Summary: Celebrate the Jubilee in Style 1) Clothed with Christ’s righteousness 2) Clothed for Christ’s service
Have you picked out your Christmas Eve outfit yet? If you need help, especially for dressing the little ones, last Tuesday’s Edmonton Journal has tips for dressing up for the holidays. Of course Christmas isn’t the only occasion that we dress up for is it? Whenever we celebrate a birthday or an anniversary we’ll dress up before hitting the town. We certainly wouldn’t go out dressed in the bib overalls we normally wear to change the oil. That wouldn’t be celebrating “in style.” Celebrating in style is wearing a black tux or an evening gown with all the requisite accessories.
Today the prophet Isaiah speaks to us about dressing up so we can celebrate the Jubilee in style. What’s the Jubilee? Once we’ve answered that question we will learn how to celebrate it in style.
The Jubilee is even better than Christmas. How can anything be better than Christmas?!? At Christmas we get all sorts of presents and it’s not even our birthday (for many of us anyway). Sure, you may receive presents at Christmas but you also give presents. If so, what’s your Christmas budget this year? I’d be willing to guess that families spend more money at this time of year than any other. Because of that, the excitement of Christmas is followed by the dread of the January credit card bill. Wouldn’t it be great if January could be declared a no-bill-month? Since we’re dreaming here, wouldn’t it be great if you received your credit card bill each January with the word “PAID” stamped on the statement? In Old Testament times, God commanded his people to do something just like that. Every seventh year was to be a Sabbath year where all debts from the previous seven years were to be cancelled. They did the same thing every fifty years and called that the Jubilee year after the Hebrew word “yobel” which means horn. At the beginning of the Jubilee year a ram’s horn was sounded to mark the beginning of one’s freedom from debt.
Wow! That would be an event worth celebrating, wouldn’t it? I think you would do a little dance if you knew that every January your credit card bill was to be paid by someone else. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem as if the Israelites ever observed the Jubilee. People were afraid that if they didn’t recoup the money owed them, they wouldn’t be able to survive the year. Their lack of trust in God’s promises to provide for them caused them to miss out on the tremendous blessing the year of Jubilee was supposed to be.
But God’s purpose for the year of Jubilee was not just to level the economic playing field. God wanted the year of Jubilee to serve as a picture for the kind of freedom from sin’s debt Jesus would bring. In fact at the beginning of his ministry Jesus preached on the opening verses of our text and made clear these verses were a prophecy about him. “1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).
In these verses Isaiah alludes to the year of Jubilee by calling it “the year of the Lord’s favour.” In what way has Jesus brought us freedom from debt? Well I don’t think I’ll ever have enough money to own a private tropical island. That’s OK. I’ve come to terms with that. If I can just visit such a place from time to time, I’ll be happy. The same can’t be said of heaven, however. If we don’t have what it takes to purchase a spot in heaven, we will never be allowed to see it. We will never be allowed to bask in God’s unfiltered love. Instead we’ll be burning under the glare of God’s anger forever in hell. So what’s it cost to own a piece of heaven? The cost is this: no smart-aleck comments about your teacher’s clothes; no sassy remarks to your parents; no cursing under your breath; no ignoring another person’s pain but doing something to alleviate the suffering. In short the price tag for a piece of heaven is being unselfish every second of your life here. So if you’ve ever ripped crayons out of the hand of a sibling, if you’ve ever bent the truth when speaking to a customer, if you’ve ever groused about having to get on your hands and knees to clean up someone else’s mess, you don’t have what it takes to own a piece of heaven. Instead you’ve carved out a place for yourself in hell.