Our passage begins today with the laws for the Sabbath Years. God has commanded (multiple times) that the weekly Sabbath be observed. He has prescribed the yearly feasts. Now He commands those observances that take place in intervals of more than a year. First is the Sabbath Year to be kept every seventh year. Here we have another command that is both practical and religious. Agriculturalists would agree that working the same soil year after year will eventually render it unable to sustain plant life. But there is the religious aspect. In that seventh year (there’s the seven again) God’s people have to rely fully on what He gives them, and He promises it will be more than enough (25:6-7).
Next is the Year of Jubilee, which takes place after seven Sabbath Years have been observed (49 years). In the seventh Sabbath year (7th year seven – again with the sevens), on the Day of Atonement (which we know points us to Christ), the trumpet will blow and declare the following year the year of Jubilee. This would be a second year that God’s people would have to rely on what He provides (vv. 11-12). But this is not about resting the land, this is about the restoration of all things. Original inheritances will be sold back (vv. 13-17). Note the promise in verses 18-22. God will provide enough for this two year gap of farming if Israel is obedient to this command.
Verse 23 states the immediate purpose of the Year of Jubilee. It is a reminder that all God’s people have is from God. It all belongs to Him. Note in verse 25 the command for someone to stand in to pay what a brother cannot. This points us forward to the substitutionary atonement of Christ, Who paid the debt we could not.
In verses 29-30 we are told that property in walled cities are not part of the redemption of the Jubilee. And in verse 31 we are told that houses outside walled cities are counted as “the fields of the land.” This Year of Jubilee is about the redemption of life. There is no life (agriculturally speaking) in the walled cities.
The chapter ends with the command about poor Israelites and slaves. Israelites could not own other Israelites as slaves. They would serve, but not be considered a slave. Yet, at the year of Jubilee, his service is done. If an Israelite sells himself into slavery with a non-Israelite, then at the year of Jubilee, he is to be redeemed by his brothers.
The Year of Jubilee points us forward to our final redemption. When we will be set free from sin and death. When we will receive our inheritance. When everything that came before is forgotten and God makes everything new.
Chapter 26 begins with a reiteration of the second and fourth Commandments. Then God promises blessings for obedience. He will provide Israel with everything they need. Note that here and elsewhere, God’s promise for obedience is first of all, fruit (26:4). This points us to the fruit the Spirit will produce in His people (Gal 5:22-23) when He is sent from heaven like the rains are. Next is peace (v. 6), which points us to the peace Christ gives us that is different from the world (John 14:27). Finally is God’s presence (vv. 11-12), which points us to Christ’s presence in the incarnation, and to His indwelling presence by the Holy Spirit. Note in verse 13 that obedience is the work of God in us Who makes us “walk erect” (or upright).
Next, God promises punishment for disobedience. Note that disobedience starts from within (the “soul”) and works outward in actions (v. 15). The curse for disobedience is the lack of fruit and peace and more. Note the refrain of “if you will not listen” throughout, showing God’s promise to be patient with His people. It shows how God’s actions here are rehabilitative, not punitive. Through the judgments He is calling His people back to Him.
It is important to note that Israel was not obedient. Not to the Sabbath Years, the Jubilees, or many of the commands of God. And we will see that many of these curses come to pass. Their enemies did inhabit their land (v. 16) multiple times. There were multiple sieges (vv. 25-26), to the point that people did resort to cannibalism of their children (v. 29). Israel was scattered among the nations (v. 33) in order for the land to enjoy the prescribed Sabbaths (vv. 34-35. 43 – see Jer 25:1-14, and it’s fulfillment and explanation in 2 Chron 36:17-21, particularly v. 21 regarding the Sabbaths). The exile represents the same thing as being thrown out of the camp and being separated from the people – exile from God’s presence, which prefigures the reality of hell. Yet God will preserve a remnant of those who repent (vv. 40-41 – notice circumcision is a matter of the heart!) and will save and bless them according to His promise (v. 42, 46).
The book of Leviticus ends with laws about taking vows. In particular, we see that these are vows or pledges made to the Lord. He allows the buying back, as it were, of the pledges of children. In 27:8 we see that God makes this possible for everyone. There are laws for pledges of animals (vv. 9-13) and property (vv. 14-25). In verse 26, we see the reminder that God’s salvation of the first born by the blood of the Passover lamb means that those saved already belong to God (like those of us saved by the blood of Christ). In verse 30 we see that the first and best of what God’s people have belong to God. This all points us to the redemption God provided for us at the cost of His Son, Who bought back what was lost at the Fall, and how all that we are and all that we have belongs to Him.
We see in verse 30 the first mention of the tithe. Note that the tithe is seed or fruit, not money, though it can be bought back, or it is livestock, which cannot be redeemed. We will see that this is to provide for the material needs of the “professional minsters,” the Levites. Verse 34 reminds us that Israel is still at Sinai, still receiving the law from God.
Well, we did it! We read through the book of Leviticus!! Let’s remember where we leave Israel, as we are going to consider some Psalms, and then the book of Hebrews so we can see how the Bible itself make connections between the sacrificial system and Christ.