Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Thirty-Two.

Dr Clifford Denton.

B’har: Leviticus 25:1-26:2.

25th May 2024/17 Iyyar.

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. (Leviticus 25:9)

Picture by Helen McNeill            

What an awesome pattern for the life of God’s people! How wonderful to reach the year of Jubilee every 50 years – slaves freed, debts cancelled, property returned! Seven is the key number. Seven cycles of seven years, leading to Jubilee and within each of those seven years a period of six years for growing crops and a seventh year of rest for the land.

Can we do this today? If we have a piece of land – even a small garden, we might consider the benefits of the seven-year cycle of planting and harvesting. This has been explored by some farmers in Israel in the modern-day with convincing good results on the quality and quantity of produce. God, in his wisdom, Creator of all, has built into His created order the best ways to manage the land. This is in stark contrast to the way land is depleted of its nutrition through intensive farming methods in much of the world.

Similarly, the way that many of the institutions of the world in general conduct their financial affairs and care of one another is far from the sensitive balance that our passage this week typifies. Financial collapse is an ever-present possibility, when care for each other and honest dealing are replaced by often dishonest trading for personal gain. Frankly, though the Gospel has reached across the entire world, the Christian Church is a large body of people, and the Bible is the largest selling book, the simple yet profound principles of Torah mostly remain forgotten or unknown.

There are patterns and principles in God’s teaching that are simple on face value, but do we really understand them? One of the most important principles of Torah is doing what God says. In the doing, one may have understanding imparted. How would it feel to be going through each cycle of seven years, calculating how much to charge for the use of land, reaping harvests with the poor in mind, resting the land every seven years? Would not this be a day by day walk of prayer with God? What would it feel like to celebrate all the freedom that was renewed each year of Jubilee, with the God of new beginnings, when the shofar blew on that special Day of Atonement. This was a once in a generation experience that all Israel would remember – if they simply followed God’s pattern for life.

More than this, ingrained in every person’s way of being would be the preparation for the coming Messiah, the great Redeemer. The imagery of Jubilee, heralded by its trumpet sound, is within Paul’s expectation of the returning Lord, such as in 1 Corinthians 15:52:  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Also, the Book of Revelation is full of such imagery, such as the sounding of the last trumpet prior to the Lords’ return in Revelation 11:15, with the final picture of freedom from sin and freedom to live in peace forever at the end of the Book of Revelation.

Our lives on this earth are a journey towards the great fulfilment of all God’s teaching and this is embedded in every Torah principle. The cycle of six days leading to the weekly Sabbath, the cycle of six years leading to the Sabbath year of rest for the land and the cycle of seven Sabbath years leading to the Jubilee all have one fundamental way of life to be taught – the life of faith. God made rest a principle of life, rest with Him and rest in Him, to be practiced in all of life’s cycles. He wants to be part of our life and for us to be part of His life. He promised prosperity and provision within these patterns of work and rest. He would provide extra for each Sabbath day and for each Sabbath year, with a new beginning every Jubilee.

Did the Israelites, let alone the world, really hold fast to these truths and these promises? The history of Israel in the Books of Kings, Chronicles and the Prophets shows that the simple principles of God’s order were not followed. There were times when God gave a new beginning, nevertheless. For example, when Hezekiah was granted deliverance from Sennacherib (Isaiah 37), it was in his fourteenth year as King (Isaiah 36:1), his second cycle of seven years. When God then restored peace and a new beginning, the imagery given in Isaiah 37:30-32 was –

This shall be a sign to you:

You shall eat this year such as grows of itself,
And the second year what springs from the same;
Also in the third year sow and reap,
Plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.
And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah
Shall again take root downward,
And bear fruit upward.
For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant,
And those who escape from Mount Zion.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

This accords with the imagery of the Sabbath and Jubilee years, implying that God pointed to a return to the pattern of life that He had ordained through Moses – the life of faith, ultimately leading to the Messianic Kingdom coming fully in.

What we must do therefore, in our family Bible studies, is to consider these principles for ourselves. What would God have us take from them into our own pattern of life so that we too are secure on the journey of faith towards that great day of the Lord’s return, when the last trumpet will sound and the Day of Atonement will come, in all its fullness.






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