. Nothing more alien from His mind, among His own and even to strangers, than the spirit of independence of which the Gentiles are proud in their self-sufficient ignorance of God.
" 35 And if thy brother grow poor and be fallen into decay beside thee, then thou shalt relieve him, stranger or sojourner, that he may live beside thee. 36 Thou shalt take no usury nor increase of him; and thou shalt fear thy God, that thy brother may live beside thee. 37 Thy money shalt thou not give him on usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. 38 I [am] Jehovah your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God" (vers. 35-38).
Three divine principles are here applied to the duty of the Israelite, standing in a relationship to Jehovah peculiar to that people of His choice, whatever the mercy it may involve as it does to the stranger; for God abides good in Himself and to all, and will not suffer His people to forget it, though prone to do so as scripture proves, to say nothing of experience.
(1) It is His grace which gives prosperity to any. Only unbelief is blind to His over-ruling who counts the hairs of our head, and without whom not a sparrow falls unheeded. Man, sinner alas! as he is, is no object of indifference to Him. The Israelite was then precious to Him for the fathers' sake, as he will be by-and-by not for them also but incomparably more for Him whom in repentance and faith they will own as their Messiah, so long despised, their all-gracious and Almighty deliverer when ready to perish under the Antichrist and to be swallowed up by the nations. But even from early days He would have them pitiful to their brother, or even a stranger and sojourner by their side, that he might live and not die. It was grace that called out Abram from beyond the Euphrates, where their fathers in old time dwelt and even served other gods. It was grace that sent Moses to plague Egypt which oppressed the sons of Israel, and brought them out of the iron furnace across the Red Sea which covered their enslavers. When the same power should destroy the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the rest who dwelt in the promised land, they were bound to remember that all was of His grace, and that He enjoined it in due measure on those who prospered on behalf of their decayed brothers. It was no small grace which inaugurated the emerging, if not birth, of His people, when brought forth out of the land of Egypt to receive the land of Canaan, and have Jehovah their saviour and guide and governor to be their God.
Just so we, Christians, are privileged and bound ever to look back and cherish our beginning, the foundation of all our blessing in Him who died, rose, and ascended to the highest heaven for us. This rises far above what was given or possible to Israel; for we can say, and ought to know by divine teaching, we are quickened and raised together with Christ and made to sit together in Him in the heavenlies. And as we are such a workmanship as this, His body who is Head over all, so were we created in Christ Jesus (for it is a wholly new thing) for good works which God before prepared that we should walk in them, a new walk in many respects because of and suited to such a unique relationship.
(2) Israel had to represent Jehovah and do His will as given to dwell in His land. If the strange gods gave a licence to every passion of sinful man through the working of the great enemy of God and man, the Jew was called to practise mercy, as belonging to and confessing Him who delights in mercy. How could He maintain a people in His land, the good land flowing with milk and honey, where His eyes rested continually, if they set His will at nought and abandoned Him? They had deliberately taken their stand on their obedience of His law, and must abide the consequence. Mercy obtained is a valid ground for expecting mercy to be shown; and the law bound this on the Jew as we see here.
(3) But there was also the powerful influence of hope, which governs the regulations of all this chapter. The Jew was called to act in view of the jubilee, and was inexcusable if he put it from his eyes in his conduct. When a brother was decayed, he was to bear in mind the deliverance that ere long would surely come, and thereby be strengthened to assist the need, and not to make it an occasion for selfish greed by interest for a loan, or return of food to increase his own store. For Israel in the land was not to be a merchant like the Canaanite; but it is the striking contrast of the Jews now among the nations, enriching themselves in this way beyond all others, the banking masters of the world. They have for the time lost their true place, because they became apostate from God, first by idolatry, then by rejecting Jesus the Christ; as they will descend lower still by receiving the Antichrist. Even on their return from Babylon, which was to see the Messiah in humiliation, they made the divine command of no effect by their tradition; and selfish interest prevailed over goodness and mercy, till unbelief wrought to the utmost.
But what has Christendom to say as to this? Has it the face to reproach the Jew? Christendom that has oppressed, plundered, and cruelly persecuted the Jew, instead of being a city of refuge to the man-slayer, till the death of the anointed priest (that is, in antitype, till Christ closes His priesthood on high)! Thence He will come for judgment, and the believing homicide will be cleared and enter on his inheritance; but the blood of guilt shall lie on the unrepentant murderer who persists in his unbelief to helpless ruin.
It is not Romanism only, but the Greek church yet more which hates the Jew and disbelieves his hopes in a future day, blessed in a new way and in Jehovah's special mercy, and not at all as merged in the church of God. For the church has a heavenly place of union with her glorified Head; whereas Israel has the promise of the first dominion on the earth when the Lord reigns over all the nations also. This earthly dominion Christendom in all its forms began to covet, when it shirked to share Christ's sufferings here below, and the heavenly hope of Christ's glory above and reigning with Him over the world in that day.
Satan will find means to amalgamate with the Jew the Western powers in the worship of idols, and the false prophet-king of the Jews in the land (Daniel 11:36-39). And the Lord will destroy them both at His appearing (2 Thessalonians 2:3, Rev. 17, Rev. 19), as He will afterwards and similarly destroy him whom Isaiah and Micah call "the Assyrian," as Daniel styles him "the king of the north," their then external enemy (Isa. 28, Isa. 29, Isa. 30; Daniel 8:23-25, Daniel 11:40-45), of whom Sennacherib was the type.
THE POOR BROTHER SOLD
Leviticus 25:39-46There is a condition still more lamentable than the decay of poverty. The Israelite might be so reduced as to sell himself to bondage; and this condition comes under divine regulation to the end of the chapter. Here we may notice its first part.
" 39 And if thy brother grow poor beside thee, and be sold to thee, thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant: 40 as a hired servant, as a sojourner, he shall be with thee; until the year of jubilee he shall serve with thee. 41 And he shall go out from thee, he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers he shall return. 42 For they [are] my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as they sell bondmen. 43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour, and thou shalt fear thy God. 44 And thy bondmen and thy bondmaids whom thou shalt have - of the nations that are round about you - of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. 45 Moreover of the children of those that dwell as sojourners with you, of them shall ye buy and of their families that [are] with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall be your possession. 46 And ye shall make them as an inheritance to your children after you, to inherit as a possession: these ye shall make your bondmen for ever; but your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour" (vers. 39-46).
Whatever the disorder created by sin and its resulting miseries, Jehovah provided merciful checks, especially for the people of His choice till the day of restitution, of which the jubilee was the recurring foreshadow. The Israelite might through sheer distress be sold to one of his brethren, but never in perpetuity. Ordinarily it was but for the term of six years of servitude, and on the seventh he went out free for nothing, as we know from the deeply interesting "judgment" with its details in Exodus 21:2-6. But, if as here with no such limit, the year of jubilee reinstated him. Meanwhile Jehovah imposed the duty on his Israelitish master that he should not be treated as a bondservant, but as a hired servant, as a sojourner and not a slave. Then should he go out from his employer, and his children with him unconditionally. The sale of bondmen did not apply. On the contrary he lifted up his head as free, and all his, returning to his own family and to the possession of his fathers.
With such considerate care did Jehovah provide for His people, whatever their improvidence. How affecting and securing the ground on which He laid it down! "For they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt." There superstition took care of the priests who kept them in unceasing bondage to false gods who were but demons without truth or pity. The Eternal, who rescued Israel out of that house of bondage and iron furnace, did not hinder as yet such an Israelite as broke down in his responsibility from tasting the bitter effect of his or others' wrongs. But He restricted the chastening to measured times, and gave the sure hope of merciful return: the pledge of a glorious one for ever, when the Divine Deliverer shall rescue them from sins and sufferings no less than enemies, and Himself be the ground of a holy freedom and an unfailing inheritance, as due to One who is David's Son and David's Lord. What a joyful sound will be the trumpet voice of the true and full jubilee, which needs not but precludes repetition!
When it was only a nation favoured of Jehovah, the law did not interfere with an Israelite buying slaves, as we see in vers. 44-46. They were free to have such slaves of the nations round about them, or even of the sojourners with them. Neither could claim the relation of their own brotherhood holy to Jehovah: of troth they might buy, and make them their possession. and leave them as an inheritance to their own children after them, their bondmen for ever. And even in the day, when the creation shall be delivered from its present groans and thraldom, when the church shall share Christ's glory above and over all things, when Israel shall own the crucified but all the more exalted Messiah, the Son of man and Heir of all things, kings here below shall be nursing fathers of the Jew never more to be despised or persecuted, and queens their nursing mothers. Strangers shall build up Zion's walls, and their king" shall minister in that day. Aliens shall be their plowmen and their vine-dressers For that nation and kingdom that will not serve Zion shall perish. "But ye shall be named priests of Jehovah: men shall call you the ministers of our God. Ye shall eat the wealth of the nations, and to their glory shall ye succeed." Need one refer to more decisive proofs of the change that awaits Israel under Messiah and the new covenant? And the time hastens: the zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.
It is infatuation for Gentile theology to take any of this away from the hopes of Israel. True Christian faith maintains it all for the Jew when his heart shall turn to the Lord whom they despised to their own sin, shame, and loss. But God's gifts and calling stand without a change on His part, who awaits and will bring out their salvation in sovereign grace. Our calling is above: we can well afford to set our mind on heavenly things. Their portion will be all blessing and glory on the earth, and in their own land, then the joy and boast and crown of all lands. The word of our God, Israel's God, shall stand for ever. God has provided some better thing concerning us [who believe while the Jews are impenitent] that apart from us even those who of old believed but received not the promises should not be made perfect. We shall each enjoy our proper portion practically at the same time to God's glory in Christ..
THE POOR BROTHER SELLING HIMSELF TO THE STRANGER WAXING RICH
Leviticus 25:47-55This last case is the saddest of all to a true Israelite. It was not without a fault that a person under the government of Jehovah grew poor in His land (vers. 25, etc.), and had to sell his possessions, whether land, or a dwelling house in a walled city (vers. 29, etc.). It was worse to fall into such decay as to become an object of help to Jew, stranger, or sojourner, for money and victuals (35-38). Still worse was it to be sold to a brother Israelite, even if Jehovah in each interposed His shield of mercy (39-46). But here it is the poor brother selling himself to a stranger or sojourner becoming rich. Yet Jehovah speaks here also.
" 47 And if a stranger or a sojourner with thee become rich beside thee, and thy brother beside him grow poor, and sell himself to the stranger [or] sojourner with thee, or to a descendant of the stranger's family: 48 after he is sold, there shall be right of redemption for him; one of his brethren may redeem him; 49 or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any of his next of kin of his family may redeem him; or if he may obtain the means, he may redeem himself. 50 And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according to the number of the years; according to the days of a hired servant shall he be with him. 51 If [there be] yet many years, according to them shall he return the price of his redemption out of the money he was bought for. 52 And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubilee, then he shall reckon with him; according to his years shall he return the price of his redemption. 53 As a hired servant shall he be with him year by year: he shall not rule with rigour over him before thine eyes. 54 And if he be not redeemed by these [means], then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he and his children with him. 55 For to me the children of Israel [are] servants; they [are] my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I [am] Jehovah your God" (vers. 47-55).
As this chapter is devoted to redemption by grace and in power, it is in perfect keeping with its aim to let Israel know the reserves which awaited their failure in responsibility to the law, which they had accepted as the ground of their standing before Jehovah. Their fall to such an extreme of want as for an Israelite to sell himself into voluntary bondage to a rich stranger or sojourner with them, or to a scion of such a house, is here provided for in God's considerate goodness. Jehovah would not hinder their tasting their evil or folly; but He was careful to lay down, that after he had sold himself, there should be right of redemption for him. One of his brethren might redeem him, or his uncle, or his uncle's son, or any of the near relations of his family: there was room for that affectionate and special interest, which He ever cherished in, and commended to, His people.
Or again, the man, once so desperately impoverished, might somehow obtain adequate means to redeem himself, so that he could not be kept an hour longer in slavery. As being in that land, no strangers any more than a brother could plead a just title against the statutes of Jehovah. But justice must stand too. "And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he sold himself to him unto the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall be according to the number of the years; according to the days of a hired servant shall he be with him." Absolute slavery Jehovah would not tolerate for a child of Abraham. If the price of redemption was equitably offered, the stranger must accept it and set him free. If many years had yet to run, redemption price had to be returned out of the money that he was bought for (51); and if there remained but few years, the reckoning must be accordingly (52).
But Jehovah's pitifulness went farther still; for in ver. 53 it was prescribed, even where he had no means or prospect of redemption till the jubilee, that the Israelite bondman was to have a place like no other slave. "As a hired servant shall he be with him year by year: he [the stranger master] shall not rule with rigour over him before thine [Israel's] eyes." Thus was the strain meanwhile to be alleviated, if Israel had the heart and power to see Jehovah's will enforced on behalf of His poor.
Then came the great resource when the trumpet of jubilee sounded over the land (54). If every other means failed, here was sure hope for Israel. "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was bitter of soul" in abnormal bondage, was entitled to leap for joy at Jehovah's glad tidings of grace; as it is said here, "he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he and his children with him." And Thou, blessed Jesus, true but rejected and only the more glorious Messiah, shalt have the joy of redeeming Israel from all his iniquities and all distresses and all indignities, Thyself the more loved then for Thy sufferings and shame at the Jews' hand, joining hand in hand thus with the lawless Gentiles as presently with the Antichrist against Jehovah and His Anointed. Thou shalt return in glory to destroy the destroyers, to deliver Israel in its godly remnant, and to crush the nations, with the old serpent that deceived them all, and that deceives Christendom now as blind as it is haughty.
The very learned prelate of Chester, Dr. John Pearson, had low views of Christ's personal glory, and accordingly of His work and offices. His was such "dry light" on divine things as might satisfy the most scientific of theologians. Yet even he saw in this chapter not the prototype of Christian privilege, but rather a strong contrast with the "better thing" God provided concerning us. So even his cold spirit warmed a little when he compared our privileges with those pledges of goodness to Israel. "We were all at first enslaved by sin, and brought into captivity by Satan, neither was there any way of escape but by way of Redemption. Now it was the law of Moses that if any were able he might redeem himself: but this to us was impossible, because absolute obedience in all our actions is due unto God; and therefore no act of ours can make any satisfaction for the least offence. Another law gave yet more liberty, that he which was sold might he redeemed again; one of his brethren might redeem him. But this in respect of all the mere sons of men was equally impossible, because they were all under the same captivity. Nor could they satisfy for others, who were wholly unable to redeem themselves. Wherefore there was no other brother but that Son of Man which is the Son of God; who was like unto us in all things, sin only excepted, which could work this redemption for us. And what he only could, that he freely did for us." (An Exposition of the Creed, vol. i. 119, Oxford, 1797.)
Yes, we were all lost far beyond the worst picture of any Israelite; and we are saved as none could be till the Son of God had wrought soul-salvation for such as believe beyond what Dr. P. ever taught or knew; for God's salvation is come, and His righteousness is revealed. Such is His gospel to Jew and Greek through and upon faith in Christ. But the favoured nation, according to Rom. 11 and the facts which every one sees day by day, are enemies, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Blindness in part is their state while the gospel goes out to the Gentile, till a new-born remnant of the Jews say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah. Then will Jesus come to the deliverance of the remnant and the destruction of their foes. "And so all Israel [except the apostates] shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion [a later epoch than out of heaven] the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins [never so great as then]: as concerning the gospel, enemies for your sake [the Gentiles now called], but as touching the election, beloved for the fathers' sake" (Romans 11:26-28). Can anything be plainer that the present age then closes, and the new age begins for the generation to come
THE JUBILEE CONCLUDED
Leviticus 25:55This last verse concludes the subject with a renewed statement of Jehovah's immediate interest in His people. They were His servants; He had brought them forth out of the land of Egypt; and He in His eternal covenanted Name was their God.
" 55 For unto me [are] the children of Israel servants; they [are] my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I [am] Jehovah your God."
Throughout, the great aim of these statutes of the jubilee is that the Israelite should remember that his best and unfailing Friend and mighty Deliverer is Jehovah. It is the same assured truth which the last of their prophets uttered, "I Jehovah change not; and ye, sons of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). We learn that the jubilee is the pledge that the land as well as the people is to share the same deliverance at His hand. The scattering of Israel is the visible sign that the accomplishment has not yet taken place, as this cannot be till they own their rejected Messiah. It is Emmanuel's land, as they are His people; and His eyes are continually on both. Babylon was the instrument of punishing their idolatry; as Rome longer and more heavily, because of Him whom they despised with averted face and alienated heart. But the day hastens when they shall say in their heart, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah. He will come when the godly remnant is rejected like Himself, and the mass fall victims both to idolatry and to the Antichrist.
How gracious and grand for Israel, when it shall be no more the shadow but the very image! when the Lord shall come to Zion a Redeemer indeed, and to those that turn from transgressions in Jacob, saith Jehovah! "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith Jehovah: My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforward and for ever."
Truly "the gifts and the calling of God admit of no change of mind," as he wrote who loved them as much as Moses did. Both loved Israel because they are the objects of God's grace, and Messiah's people for the earth's glory in divine purpose. This makes their unbelief and its chastisement the more bitter, but gives certainty that the Deliverer is at hand. They belong to Him as His servants; and when they own it, He will appear for their rescue and redemption. He does not forget their old deliverance out of the iron furnace; but then the new covenant shall eclipse the old, and glory shall dwell in their land, as the fruit of His grace and of blood that speaks a better thing than Abel. How will they exult when they learn that Messiah suffered that they might be saved, and own Him, as unbelieving Thomas did, their Lord and their God. In the fulness of His person Jesus is not Messiah only but also Jehovah their God.
Grace like this when brought home by the Spirit will at length subdue the self-righteous heart of Israel, and produce the generation to come which will then be fitted to bear witness to the besotted heathen world with a power beyond the feeble testimony of the nations which have long compromised the name of the Lord Jesus by the vanity of knowledge falsely so-called, and by worldly lusts as unjudged as among the heathen themselves. It will be another thing when the long unbelieving Jew is brought into childlike faith; and yet more when the Lord Jesus reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, after an unparalleled judgment of the quick in West, East, South and North, with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit suited to that wondrous display of His government and blessing of all the families of the earth in righteousness, power, and glory.
On Israel's repentance for the blotting of their sins depends the coming of times of refreshing from the presence of Jehovah, when He will send the Messiah-Jesus who was fore-ordained for them, times of restoring all things, of which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since time began.
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour's hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee.
Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.
Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety.
And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.
And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.
The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.
And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.
If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.
And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;
Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.
But if he be not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him that hath bought it until the year of jubile: and in the jubile it shall go out, and he shall return unto his possession.
And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.
And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the jubile.
But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile.
Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, and the houses of the cities of their possession, may the Levites redeem at any time.
And if a man purchase of the Levites, then the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, shall go out in the year of jubile: for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel.
But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.
And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.
Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile:
And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.
For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.
And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family:
After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:
Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.
And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubile: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of an hired servant shall it be with him.
If there be yet many years behind, according unto them he shall give again the price of his redemption out of the money that he was bought for.
And if there remain but few years unto the year of jubile, then he shall count with him, and according unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.
And as a yearly hired servant shall he be with him: and the other shall not rule with rigour over him in thy sight.
And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubile, both he, and his children with him.
For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.