I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise—just to see what it was like. I love to explore new places, and I love being on the water, so it seems like a natural segue, right? I thought maybe I’d get to go on a cruise for my 40th birthday. Nope. Didn’t even get a card. Then I thought maybe we’d go on a cruise for our 20th anniversary. Nope. Got a divorce instead.

For sure, I thought, I’ll just take myself (and maybe a few girlfriends) on a cruise for my 50th birthday. That seemed like a fail-proof plan. And it would have been, except that I turned 50 in 2020, so instead of experiencing the freedom of the open water with friends and family, I was quarantined. Alone.

All of that year, I had been contemplating my personal year of jubilee—freedom and celebration—but like so many other things that year, I kind of lost heart and motivation to make it happen.

My year of jubilee went kind of like the Israelites’ mandated years of jubilee. I had good intentions, but then Covid. And life.

As Americans, we’ve become conditioned to elevating work and busyness. It’s almost a badge of honor to post our overcrowded schedules and to-do lists on social media to be admired by all. But that’s not what God wants for us. In our busyness, we forget our purpose. 

Let’s do a little history lesson to figure out the roots of this biblical jubilee and why it’s important.

God never intended for us to work 24/7, 365 days a year, every year. No, really, he didn’t. Not even for him, or his church, or our families. He actually built in a day of rest every week.

God wants us to rest in order to remember who he is and to worship him. He also created our bodies to need rest. The basis for a Sabbath day lies in the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:8–11. Once a week, we are to set aside a day to rest and worship God. Building on that idea, every seven years was proclaimed a Sabbath year (Leviticus 25:1–7). Not only were the people to rest, but they were also to give their land a rest. God promised to provide enough food for them every sixth year, but the Israelites had a hard time trusting in God’s provision. We do, too, if we’re entirely honest with ourselves. 

The finale was to be the year of jubilee—every 50 years (after the seventh Sabbath year, which was every seven years). Not only did God promise to provide enough food for every Sabbath year, but he also promised to provide enough food for the year of jubilee! In addition to not working the land, property was to revert to its original ancestral clans and Israelites who had sold themselves into servitude to pay off debts were to be released. This restoration was to reset God’s original provisions set out when the Israelites first entered their Promised Land. 

As noted, they failed to abide by this provision. They didn’t trust God to give them what they needed, and they selfishly wanted to hang on to what they had acquired. That led to restlessness instead of rest and lack instead of abundance. They lost out on the redemption that God provided for them.

So, what does this mean for believers today? We are not mandated to observe Old Testament laws because they’ve been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. BUT, the spirit of the law remains the same: Jesus himself calls us to rest in Matthew 11:28–30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (ESV).

When we refuse to trust God’s provision and promises, we also lose out on the rest, restoration, and redemption that he offers us.

Even though I didn’t get to go on my year-of-jubilee cruise, I can still celebrate God’s faithfulness through my 50+ years. I can still try my best to set aside time every week to rest and worship God. For me, this often looks like resetting my soul outside on a mountain hike with friends or a paddle on a serene lake in addition to corporate worship. And one of these days, I will get to go on my 50th-birthday cruise!

What does your Sabbath look like?


(pictures from Canva Pro)


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