Essay: Isaiah Delivered the Jubilee Message

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Isaiah delivered the Jubilee message to the people of God who are now free from captivity, restored, and exalted, culminated in the message of Jesus. This message, delivered in Isaiah 61:1-11, gives hope to the oppressed, images of a new land, and a song of rejoicing for those that have been in exile. Throughout the text, Isaiah draws upon the message to communicate the hope, justice, and love of God to God's chosen people.

"The book of Isaiah, according to most scholars, is rooted in the actual prophetic personality, Isaiah, 'son of Amoz,' whose conventional dates for life in Jerusalem are perhaps 742 to 689 B.C.E."

Isaiah is one of the largest, and is a vitally important text in the canon. Isaiah is referenced in Hebrews 11:37 as being sawn in two in Manasseh's day. Connecting this to the time of King Uzziah's death and knowing that his ministry extended through the reign of Hezekiah, it can be understood that his ministry was over an extended period of time. "Thus Isaiah's ministry extended over a period of at least forty years (740-701), and possibly more, since Hezekiah's death did not occur until 687 and it is doubtful that the coregent Manasseh would have dared to martyr Isaiah while Hezekiah was still alive."

While this is generally accepted, certainty of actual dates is a question, but the date range is founded in sincere historicity. Consistent with other prophets, the first chapter gives the context and authorship, "1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah." (Isaiah 1:1). Isaiah's primary audience was the people of Judah where were not living according to the laws of God. Even within this context, he prophesied against Israel and the surrounding nations as well. Isaiah was passionately involved in the political and social systems of his day and appears to have been within the noble lines, either priestly or politically. "The book of Isaiah, in its turn, is a meditation, albeit in complex configuration, about the destiny of Jerusalem into the crises of exile and the promise of Jerusalem out of exile into new well-being."

Written against a backdrop of political unrest and upheaval, as the Assyrian Empire was expanding to the demeaning of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Judah was in trouble as well, but as history will reveal, it does not suffer until Babylonian captivity some time later. "Isaiah's theology demanded that Israel and Judah place their trust only in God and not in foreign powers…the beautiful visions of Immanuel that fill chapters 7, 9 and 11 came about because Isaiah tried to show Judah's kings that God would stand by them if they remained faithful…"

As a citizen of Jerusalem, Isaiah made special use of language, poetry and literary metaphor to communicate his message. This message goes along with Isaiah's mission. "Isaiah could not accept politics as a solution, since politics itself, with its arrogance and disregard of justice, was a problem…politics is based on the power of the sword. But Isaiah was waiting for a day when nations 'shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."

For this mission, a right theology or a right doctrine is presented. Isaiah's mission and message are ultimately for repentance but also to communicate the coming of Immanuel. Finally the recurring theme of the day of the Lord marks a close connection with judgment. Ultimately though in that judgment will come a hope for the nations. "His words contain that rare mix of ethical insight, realistic warning of disaster, and long-range hopefulness that mark his as the most profound vision of the Old Testament."

He is the one that gives us a clearer glimpse or vision of the suffering servant who will be revealed in the personification of Jesus the Christ, as witnessed in the passage of Isaiah 61:1-11.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Isaiah was the prophet authorized to proclaim liberty to the Jews in Babylon, just as Jesus was sent to proclaim the Year of Jubilee. Isaiah states that, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me…" in V.1. As part of the sabbatical law of Leviticus the prophet draws upon the law to deliver this message of hope to the once captive People of God, which will later be the passage referred to as Jesus reads the scroll in the temple in Luke chapter four. The understanding of this passage cannot be realized until the Levitical Law is understood, as well as its New Testament context. "Without understanding the language and symbols of Leviticus, how can one fully understand the deepest meaning of the New Testament."

Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson, allude that Jesus' ministry is connected to this Levitical teaching in that he heals the sick, calls for the release of the prisoner and the indebted, and offers the forgiveness of sin.

It points to the nature of the gospel message. This is also evident in the second part of the first verse of the chapter when Isaiah states, "…he has sent me to bring good news…" V.1b. In Jesus' first sermon as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 4:14ff, he is handed a scroll from the prophet Isaiah, and pronounces the Year of Jubilee. "Drawing on Isa. 61:1-2/58:6, Jesus interprets his ministry as the fulfillment of the eschatological Jubilee (see Leviticus 25), a dramatic cipher for the age of salvation, marked above by the ministry of 'release'.

Jesus, the high priest, to whom the Levitical Code of Holiness applies, preserves the teaching of the Jubilee, and calls upon the assembled, 'torah-observant Jews,' to recognize the lack of fulfillment of this law. These laws and commands teach us to protect the poor, and to protect the wealthy in order that both groups of people rely on YHWH to be their provision. Isaiah calls upon the Year of Jubilee in V. 2 as he states, "To proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." This same message is delivered in the initial message of Jesus. As revealed by Jesus the Christ, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19), to proclaim the Year of Jubilee!

The sabbatical year encouraged the Israelites to trust in God for the provisions needed for daily life. The Year of Jubilee added a second year following a sabbatical year to enhance this understanding of trust. "The name "Jubilee" is an Anglicized transliteration of the Hebrew word yobel (v. 10), which translates both as 'ram' and as 'ram's horn,' the sound of which proclaims the start of the Jubilee Year."

This would happen on the seventh month on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement is also referred to as Yom Kippur, which is in the tenth month that presently falls between Mid-September and Mid-October. Ordinances regarding the Day of Atonement are found in Leviticus Chapter 16. Atonement gave the Israelites a renewal, and a chance to trust in the Lord for their provision. As V. 3 states, "To provide for those who mourn in Zion." Atonement combined with Jubilee gave the Israelites renewal and a new beginning. R. Laird Harris understands this to be quintessential for, "Otherwise many a hard-hearted, rich Israelite would have refused the obligation so the release,"

both of prisoner and of land. Following the day of contrition, the intention is a rich Israelite is more likely to follow the command as it relates to the entire populous of people. In doing so, it is easy for the people to be called, "Oaks of Righteousness," as the prophet calls out in V. 3.

Isaiah 61:4-9

The Jews, who had been in captivity, are now free, and given a new hope of promises of a new land and a new future in the Kingdom of God, just like followers of Christ are given in the inaugural message of the Messiah. If one follows the Law, the only thing one would be in prison for is debt. This is the day when the doors to the prison would be open and all the inhabitants would return to their property and return to their family. "To proclaim liberty (v.10) for the slaves was characteristic of every sabbatical year. The return to the family homestead was a special feature of the Jubilee."

Since the land also reverts back to its original owner, this is good news for the poor, sick, and oppressed, since land was taken or indebted to those who had fallen upon such times. Their property and freedom (these same people were the ones enslaved) was returned. The Jubilee, not only reminds the people that the land belongs to God, but also prevents the wealthy from accumulating large sections of land. "Thus it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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