Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give you…
1. I do not suppose that these sabbatic regulations referred severally to separate and distinct things. The seventh day, the seventh month, the seventh year, and the year of jubilee, as I take them, all express the same great thought, and are related to each other in signification as the different sections of a telescope. They fold into each other. The one is only a repetition of the other on a larger scale. And they all range in the same line to give a focus for gazing the further into the depths and minuter details of one and the same scene. We have sabbaths of days, and sabbaths of months, and sabbaths of years, and septenaries of years, all multiplied in each other with augmenting interest, to indicate the approach of some one great seventh of time when all God's gracious dealings with man shall come to their culmination, and to point the eye of hope to some one grand ultimate sabbath, in which the weary world shall repose from its long turmoil and all its inhabitants keep jubilee.
2. The word "Jubilee" is of doubtful origin and signification. Some derive it from a verb which means to recall, restore, bring back; which would very appropriately designate an arrangement which recalled the absent, restored the captive, and brought back alienated estates. Some trace it to Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, and suppose that this year was named after him from its being a year of mirth and joy, of which music is a common attendant and expression. Our English word "jovial" may perhaps be traceable to this origin. Others think it a word meant to denote the extraordinary sounding of trumpets with which this particular year was always introduced, some making it refer to the kind of instruments used, and others to the particular kind of note produced. But, after all, it may have been a name invented for the occasion, and intended to, carry its meaning in its sound, or to get it from the nature of the period which it was thenceforward to designate. It is a word which, if not in sound, yet in its associations, connects with the sublimest joys, ushered in with thrilling and triumphant proclamations.
I. First of all, it is to be A SABBATH — a consecrated and holy rest. The year of jubilee was the intensest and sublimest of the sabbatic periods. The Sabbath is the jewel of days. It is the marked and hallowed seventh, in which God saw creation finished, and the great Maker sat down complacently to view the admirable products of His wisdom, love, and power — blessed type of a still more blessed rest, when He shall sit down to view redemption finished, the years brought to their perfect consummation, and the life of the world in its full and peaceful bloom. The jubilee is therefore to be the crown of dispensations, and the ultimate glory of the ages, when the Son of God shall rest from the long work of the new creation, and sit down with His saints to enjoy it for ever and ever.
II. In the next place it is to be THE PERIOD OF RESTITUTION. Everything seemed to go back to the happy condition in which God had originally arranged things. Man, in this present world, is a dispossessed proprietor. God gave him possessions and prerogatives which have been wrested from him. God made him but a little lower than the angels, crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of His hands. All creatures were given to him for his service, and he was to "have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." But where is all that glory and dominion now? How has the gold faded and the power waned How much are we now at the mercy of what was meant to serve and obey us! Gone, are our once glorious estates. Gone, the high freedom which once encompassed man. Gone, all the sublime dignity which once crowned him. But we shall not always remain in this poverty and disgrace. Those old estates have not gone from us for ever. When the great joyous trump of jubilee shall sound, the homesteads of our fathers shall return to us again, nor strangers more traverse those patrimonial halls.
III. Again, it shall be A TIME OF RELEASE FOR ALL THAT ARE OPPRESSED, IMPRISONED, OR ROUND. The year of jubilee struck off the bonds of every Jewish captive, and threw open the prison doors to all who had lost their liberty. We are all prisoners now. Though the chains of sin be broken, the chains of flesh and remaining corruption still confine us and abridge our freedom. Even those pious ones who have passed away from earth are still held in the power of death. Their souls may be at rest, but their bodies are still shut up in the pit of the grave. There still is groaning and "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." But when the great trump of jubilee shall sound these groanings shall cease and these fetters all dissolve.
IV. Another feature of that happy time is, THAT IT SHALL BE A TIME OF REGATHERING FOR THE SCATTERED HOUSEHOLD. It is not possible in this world for families to keep together. A thousand necessities are ever pressing upon us to scatter us out from our homes. The common wants of life, to say nothing of aims and enterprises for good, honour, or distinction, operate to drive asunder the most tenderly attached of households. And if we should even succeed in overcoming dividing forces of this kind, there are others which do their work in a way which we cannot hinder. Death comes, and, one by one, the whole circle is mowed down, and sleep in separate graves, mostly far apart. But there cometh a day when all the households of the virtuous and good shall be complete. The year of jubilee shall bring back the absent one. For when the Son of man shall come, "He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other." Not one shall be overlooked or forgotten.
V. But there is still another feature of this blessed time to come to which I will refer. The sounding of that trump shall be THE SUMMONS TO A SACRED FEAST UPON THE STORES LAID UP BY THE INDUSTRY OF PRECEDING YEARS. Though no sowing or gathering was to be done in the year of jubilee, Israel was to have plenty. The bountiful hand of Heaven was to supply them. Years going before were to furnish abundance for all the period of rest. The Sabbath of the land was to be meat for them. Now is our harvest-time. The fields are waving with beautiful golden products which God means that we shall gather and store for our jubilee. Industry and toil are required. We must thrust in the sickle, and gather the blessed sheaves, and lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. It will not do to play the sluggard while that ripe vintage is inviting us to gather. We must work while we may, and lay up while it is within reach. When once the trumpet sounds it will be too late to begin to lay up for the year of rest.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.