Friday, March 1, 2013

From Israel to the Nations

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, March 1, 2013:  Leviticus 24:1-25:46

‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.  Leviticus 25:8-12 (NKJV)

One of the major transitions of the Old Testament to the New is the transition from Israel to the nations.  Much of Old Testament law was set in a national identity for Israel.  There was in ancient Israel no separation of secular and holy (our present terminology is "church and state").  To be a citizen of Israel, was to be an adherent to the faith of Abraham.  Their entire legal system was based on theocracy -- the rule of God.

It is because of this that laws such as the Year of Jubilee could be enacted and enforced -- "throughout all the land."  These laws were enacted for a society, for a culture, for a nation, or at least a self-sustaining community such as we might find today among the Amish.  These laws are not individual and private, they regulate the rhythms of daily and yearly policy and procedure.

One of the major transitions of biblical law and practice from Old to New is the loss of a Jewish homeland.  With this loss, many of the laws could not be enforced in the same was as before.  The loss of the Temple and a dominant priesthood was huge in terms of how worship took place.  Neither Jew nor Christian has a home base today for the worship of God.  And that's the way God wants it.  In fact, Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned for making that very statement.  In Acts 7:48 he said, "the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands."  A few verses later, Scripture says, "When they heard this..." they stoned him.  

Therefore, the question before biblical people is this: how do the laws that are based in a Jewish homeland apply to us today.  Are we to enact capital punishment today as was mandated under Old 
Testament law?  Are we to declare a year of rest every fiftieth year?  Are personal properties to be 
returned to previous owners in this Jubilee year?  How much are the Ten Commandments (and particularly, the fourth commandment about a day of rest) to become the LAW OF THE LAND?

This is a complicated question and deserves our serious study.  It is being played out today in terms of the removal of Blue Laws that deal with Sunday/Sabbath practices, etc.  Chick-fil-A does not open on Sundays in honor to the biblical call for a day of rest.  We ought to ask, "How much does Judaio-Christian law/morality apply in our modern Western culture?"

In the absence of national and cultural agreement, I must decide the degree to which I can practice a Year of Jubilee.  The most common answer is that we LIVE in our Year of Jubilee.  It has permanently arrived in the Person of Jesus.  That is certainly good news!  "Whom the Son has set free is free indeed." (John 8:36)  The transition from Israel to the nations calls us now to find how these powerful truths find fulfillment in Christ in a world that is far from God.   We are a light to the nations.

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