May 20, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Remembering with Joy
Leviticus 25:1-12

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Last week, a city council approved a $1.5 trillion development project that will occupy one third of a biologically sensitive area of woodlands and wetlands. If local citizens had petitioned to use such environmentally significant land, they almost certainly would have been turned down. However, applications from mega-corporations and offshore consortiums are almost always approved. Huge amounts of investment money sometimes expedite such processes, whereas ordinary citizens might be told that regulations forbid such land use. The gap between rich and poor—as well as the politicized and nonpoliticized, special interests and average taxpayers—widens daily.

There is a definite connection between the use of land and justice. We see it in the troubled history of Israel, which, similar to our modern era, was a story of empires and oppressors. The books of Moses, such as Leviticus, often appear as templates that didn’t always work out in reality. Indeed, the prophetic writings continually challenge the Hebrews to repent and return to the biblical vision. Certain perceptions of Jewish identity went deep, including their understanding of themselves as a Sabbath-observing people. In Leviticus 25, the Sabbath concept is expanded to include agricultural, social, humanitarian, and economic measures.

Every seventh year was a sabbatical year, during which Hebrew slaves were freed, debts were forgiven, and the earth itself was given 12 months of rest. Although this provision seems strange in an agricultural society, it became something that Israelites were proud to observe. In effect, all regular farming practices were forbidden, and farmers became gleaners on their own land.

The sabbatical year helped to restore a measure of equality among Israelites, including those who had been enslaved for debt. This practice also emphasized that the land itself and the people themselves belonged to God.

The jubilee year concept eventually proved to be unmanageable and is rarely mentioned as a historical reality. Nonetheless, many of its provisions were embodied in the sabbatical year, which was a reality during times when Israelites had some control of their national destiny and economy.

  • How did the sabbatical year embody certain ideas of social justice and respect for God’s creation?
  • Do you know of real instances where God’s biblical standards of justice (agricultural, social, humanitarian, or economic) were not served in regard to the use of land?
  • Jesus announced a “jubilee” in his mission statement (Luke 4:18-19) at the beginning of his ministry. How does the concept of jubilee fit with the mission of the church?

—Kevin McCabe,

© 2018

Kevin McCabe is a writer, teacher, and poet. He was formerly an instructor in Classics at several universities, and has also been the author and editor of two books on Lucy Maud Montgomery and a number of works on the history and literature of the Niagara Peninsula. Kevin is a member of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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