Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Year of Jubilee

The US space shuttle Atlantis touched down this past week on its last planned mission. It has been in service 25 years and travelled some 120 million miles over 32 missions. NASA is ending the Space Shuttle program with 2 more flights by the other two shuttles. After all is said and done, you can buy one of the used shuttles for $28.8 million.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4’ 8 ½”. That is an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that is the way they built them in England, and by and large, English expatriates built the US railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that is the gauge they used. Why did “they” use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools they used for building wagons, which used the same wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that is the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the US standard railroad gauge of 4’ 8 ½” is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. Bureaucracies live forever.
Now the twist to the story: When you see the space shuttle sitting on the launch pad, there are 2 big booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by some guy measuring the width of a horses’ rear end.

Do you see how the past can create baggage, often when we are not even aware of it? Baggage is not necessarily good or bad; a lot depends on how we carry it. If something happens in life, we can hang on to the emotions that will resolve into bitterness. We can harbour bad feelings left over from disagreements. We can carry wounds from emotional and other battles. On the other side we can use the challenge to lead us to growth. In dealing with issues of truth we can use it to sharpen and clarify our faith. We can also carry forward cautions and knowledge that inform and direct our actions today. But know this: holding on to the bad stuff makes us a captive, and in so doing gives away the power and control of your life to the past. While the event or other person has moved on, we cannot. We get stunted in our growth as people and as followers of Jesus. We get stuck in that spiritual nursery that Hebrews 5 talks about, where we lose our ability to discern the difference between good and evil: Hebrews 5:8-14 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We lose our ability to discern between right and wrong. We lose the joy and peace that comes from a clear and uncluttered relationship with our Creator. We lose the sense of that still, quiet voice of the Spirit as He leads and guides us. In short - we lose. But then Jesus announces the Year of jubilee.

What is the Year of jubilee? The Jubilee was to be sounded every 49 or 50 years. Every 7th year was a Sabbath year. The Year of Jubilee was the 7th Sabbath of the 7 year sabbatical cycle - hence 7 times 7 is 49. The biblical requirement is that the Jubilee year was to be treated like a Sabbatical year, with the land lying fallow, but also required the compulsory return of all property to its original owners or their heirs, in addition to the freeing of all Israelite indentured servants. Two freedoms were in place - the land was “freed”, or returned to the original owner. This had the effect of ensuring the 12 tribal boundaries in the Promised Land would not change. In essence, you couldn’t sell and buy land in Israel - you only leased it for a maximum of 49 years. The second freedom was of servants. No Israelite could be a servant for more than 7 years. So the Year of Jubilee was about freedom. It was about freeing the land and the people. This is what the Lord proclaims for us today. In fact, we have three Jubilees before us.

The first is the Jubilee of Salvation. At some point in our lives we have all been captives of sin. When you read the book of Romans, you quickly understand what bondage means. You can imagine a scenario where you have no choice in life. In our own history in Canada we have situations where children were taken from parents with no recourse, and taught values and traditions totally foreign to their history. No choice was given - it was a done deal. You could try and fight it, but that got you nowhere. You could do nothing, absolutely nothing. Each of us existed in that realm spiritually. Sin was in your life and you were under judgement for that. It didn’t even originate in you, but went back to a Garden long ago. You came of age and made your own choices, and they fell short. Nothing you could do could help you save yourself. But in the midst of that lost-ness Jesus reached down, drew you to Himself and gave you love. He took your sin with Him to the cross, and redeemed you. He bought you back from sin. When you were lost in the Egypt of your sins, He sent the Deliverer to bring you out of captivity and so you are free. He has given you the Holy Spirit as a guarantor of that salvation. You are sealed to the day when you shall see Him face to face, and in that work of God He brought healing into your life. He brought healing from the ravages of sin. He is still at work in your life, bringing healing from the past. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ He declared the Year of Jubilee from sin. You are free to follow, free to choose, and free to be all you can be in Jesus.

The second Jubilee is the Jubilee of Sanctification. It is such a big word, but you know what? Even after salvation and being freed from sin, you were still a slave to Self. You were forgiven the sin that was in your life, but there is a connection to that past that tries to drag you back. As the nation Israel walked further and further from Israel, again and again the tug to go back to the slavery and the bondage there pulled at them. Even at the border of the Promised Land they did not want to go forward, and so they wandered around in disobedience and confusion, missing out on all the Lord had for them. And so we, even after Salvation, wander around in our spiritual lives without much direction. We circle around and don’t seem to be getting anywhere. And then Jesus breaks in and declares the Year of jubilee. The work of His Spirit brings renewal to your life. As you surrender to Him you are freed from the tyranny of self. You are no longer in the struggle of doing the things you don’t want to do, and not getting done what you meant to. It is a work of God, in response to your surrender. Give up your rights just like Jesus gave up His rights in the incarnation. Pursue humility not just before man, but before God, and He will come and bring freedom and a peace that is beyond understanding.

The third Jubilee is the Jubilee of Revival. Have you ever had someone walk past you, and in their passing you enter their scent. Usually and hopefully it is their perfume or aftershave. On occasion it is due to their hygiene. The fact is they left a lingering residue of their presence. The things in our past can hold us captive. We talked about baggage, but sometimes it is not so easy to describe what lingers. We understand there is a realm beyond our senses. As we walk through life and engage with one another and experience tensions and issues, we know there is a spiritual battle going on. We know that there are very often things around us even today as a result of those interactions in that spiritual realm. But we also know this, that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Yahweh is greater than the god of this world. There really is no comparison, but Satan tries to disrupt the work of God any way he can. His minions follow and disrupt, trying to get us to focus on ourselves. He keeps pushing on us, wearing us down. Like the boa constrictor, the snake wraps around our souls and spirits and community and squeezes. He constricts so it is hard to breathe, hard to see clearly. Our thoughts turn inward to survival, to our needs. And we feel hurt, and disappointed, and angry, and vengeful, and the list goes on. But Jesus comes and declares the Year of Jubilee for you and I. He calls us to lay our baggage and sacrifices down at the foot of the cross and look to Him. As we call out to Him for freedom from the captivity of where we were and what has happened, He sends His Spirit to work in us revival. The head of the snake is cut off and we are free without constriction. And this Jubilee is not just for our church, it is for our city. God is moving. He is breaking down the rulers and powers and the world forces of this darkness. There have been strongholds set up and Jesus is breaking them down into nothing, because the presence of God will not tolerate those things. For you and I, as followers of Jesus, they have no power or influence. We are free in Jesus, and as we meet from week to week we can rest in the victory of the freedom God gives.

Have you experienced the Jubilee of Salvation? Give up your striving and accept Jesus. Have you experienced the Jubilee of Sanctification? Surrender. Have you experienced the Jubilee of Revival? Call out for Him in a new way.

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