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SG50 – its Spiritual Significance
By Rt Rev. Leow Khee Fatt (Synod Moderator)
Mar 2015

This year being Singapore's 50 years of nation building, a series of celebration has been unveiled one at a time, causing much excitement and anticipation. We are blessed! Within this short 50 years, we have been able to achieve good results – people living and working in a peaceful and prosperous environment. Our government has contributed much, so have our people but without God’s grace and protection, how can a little (red) dot survive and stay vibrant!

The number 'seven' is the basis of the Biblical calendar. The seventh day of each week is a Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8 – 10). It is also known as Holy Day, a day scheduled for rest and worship of God; every seventh year is a Sabbath year (Leviticus 25:1 – 7). The land needs to rest and there shall be no sowing. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for the people and for the male and female slaves, the hired servants, and the sojourner who lives with the people. Seven times of seven Sabbath years gives 49 years, and the 50th year, the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8 – 15) shall be holy. The statute for the year of Jubilee is not only for Sabbath, return of property, release of slaves but also includes the following:

Proclamation of Liberty
Jubilee is the year of freedom: The trumpet shall be sounded loudly; on the day of atonement, the proclamation of liberty shall be made to the people (Leviticus 25:10). The Hebrew meaning for Jubilee is “Proclaim liberty with the Trumpet” and also a cry for joy!

Redemption of Land
This is based on one principle: land does not belong to anyone, it belongs to God (Leviticus 25:10). Strangers are only allowed temporal use of the land, therefore in the year of Jubilee, the land shall be redeemed by the owner, or the nearest relative shall redeem what his brother has sold (Leviticus 25:26 – 27). If not redeemed, in the year of Jubilee, it shall be automatically returned to the owner (Leviticus 25:28).

Redemption of Houses
A house sold in the city must be redeemed within a year, or else the seller loses the right to redeem it because the residence is not connected to any farm land; but a house in the village surrounded by the fields of the land is included in the rule for redemption (Leviticus 25:31).

Redemption of Brothers
Poor Israelites sold as slaves to pay off debts shall be be released, together with his children, when the year of Jubilee arrives, even if they have served less than 6 years, so that they can go back to their own clan. If the Israelites are sold to outsiders as slaves to pay off debts, the wealthy relatives shall redeem them, according to their ability, or in the year of Jubilee the slaves shall regain freedom and automatically leave the home of his buyer.

All the above are God's commands to His people. Even after these many years, as we read them today, they are full of human touch, the regulations are very meticulous, and slaves, domestic helpers, labourers and strangers are included! Jubilee is a year of amnesty, providing the poor and the failures with another opportunity to start all over again. This is really good news for the people! This is really a God who cares for the poor!

The essence of Jubilee is to "Proclaim Liberty". God's intention for His creation is not to bind His people, be it material or spiritual - the agony of the soul; the shame of failure, the guilt of bondage, or the suffering of traumatic experience. God originally gave human beings a very distinguished identity, not only were they created in the image of God, but also served as managers of God’s creation. That is why the Psalmist said: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:4 – 5, ESV)

When man sinned, the original beauty of His image became twisted and corrupted by evil, and he was thus reduced to a life of toil and intrigues, labouring unceasingly in order to make ends meet! In fact, the substance of the Jubilee has been fulfilled in Jesus: Jesus unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18 – 19)

The spiritual significance of celebrating SG50 should include at the least two aspects:

We want to proclaim liberty to the world (especially to our people), to show that the year of Jubilee is acceptable to the Lord! Our people no longer have to live with the burden of sin, no longer have to live with immense pain, no longer have to carry the weight of heavy bundles every day. Return to God! He will forgive us of all unrighteousness, take away our pain, release all our burden. Heaven’s door is open wide for all!

We should learn to be like Jesus: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV)

Reach out to the poor! Forgive their debts, let them redeem their hope to have the opportunity to start all over again, and to own house or land, and the ability to live a dignified and upright life!

Those who are prosperous, reach out to your brothers! Help them to redeem their house or land, and enable them to work and restore their livelihood to the glory of God!

Stronger churches, reach out to the weaker churches! Free them from financial burdens, renew their glory in Christ!

Presbyterian churches in Singapore, reach out to the poor and vulnerable! Let their lives be renewed with hope and joy!


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