The Joy of jubilee
Can you imagine having a royal birthday? Americans were able to peek into Britain’s celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 86th birthday, and partake of history in the making. Beginning Saturday, June 2, 2012 England celebrated their Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, six decades of her reign of dependability, determination, and devotion.
Can you imagine watching the Epsom Derby with her husband Prince Philip and family in the royal box? Can you fathom sailing seven miles down the River Thames, alongside 1,000 vessels in a maritime parade, with the Queen leading the flotilla in the Royal Barge? What would it have been like to attend the BBC Concert held in her honor with world renowned musicians such as Elton John and Paul McCartney? Would you have been one of the thousands of the Commonwealth lighting beacons?
Would you have wanted to attend Tuesday’s service of Thanksgiving held at St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a carriage ride through London streets? Would you have been part of the cheering crowd standing below as the royal family stood and waved on the balcony of the Buckingham Palace? Would you have been filled with a sense of patriotism as the aircraft from the Battle of Britain flew over with red, white, and blue streaks marking the sky at the finale of the jubilee festivities?
Jubilee is a word not often used much anymore. It is derived from a Hebrew term, meaning ram. An alternative derivation is a Latin verb meaning “shout for joy”.
In the bible the Jubilee year is described in Leviticus 25. The Lord instructs Moses on Mt. Sinai to tell the people to count seven Sabbaths of years, which is seven times seven—resulting in 49 years.
Jubilee is announced on the Day of Atonement with a loud blast from the ram’s horn, known as the shofar. They are told to consecrate the 50th year to proclaim liberty throughout all the land. They are to rest-not to reap or sow, but rather let the land lay fallow, set apart, symbolizing that the earth belongs to the Lord and that farmers are merely stewards.
The Lord promises that the land will produce plenty the year before to provide. Slaves shall be given freedom, property returned to its original owners, and there shall be a cancellation of all debt! Everyone was aware of the Jubilee year so there was fairness to creditors and debtors.
Interestingly, Jesus began his public ministry with a Jubilee message. In Luke 4 he stood up in the synagogue and quoted from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives!” Christ’s mission was freedom. He was sent to cancel the debt of sin through his perfect payment on the cross.
Today jubilee is used in many forms. It is the name of celebrations, films, songs, rock bands, a stage musical, a comic, facilities, album titles, and everything else from a cave to an international organization. God defined it best though many years ago and still offers the best use of jubilee, of freedom, through His Son. Not all can experience a royal birthday, but all can experience jubilee.