Introduction: Amongst Bible critics, Leviticus Chapter 25 is often falsely maligned as a place where God allegedly condoned slavery. This view is mistaken. In this chapter and in the New Testament, God promises to free and restore believers from all kinds of bondage and oppression.
First, through the Sabbath year laws, God gave people and their land a chance to rest. He also promised to free those in bondage. Second, through the laws regarding the Jubilee year, He again promised rest and freedom to those in bondage. Third, also from the laws of the Jubilee year, He promises to restore His people to their lands that they had previously lost from debts. Fourth, through the law of the kinsman redeemer, He provided His people with the means to be freed from bondage without needing to wait until either the Sabbath or Jubilee years. His laws also foreshadowed how Jesus would come to redeem mankind from its bondage to sin. Fifth, through His rules regarding lending with interest, He sought to protect people from returning to bondage. Sixth, through His rules for redeeming servants, He provided the means to free all in bondage. This again foreshadowed what Jesus does for any believer. Finally, God wants you to use your freedom to become a bondservant to Him and a slave to righteousness. You must avoid the things of the world that can place you into either economic or spiritual bondage.
The law of the Sabbath year. Just as God commanded that every person rest once every seven days (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Dt. 5:12-16), He also commanded that His people allow the land to rest every seven years: “1 The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, 2 ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. 3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6 All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.”’ (Lev. 25:1-7).
Rest for God’s people. Like the Sabbath day, the Sabbath year was meant for rest. Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17). If you believe in Him, your legal obligation to observe either a Sabbath day or a Sabbath year was “nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Thus, Paul says “[l]et no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of . . . the Sabbath days.” (Col. 2:16). These things are the “shadow” of Him (Col. 2:17; Gal. 4:10-11). Yet, this does not mean that believers should ignore the Sabbath laws. As Lord of the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5), Jesus gave you the Sabbath days and years to give your body and your mind the rest you need (Mk. 2:27-28). The Sabbath days and years allow God’s people to “refresh themselves.” (Ex. 23:12). God also promises to bless you if you observe either a Sabbath day or year: “Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” (Is. 58:13-14). “How blessed is the man who does this . . . who keeps from profaning the Sabbath . . .” (Is. 56:2, 5-7). The word “sabbatical” comes from these verses. Whether it is one day, a week, or a periodic year, will you voluntarily give time to God so that He can bless and restore you?
Rest for the land. God also commanded that the land receive a rest during the Sabbath year (Lev. 25:6-7). Long before people understood how plants could deplete the nutrients in the soil, God showed the Jews how to keep their land productive for generations by giving it rest. From these hidden truths, Western farmers learned the value of allowing a field to periodically lie fallow. The lesson is that God’s Law holds hidden wisdom. This is true even if you cannot fully understand the purpose behind the Law. Even if you don’t fully understand it, will you trust God’s Word?
Trust. God also wanted His people to trust Him to provide for them during their Sabbath year. He specifically promised to provide extra food during the sixth year to cover the people’s needs during both the seventh year and during the eighth year while the people waited for their crops to come in: “18 ‘You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19 Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20 But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.” (Lev. 25:18-22). As a society, we tend to overwork and hoard things. The farmers survived during this time off the residual growth in the fallow fields (Ex. 23:10-11). During this time, farmers also had to share with the poor, who had a right to glean from the corners the fields (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22). Even when it appears that your work opportunities have dried up, are you trusting God to provide for you and your family?
Freedom for indentured servants. The Sabbath year also brought freedom to those in bondage. In Moses’ day, persons sometimes had to sell their labor on a long-term basis because they were financially desperate. At the time, no government existed to provide welfare benefits for society’s poorest members. If a person could not sell his or her labor, the stark alternative for some was starvation. To keep a person from going hungry, God tolerated, but did not endorse, temporary arrangements where a person sold their labor for money. Yet, He sought to protect the person who was forced to sell his or her labor. To set the Jews apart from the other nations around them, He required that such servants be offered their freedom after six years: “If you buy a Hebrew slave [servant], he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.” (Ex. 21:2). “If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.” (Dt. 15:12). Unfortunately, most English translations of these verses create confusion with the imprecise translation of “Hebrew slaves.” These individuals were in fact indentured servants. We know that they were not actual slaves because God expressly forbade one Jew from owning another Jew as an actual slave: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves.” (Lev. 25:39). The Pulpit Commentary observes that the bondservants were treated no worse than any other hired servant: “Hebrew bondmen is placed nearly upon a par with hired servants.” Thus, God never endorsed slavery. To the contrary, His Law was meant to free those in bondage.
The Sabbath years in the future Promised Land in Heaven. God told Moses that the people would observe a Sabbath year (Jubilee year) when they come to the land “which I shall give you.” (Lev. 25:1). In Moses’ day, the Promised Land was Israel (Ex. 3:8; 3:17; 13:5). Today, the Promised Land of every believer is both the restored land during the Millennial Reign of Jesus and the New Jerusalem in Heaven (Rev. 20:1-5). Jesus promises “rest” from both hard work and the struggle for salvation (Heb. 4:1-5).
The symbolism of 6 years of work and the possible 6,000-year-curse upon mankind. A day to the Lord is like a 1,000 years (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:3-8). The Millennial Reign is to last 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-5). The Jews were told to toil in the field “for six years” (Lev. 25:3). Because seven is a number of completeness (Gen. 2:1), this leads some to believe that there will be 6,000 years of human history followed by the 1,000-year Millennial Reign. Under the Jewish civil calendar, the beginning of the new year of the year 6,000 will take place on September 30, 2,239 A.D. Yet, the accuracy of the Jewish calendar has been debated for centuries. Moreover, the theory of 7,000 years of human history is not expressly stated in the Bible. Thus, no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return or when history will end (Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32). He does not reveal the timing of His return because He wants you to live being ready at all times.
The second law of release during the Jubilee year. In addition to commanding that the Jews free their indentured servants every seven years, God again commanded that His people free anyone in bondage once every fifty years, the “Jubilee year”: “8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9 You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.” (Lev. 25:8-12). Thus, a person placed into bondage in the 49th year would be freed the following year. The Jubilee year (“yovel”) followed seven cycles of “shimita” or Sabbath years. Although the Bible states that this took place in the 50th year, a minority of Jews claim that it was observed in the 49th year during the seventh Sabbath year, the Sabbath’s Sabbath. Those in the minority claim that the people could not survive if the land was fallow for two years.
Second chances. The second chances offered through the Jubilee year symbolize the second chances that every believer receives through Christ. When you accept Christ, your prior debts to God are forgiven and the believer is subject to no further condemnation (Ro. 8:1). God does not want His people to be forever bound by their mistakes. Thus, Christ commands that we constantly forgive each other (Matt. 6:14-5; 18:35; Mark 11:25; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Is there anyone that you need to forgive?
Trust. It took trust to take a year off every seven years from work. It takes even more trust to take two years in a row on the 49th year and again on the 50th year for the Jubilee. Yet, God promises to provide under these circumstances (Lev. 25:20-22; Ps. 127:2). Will you trust God to provide no matter how much longer your drought at work may last?
The foreshadow of the Millennial Reign in the Jubilee year. The Jews were to count off 49 years and then observe the Jubilee the next year or the 50th year (Lev. 25:8). The number 50 also symbolized God’s revelation. Exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, He gave the Ten Commandments (Lev. 23:15-17; Dt. 16:9-10; Ex. 19:20-25; 20:1-21). Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, God revealed His will by pouring out the Holy Spirit onto His believers (Acts 2:3). During the 50th year, the Jews were to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:8). The Millennial Reign under Christ’s rule will bring “liberty” to those who were once under the bondage of sin (John 8:36; Rom. 6:6; 6:17-20; Tit. 2:14). Jesus also given you freedom from the bondage of sin now. What are you doing with your freedom?
The Sabbath and Jubilee year laws will be fulfilled during the Millennial Reign. In Leviticus Chapter 26, God warned that He would give the land its Sabbath if the Jews did not give it one (Lev. 26:34-35, 43). Yet, after entering the Promised Land, the Jews failed to observe either the Sabbath or Jubilee year laws for exactly 490 years. To punish the Jews, God kept the Jews in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, the exact number of Sabbath years that they failed to observe (490/7) (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; 2 Chr. 26:20-21; 36:21). Even after their return from exile, they again did not observe the Sabbath and Jubilee year laws. Among other things, God condemned the Jews because they failed to free their servants after six years: “At the end of seven years each of you shall set free his Hebrew brother who has been sold to you and has served you six years, you shall send him out free from you; but your forefathers did not obey Me or incline their ear to Me.” (Jer. 34:14). Exactly 490 years after the date the Temple was rebuilt, the Jews’ Messiah (Jesus) was killed, just as the prophet Daniel accurately predicted (Dan. 9:24-26). Even after Jesus’ death, most Jews failed to observe the Sabbath and Jubilee year rules. God’s detailed Sabbath and Jubilee year laws will be implemented, but until the future. During the Millennial Reign, God’s rule will be restored. During this time, the people will observe the Sabbath laws: “‘from Sabbath to Sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the Lord.” (Is. 66:22-23; Ez. 20:12-26). If the Sabbath will be observed during the Millennial Reign, the Sabbath years will also be observed. Thus, the Sabbath and Jubilee year laws remain relevant.
The law of restoration during the Jubilee year. God not only freed people of their bondage during the Jubilee year, He also commanded that lands lost through debts or misfortune be restored to them: “13 ‘On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. 14 If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another. 15 Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 25:13-17). By contrast, the Sabbath year did not offer the restoration of lost property. This rule was unique to the Jubilee year.
God also promises to restore you. God can also restore your lost property to you. He can bless whomever He chooses. He also promises to restore you in many other ways. For those who accept Jesus Christ, He promises restoration in the form of resurrection from the dead (Jo. 3:16; 5:24). After you repent, you can have your spirit restored by having your sins blotted out (Acts 3:19-21; Ps. 51:7). “All” of your prior sins will be forgotten (Heb. 8:12). God can also restore your joy and peace (Ps. 51:12; Ro. 15:13). He can also heal the broken hearted (Lk. 4:18). He further can give rest to the weary (Matt. 11:28). He can restore your health (Jer. 30:17; Ps. 103:3; 107:20; Is. 30:26; 33:24; Ex. 15:26). For some, He also promises to restore lands eaten by insects or destroyed by natural disasters (Joel 2:25-26). No matter what kind of damage sin may have done to you, you can be restored “through Christ who strengthens” you (Phil. 4:13). If you are in need of restoration, are you praying in faith to God for Him to restore you?
God’s promise to restore the land during the Millennial Reign. God told the people to “sow your field,” prune your vineyard,” and “gather in its crop” (Lev. 25:3). Toiling the ground, however, was part of the curse that Adam and Eve brought on us (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 5:12-17). After their sin, Satan became the ruler of the Earth, and we were all sold into the bondage of sin (Rom. 7:14). Yet, Satan could not take permanent title because God reveals that the “land is mine.” “23 ‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.” (Lev. 25:23-24). At the time of the Second Coming, the land will revert back to God (Lev. 25:28). During the Millennial Reign, Jesus will also rule as Messiah over the restored land, and He will lift the curse on the land (Rom. 5:12-17). Believers will no longer need to “reap” or “sow” to eat (Lev. 25:4-5). Believers will be able to glean from the fields anything they need (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22). The entire natural world will also be transformed. All forms of animal predation will end. And all conflict will end (Isa. 65:25). Thus, believers will never need to worry about feeling unsafe in the wild. God will also provide the housing for every believer. The Levites (God’s priests) had a “permanent right of redemption for their houses” (Lev. 25:32). Because believers are God’s priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6), Jesus promises each believer a home to live in (Jo. 14:2). God will also provide brilliant clothes for His believers (Rev. 3:5; 18). Believers will also receive new bodies that will not decay during the 1,000-year reign (Phil. 3:20-21; Rom. 8:28-30; 6:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:17-18). Are you sharing the good news of the hope of the world to come with others? (Matt. 28:16-20).
We have a mere lease on life. Today, when an owner has an unencumbered ownership in a property, he or she has what the law calls a “fee simple” interest. This type of land ownership can be freely sold, transferred, and passed down between generations. By contrast, when a person merely uses a land for a period of time, he or she is said to be “leaseholder” or a “tenant.” Because God owns the land (Lev. 25:23-24), people living in the Millennial Reign or in the New Jerusalem in Heaven will live as tenants on God’s land. Much like the land laws of the future, we have a mere lease on life. In His sovereignty, it is His prerogative to decide how long each person lives. Are you using your limited time to serve the King of Kings or yourself?
The law of the kinsman redeemer. God did not force people to wait until either the Sabbath or the Jubilee year to be restored. Because He does not want His people in bondage, He provided a law to allow people to be redeemed immediately if a family member had the means to pay for a person’s debts. If a family had the means to do so, God required a “kinsman” to purchase either a family member sold as a servant or land lost by a family member. Only if a kinsman redeemer could not be found would the person who lost their freedom or their property need to wait until the Sabbath or Jubilee year to be redeemed: “25 ‘If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26 Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28 But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.” (Lev. 25:25-28). A brother or cousin kinsman redeemer could also marry a cousin or brother’s widow to support the family and keep the land within the family (Dt. 25:5-10). This is what Boaz did for Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 4:9-10). During that time, no social security system existed. Thus, God’s laws were meant to protect the people from bondage and free them as soon as possible.
God’s distinction between urban and rural agricultural land. God’s redemption rules for the land were meant primarily to protect agricultural lands passed down from generation to generation and lands held by His priests, who had restrictions on what they could own. If the land lost was urban land within a walled city, the person or family who lost their house had only one year to redeem it: “29 ‘Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year. 30 But if it is not bought back for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not revert in the jubilee. 31 The houses of the villages, however, which have no surrounding wall shall be considered as open fields; they have redemption rights and revert in the jubilee. 32 As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession. 33 What, therefore, belongs to the Levites may be redeemed and a house sale in the city of this possession reverts in the jubilee, for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the sons of Israel. 34 But pasture fields of their cities shall not be sold, for that is their perpetual possession.” (Lev. 25:29-34). These laws protected family farms while allowing for near unfettered capitalism in the urban context.
God’s law limiting when interest can be charged. God not only wanted to free people from indentured servitude or bondage, He also tried to keep people from being placed into economic bondage. To do this, He limited who could be charged interest. His law allowed for commercial lending. He just prohibited “usurious interest” for those who were not poor. He also prohibited interest of any kind being placed on the poor: “35 ‘Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. 37 You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. 39 ‘If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. 40 He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. 41 He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. 42 For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. 43 You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.” (Lev. 25:35-43). Placing yourself into a loan that you cannot afford is frequently the path to misery, depression, distress, and economic bondage.
God’s laws prohibiting interest-bearing loans to the poor. In Exodus, God first stated His rule prohibiting the Jews from charging interest on any loan to the poor: “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.” (Ex. 22:25). Yet, when Moses repeated this rule in Deuteronomy, he did not repeat that these rules were to protect the poor: “You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest.” (Dt. 23:19). Lending to a foreigner with interest was, however, allowed: “You may charge interest to a foreigner . . .” (Dt. 23:20). Orthodox Jews later followed the more broadly worded rules to prohibit Jews from charging interest on any loan to another Jew. Yet, many Jews later realized that this rule was unworkable in a commercial society. Thus, they came up with ways to get around their own rules. After Jesus died, some rabbis created a legal loophole in Jewish law (called a “Prozbul”) to get around both their prohibition on interest and the cancellation of debts on the Jubilee year. It was a legal document that accompanied any loan. It transferred title to the loan to a court entity, which the rabbis then labeled as exempt from God’s rules. For businesses or the wealthy, it also created a partnership for loans to be paid back with profits, not interest. Yet, these legal loopholes were unnecessary. God’s rules were designed to protect the poor, not commercial enterprises and the wealthy. He made this clear through later warnings in the Bible against charging exorbitant interest that might place people into economic bondage (Prov. 28:8). Through Ezekiel, He also described as a “righteous person” the one who did not charge usury or excessive interest (Ezek. 18:8, 13, 17; 22:12). Likewise, in the parable of the talents, Jesus implied that interest on a business investment was not unlawful: “Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.” (Matt. 25:27; Lk. 19:23). Today, believers seem little concerned with the debate on where to draw the line in charging interest on a loan. They have discarded these rules in any context. Most believers either don’t know of these rules or assume that Christ must have fulfilled them. Today, credit card companies are free to charge high interest rates to the poor. Some would say that high interest loans perform a valuable service for the poor. Yet, high interest loans place the poor into economic bondage. The Church must not stay silent while its poorest members become burdened by high interest debt. Are you placing yourself into economic bondage?
The redemption of foreign slaves. The only true slaves were persons from the pagan nations who were captured in battle after waging warfare against God’s people. There were also foreigners living in Israel who sold their labors. Yet, those individuals were still treated like Jewish indentured servants: “44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. 45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. 46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.” (Lev. 25:44-46). The release promised on the Sabbath years only mentioned the “Hebrews” (Ex. 21:2; Dt. 15:12). Although these verses referenced “permanent slaves,” the Jubilee year was an opportunity for the Jews to show mercy to release these persons. God wanted all persons freed from bondage.
Protections given to a Jewish servant or foreign slave of war. Even though prisoners of war could become slaves, the Jews never engaged in the commerce of buying and selling slaves as did the nations around them (Lev. 25:44; Kaiser, et al. Hard Sayings of the Bible (InterVarsity Press 1996) p. 149-50). For both prisoners of war and indentured servants, God required that these people be given protection. Among other things, prisoners of war and indentured servants were to be given time off from work to observe the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10; Dt. 5:14). No similar protection existed in the nations around Israel. God also required that an owner causing the death of a servant or slave be punished for murder, just like any other type of murder (Ex. 21:20). If a master injured a servant through abuse, He mandated that the servant be set free. The servant would be absolved of his or her debts (Ex. 21:26-27). No similar protections existed in any other society. God further required that believers help any person seeking to escape bondage: “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.” (Dt. 23:15). Again, no similar protection for escaped slaves to avoid returning to their masters existed in the societies that surrounded Israel. Jesus later came to fulfill the Law by freeing all who are in bondage (Lk. 4:14-21). Thus, neither slavery nor indentured servitude was an institution that God wanted or intended for mankind.
Christ is our kinsman redeemer. Jesus was born as a human to be a kinsman redeemer for us. On the first day of His public ministry, He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2. After reading the passage, “He has come to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set free those who are oppressed,” Jesus proclaimed: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:14-21). Based upon records created by the Jewish historian Titus Josephus, Jesus most likely read these passages during a Jubilee year. This also again shows that slavery was never part of God’s plan. Jesus’ second return will free any slaves who might still be held captive.
Calculation of the redemption price. Because God is just, He provided rules for making sure that a person who was owed money was properly compensated by a kinsman redeemer. The redemption price was calculated based upon the number of years remaining until the next Sabbath or Jubilee year: “47 ‘Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. 50 He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him. 51 If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption; 52 and if few years remain until the year of jubilee, he shall so calculate with him. In proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption. 53 Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight. 54 Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him. 55 For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 25:47-55). The lesson is that your freedom does not include injuring another person. Whenever possible, your loans should be repaid.
God’s requirement that the Jews help prevent freed servants from returning to bondage. Because God did not want His people to be in bondage, He further required that any freed servant be given the means to support himself or herself after being freed: “When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.” (Dt. 15:13-15). To prevent the poor from being sold as servants, Solomon recruited them to work for the government (1 Kgs. 9:22). Solomon showed the way for civil government to provide for the needs of the poor to keep them from selling themselves. In the New Testament, the early Church members also prevented others from falling into poverty by selling their things when needed to give to those who were in need (Acts 2:32-45). Through these examples, God showed His plan for government and the Church to help prevent economic bondage.
(1) Be a slave or bondservant to righteousness. One of the most important lessons from this chapter is to understand that Jesus as your kinsman redeemer has bought your immediate freedom. You don’t need to wait until a Sabbath or Jubilee year to be freed from your bondage. What then should you do with your freedom? The Bible is clear that if you use your freedom to sin, you will become enslaved again by your sins. Thus, you should instead use your freedom to pursue God’s righteousness: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16). “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”’ (Jo. 8:34). If a servant wanted to stay with his or her master, God allowed the servant to do so. He or she became a “bondservant.” (Dt. 15:16-18). In return for a lifetime of service, the master would take care of the slave in his or her old age. If you take your freedom and give it up to become a slave to Christ, He will take care of you for eternity. In Greek, Paul referred to himself as a “doulos.” As properly translated by the NASB and the NKJ, he was a “bondservant” or the Lord’s slave: “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 2:16; 1 Cor. 7:22). Are you a doulos or slave to Christ? Or, are you still enslaved to the world?
(2) Be free of high interest debt. As stated above, God’s perfect Law prohibited “usurious interest.” (Lev. 25:36). The devil, however, will try to enslave you with high interest debt. God will provide for your needs, not your wants (Matt. 6:25-34). Are you keeping yourself free from high interest debt which could place you into bondage?
(3) Make a covenant with your eyes to keep yourself pure. To keep yourself freed from spiritual bondage, you must guard what you fill your mind with. Part of the definition of “true religion” is keeping yourself “unstained” by the sins of the world (Jam. 1:27). Jesus also warns that: “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Lk. 11:34). How do you keep your eyes pure? Job said that he created a “covenant with his eyes” to guard himself from looking at the wrong things (Job 31:1). Have you placed any limitations on what you look at? Do you have an accountability partner?
(4) Let God’s Word be a light unto your feet. To keep yourself free from bondage, you should also read the Bible. God will use His Word as a “light unto your feet.” (Ps. 119:105). Are you reading the Word on a regular basis for God to make your path clear?
(5) Be in constant prayer. To let the Holy Spirit guide you, you should also be in constant prayer. Through prayer, the Spirit will give you wisdom to stay on the right path (Jam. 1:5; Prov. 2:6). Are you praying on a regular basis for guidance?
(6) Deny yourself. To stay free from bondage, Jesus also says that you should “deny yourself.” (Lk. 9:23). This includes avoiding bad company (1 Cor. 15:33). Are you giving in to every desire of your flesh? Do you ever fast to feed the Spirit?
(7) Make your life a “living sacrifice” for Christ. Finally, Paul exhorts every believer to make their life a “living sacrifice” for God (Ro. 12:1). This includes seeking to serve Him out of gratitude, being holy, going to church, worshiping, praying, attending a small group, helping others, tithing, forgiving others, fidelity, teaching, showing love to others, including those who hurt you, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, mentoring others, fulfilling God’s calling in your life, practicing justice and mercy, spreading the Gospel, and freeing others from bondage. Are you living as a sacrifice for God or for yourself?