A few minutes from my home stands St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Draped across the front of this New York landmark is a movie screen-size banner with the words Jubilee 2000: Open Wide the Doors to Christ. This, I believe, should be the summons of our new century.
If I could pick a revival passage for the 21st century it would be Israel’s guidelines for the jubilee festival in Leviticus 25. The jubilee year meant all kinds of new beginnings and new points of departure. It was like New Year’s Day for 365 days. But it also foreshadowed other events that will come to God’s people-the great consummation (see Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:19-21)-and all true revivals that precede Christ’s return.
In Israel, God called for every seventh year to be a Sabbath year-a year of total rest for people, animals, and fields. Every seventh Sabbath year (the 49th year) was to be followed by a second Sabbath year (the 50th) called the year of jubilee. “Jubilee” comes from the Hebrew word for horn, because the shofar was blown throughout the land on the Day of Atonement to call the Jews into the year of rest. Get this: Following a day when blood was sacrificed for the nation came a season of victory and hope. One scholar remarks: “Jubilee was the supreme and unique climax and culmination of all the series of sacred seasons. In no other nation was there a time of such universal relief and joy.”
In addition, three distinct themes marked the 50th year:
Liberation. Those who had been bankrupted, enslaved to pay their debts, and consequently depleted of all hope over the previous 49 years were declared “set free.” Restored. They got to start all over again.
Restitution. Those who had been forced to sell their property because of financial hardships knew that the shofar restored their rightful inheritance. All land reverted back to its original owner. The losses of poverty were canceled.
Surrender. Every Israelite knew that, ultimately all property belonged to God. Nothing made sense in the jubilee economy unless everyone was surrendered to Jehovah. Furthermore, while observing two Sabbath years in a row Israel became desperately dependent upon God’s interventions. Only as He commanded the fields and the livestock would they have anything to eat. Survival depended upon total trust and surrender to God. Day after day during the mandated sabbatical rest, their eyes were fixed upon their sovereign Lord. It was in the 50th year that they learned to give God their total attention, stay fully surrendered, and celebrate Him as their only hope. In the 50th year, they were completely consumed with Him.
What a way to start over! Freedom. Restoration. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Rest. Praise. Passionate reliance on God. What a witness to the nations was God’s supernatural provision for His people and the revival of their radical love for Him and each other. I dare say when that shofar blew, Israel started jumpin’ for jubilee!
Jubilee is also a New Testament phenomenon in that it has been fulfilled in Christ Himself. When Jesus gave His “inaugural address” in Nazareth (Luke 4), He chose Is. 61:1-2-which every Jew knew to be a jubilee passage. Note the deliverance Isaiah describes: from poverty brokenheartedness, bondage, blindness, devastation. Jesus claimed it was fulfilled before their very eyes. Why? Because He wipes away the tears, restores lives, creates new beginnings. “The year of the Lord’s favor,” with all its attendant liberation, restitution, and surrender, is focused on Christ.
The Year 2000
Now, one year has become 2000. God’s Son has been crucified, risen, and ascended. The jubilee themes have redemptive force wherever any individual or church or generation “opens wide the doors to Christ.” We call this opening of the doors “prayer.” We call the Holy Spirit’s reactivation of the jubilee experience “revival.” But we need not wait for a new millennium or another round of 50 years to enter our jubilee. We can prepare for it right now.
1. Hear the trumpet call (like John did in Rev. 1:10-11). Pay attention as Christ reclaims the jubilee promises, summoning us to watch and pray Listen from the foot of the cross, because jubilee springs from the Day of atonement. Amplify His trumpet call by mobilizing yourself and others to pursue in prayer the jubilee that Christ has prepared for this generation.
2. Practice the jubilee themes now, even though the best is yet to come. Forgive one another today Heal broken relationships now Set one another free at once. Restore fellow believers to the bold embrace of our full inheritance in Christ. Make Christ central to everything you do. Seek to grow daily in surrender, in worship, in passion for Him alone, in grasping His priorities for your life. Make the jubilee themes agendas in your praying.
3. Join with thousands of believers in designating this new year Celebrate Jesus 2000. Be a “Lighthouse of Prayer.” Participate in the National Day of Prayer in May and “Jesus Day” in cities throughout the nation in June.
In other words, pray and live daily in the promise of the coming revival. Do it with confidence, because jubilee testifies to the renewing ways of God in every generation. Begin the new year hoppin’ with hope-jumpin’ for jubilee!