Read Luke 4:14-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 25:17 NLT)
Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”
Part 9: God’s Favor. In the time of the ancient Hebrews, when they came into the land of Canaan and made that their dwelling place, the Hebrews established the law of Moses as the law of their land. The law was given to them to establish much needed order in the land, to keep them set apart from the native people of the lands they were occupying, and to ensure that they remained wholly devoted to God. This last part meant that on top of justice, they were to be a people of love, compassion and mercy. Thus, within the law, measures were taken to ensure that they would do differently to foreigners (aka immigrants), to those in debt, to those abandoned and alone, and to all who struggled in life than was done to them while they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years.
One of the major things that was established within the law was called the Year of Jubilee. This happened on either the 49th or the 50th year of the Jubilee cycle, and it was the year when all who were indentured servants because of the debts they owed, when seized property was returned to those who lost it, when all slates were wiped clean, and when people did not plant, farm, or harvest food to be stored and sold for profit, but when people ate freely from what the land produced naturally on its own. This was a reminder to all the Hebrew people of the mercy and grace of God, a mercy and a grace that, as God’s children, we should be modeling.
It’s believed that observance of the Year of Jubilee was essentially ignored during and following the captivity of the Jews who were exiled in Babylon. The reason for this is that they had believed that Jubilee could only be celebrated only when the Jews had complete control of the land of Canaan, which was the ultimate sign of God’s favor being upon Israel. Following Babylon, that reality never came into fruition and so Jubilee became more of a symbolic gesture, with the blowing of the shofar (a type of horn), but not truly observed. Yet, in the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus stated that was anointed to announce the year of the Lord’s favor right then and there to a people who had long been occupied and oppressed by the Roman Empire.
What should stand out for us here is this, that while the consensus in Jesus’ day was that Jubilee was over and that God’s favor was removed from the land, Jesus stood against that mindset. While people allowed endless enslavement, imprisonment, debt, poverty, and loss to continue because they felt everything was hopeless, or because of a theological interpretation they had of the Scriptures, Jesus proclaimed that God’s favor was not gone, that their situation was NOT hopeless, and that it was high time that people do something to bring an end to suffering. What’s more, he charged his followers, including us, to make that our mission. The question for you is this, are willing to do what it takes to proclaim and work for the distribution of God’s favor?
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
In what ways are you ignoring the suffering of those around you and in what ways could you be proclaiming God’s favor in your current community and context?
Lord, free me from my imprisonment to sin and complacency, and give me hope in your favor. Amen.