At the end of every seven years you shall make a release.…
The sabbatic year was in many respects a year of mercy to the poor. The beautiful name given to it here - "the Lord's release" - suggests gospel ideas. It finds its higher counterpart in that "acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:19), which is the true "Lord's release." Christ came "to preach the gospel to the poor," and "to preach deliverance to the captives " (Luke 4:18). This "accepted time" is the period of God's forbearance with our sins (2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 6:2). It is the time also of forgiveness of sins to those who believe - a "Lord's release" indeed, not from money debts, but from spiritual ones (Matthew 6:12), not temporary, but eternal. It is the time of the setting free of bondsmen - Satan's captives - those held in thrall by evil (Romans 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:26). We are taught by this law -
I. THAT THE POOR HAVE A CLAIM ON THE FORBEARANCE OF THE RICH. (Vers. 1-5.) Such a claim will willingly be recognized by the loving heart. It will shrink from pushing hard on any one. It will put itself in the debtor's place, and bear with him as long as possible. This was the lesson enforced by the law of "the release" It secured for the poor debtor a whole year of grace. It interposed a check upon the creditor's selfishness, and rebuked him if disposed to press hard upon his brother. It did more, testifying by its very existence to God's sympathy with the poor, and to his desire that they should be mercifully treated. The harshly exacting spirit, however common, is not God's or Christ's (Matthew 18:23-35). It is assumed, of course, that the case of poverty is genuine. There is no evidence that, even during the sabbatic year, the creditor was not entitled to recover his debt from a man well able to pay it.
II. THAT THE POOR HAVE A CLAIM ON THE ASSISTANCE OF THE RICH. (Vers. 7-12.) Assistance goes beyond forbearance. The Law requires, not simply that lenders of money should not be harsh and unforbearing in exacting its repayment, but that, where need exists, they should be willing, nay forward, to render such assistance as is in their power. Honest poverty - for such only is in contemplation - creates a claim which those "having this world's good" (1 John 3:17) are not at liberty to disregard. Heart and hand are to be alike open to the cry of distress. The giving is to be:
(3) disinterested (cf. Matthew 5:42).
1. Liberal assistance in a time of need is worth many doles spread over a longer period.
2. Assistance, where practicable, should be given in the form of loans. This is the idea of the law, and it is in harmony with the best modern opinion. Loans are preferable to simple charity; they do not pauperize; they develop the principle of self-help, encourage diligence and thrift, and foster the spirit of honest independence. Those who cannot be helped save by gratuities must, of course, be helped cheerfully.
III. THAT LIBERALITY TO THOSE IN NEED TENDS TO OUR OWN ENRICHMENT. (Vers. 4-7, 10.) No truly liberal man will make this the motive of his liberality. But as a secondary encouragement to liberal giving, and as removing fears of the possible results to one's own fortunes, it deserves to be considered. The liberal soul is usually not the loser, but the gainer, by its liberality. Selfishness defeats itself. Subtle spiritual laws operate to produce this result.
1. Liberality reacts upon the soul itself to ennoble and expand its powers. This tends in the direction of enrichment.
2. The liberal man is loved and trusted. He gets kindness shown him for his kindness to others (Luke 6:30-39). He is one whom neighbors and friends are always willing to serve, and to speak a good word for.
3. God's blessing is upon him (vers. 4, 10). Through that blessing he is prospered. He divides and conquers. By opening his hand liberally, he gets more than he parts with. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth," etc. (Proverbs 11:24, 25). - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.