Every seven years God ordained that His people take a break. His land would rest, His people would take it easy, and the bill collectors would take a break and in so doing, everyone would have the opportunity to catch-up. When the eighth year rolled around, everything would pick-up where it left off in year six. Therefore, the release of debts spoken of here (I believe) is not a forgiveness of a person’s obligation, but rather a twelve month sabbatical towards any debt owed. True release (or forgiveness) of debts came in the fiftieth year, or the Year of Jubilee.
Not so Good News
The bad news is that there is no historical record whatsoever of Israel (or any other people group for that matter) ever having celebrated the Year of Jubilee and exercising God’s directive to forgive debt. How come—why didn’t Israel do as God told them to do? For the same reason we probably wouldn’t—it doesn’t make any sense; it’s not good business; it’s too costly a venture to practice and there’s always the ‘what if’ factor, “What if I forgive you your debt, but my debtors don’t forgive me mine?” Faith and obedience always suffer when we factor in the world.
God’s Acceptable Year
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord… Isaiah 61:1-2
When Isaiah referred to the acceptable year of the Lord, it was an allusion to the Year of Jubilee, that festive commemoration that Israel perpetually failed to celebrate. In essence Isaiah’s prophecy was pronouncing that which man has fouled will be fulfilled by Jesus Christ—forgiveness and salvation for all who would believe.
Our Jubilee: Jesus Christ
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “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, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21
Lovingly, Jesus told the crowd that they failed. Mercifully He proclaimed that He would not. The acceptable year of the Lord had arrived; the imprisoned would have their freedom, the blind would have their sight, and the hopeless would have their forgiveness. Jesus is our triumphant Jubilee and the resolution towards any man’s debt. Only Jesus could be the Good News for He alone is good.