WHAT A HAPPY YEAR THIS CAN BE!
All of God’s laws are meant to make us happy. God did not create man because He needed creatures to keep some laws that He had already made. On the contrary, He made the laws after creating man - so as to make man supremely and perpetually happy.
The New Testament speaks of “a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Heb.4:9). What does this new covenant Sabbath refer to? Under the old covenant, God gave the Jews many types of Sabbaths. The weekly Sabbath is well-known. There were, however, some lesser known Sabbaths as well. One was the Sabbath year that came every seventh year (Lev.25:2-4). Another was the fiftieth-year Sabbath that came at the end of every seven Sabbath years (after every 49 years). This fiftieth year Sabbath was called “the year of jubilee” (Lev.25:8-12).
In the year of jubilee, the Israelites were “to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all enslaved debtors,” and it was also to be “a time for the cancelling of all debts” (Lev.25:10 - Living).
The Lord had commanded the cancellation of all debts at the end of every seventh year as well, when “every creditor shall write, `Paid in full,’ on any promissory note he holds.......... because the Lord has released everyone from his obligation” (Deut. 25:1-10-Living).
God had a great interest in people releasing their debtors. This was why He instituted two Sabbath years-one every seventh year and one every fiftieth year-in which all debtors were to be released.
The Sabbath years were to be times of great blessing and joy. The word “jubilee” means “a shout of joy.” The year of jubilee was to be a year full of joyous shouts-because every debt had been forgiven, and every debtor released. Therefore the Lord told the Israelites concerning that year, “What a happy year it will be for you” (Lev.25:11 - Living).
Under the new covenant, we celebrate the Sabbath day every day, because now every day is holy unto the Lord.
And we celebrate the Sabbath year every year — because every year is a year of jubilee — a year of rejoicing in which we release and forgive all who have harmed us and cheated us. Thus every year of our lives can be happy - for every year is to be a year of jubilee. In the year of jubilee, the Lord commanded that “each of you shall return to his family” (Lev.25:10b). All who have been estranged from their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ (due to whatever reason) must now return to the family of God. This is God’s command under the new covenant. Every debt (sin) must be forgiven, and every slave (the ones against whom we have some demands) must be released. This too is the Lord’s command. Only then will the year be a happy year for us.
God has forgiven us so much, that to forgive others from our hearts is the very least that we can do as an expression of our gratitude to Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us.
It is written of King Hezekiah, after he was miraculously healed by the Lord from a serious sickness, that he “gave no return for the benefit he received” (2 Chro. 32:24,25). He did not give back to God according to the measure in which God had blessed him.
What about us? Have we given back to the Lord in the same measure as we have been blessed by Him? Have we forgiven everyone as freely as God forgave us? Is there even one left out, still unforgiven?
Because King Hezekiah acted in pride and ingratitude, the next 15 years were the worst period of his whole life. He produced a son during that time (Manasseh) who became the worst king that Judah ever had (2 Kgs. 21:11). Hezekiah who began his reign in a spirit of revival, ended it in grief.
When we don’t forgive and release others, the remaining years of our life on earth will also be really bad.
Our calling is to be merciful to others just as God has been merciful to us. That phrase, “JUST AS GOD HAS BEEN TO US” is the motto we must keep in mind at all times in our dealings with all people.
We have received much freely from the Lord. Then let us give freely to others as well (Matt.10:8) – not in a miserly or stingy way, but liberally and with a large heart. If we are tight-fisted and demanding in our dealings with others, God will also be tight-fisted and demanding in His dealings with us (Psa.18:25,26).
We must never lose the wonder of the forgiveness that the Lord has granted us so freely. OUR WHOLE LIFE MUST NOW BE LIVED AS AN EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE TO THE LORD FOR WHAT HE DID FOR US ON THE CROSS.
Under the Law, it was through threats of judgment that people served the Lord. But under grace, it is to be through gratitude. In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus told His disciples a parable of a kind king who had forgiven his servant a large debt of more than a hundred million rupees. That servant’s debt was so large that he could never have repaid it in his own lifetime or for generations to come. So, he should have been immensely grateful for the forgiveness he received.
But, he did not render to others in the same measure as he himself had received. He went to another man who owed him a mere hundred rupees and “grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant repayment.” When that other man could not repay, he had him arrested and jailed. This was reported to the king who immediately called for the unmerciful servant and calling him “an evil-hearted wretch,” handed him over to the torturers, until he repaid the entire amount.
And then Jesus said, “So shall My Heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v.35). That teaches us with unmistakable certainty that if we don’t forgive others, God will withdraw the forgiveness that He once granted us and He will make us pay for the sins that He had once blotted out and promised never to remember again. So, we see that God’s forgiving of our sins is not unconditional. It is always conditional on our CONTINUING TO forgive others who have harmed us.
The prayer that the Lord taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 is a prayer that was obviously meant to be prayed by us (in its spirit) every day—because He taught us there to pray for our DAILY food. So, this part of the prayer also must be one that must be prayed daily: “Forgive us our sins, as we also have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” We have to forgive people every day of our lives, because every day someone may hurt us (consciously or unconsciously).
When Christ died on the cross, He cancelled the certificate of debt that we owed to God and destroyed the letters of accusation that the Law had against us (Col.2:14). Have we done the same to our debtors? Or, do we still retain letters to accuse others with, and memories of the wrongs that others have done to us in the past? If so, then God has no alternative but to hand us over to the torturers (evil spirits) to harass us until we have learnt to forgive.
The king in this parable had wanted his servant to show mercy out of gratitude. It was only when the servant failed to act out of gratitude for the mercy he himself had received, that the king adopted Method No.2 – that of torture. It is the same with God. He desires that we forgive others out of gratitude for what He has done for us. But if use don’t respond to His call of grace, then He will place us back under the Law, hoping that we will respond at least when we are chastened. He will allow Satan to attack us with sickness or in some other way, until we learn to forgive others. One of the main reasons why many believers never enter the Sabbath-rest of God, but instead are unsteady, unpredictable in their behaviour, gloomy, long-faced, depressed and irritable, and have sleepless nights, is because they haven’t forgiven others. The torturers are harassing them.
We must make a bonfire of any “letters of accusation” that we may have preserved to accuse others with one day. And we must make a firm determination that we will never, under any provocation, bring out old certificates of debt to charge others with – at any time.
Under the old covenant they could have a happy year (a year of jubilee) only once every fifty years. How much better it is for us under the new covenant— for we can have a happy year every year of our lives.
An unforgiving spirit gradually begins to wish evil to those whom it has not forgiven. When you wish evil for another person, it is equivalent to cursing him. We read in Galatians 3:13 that Jesus took the curse of the whole world upon Himself. So when we curse another, we are actually cursing Jesus Himself who took everyone’s curse. Think of that the next time Satan tempts you to wish evil for someone else or his children.
If the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, had started stoning that poor woman, Jesus would have stood in front of that woman and received the stones Himself and said, “Kill Me first.” That is what He did for us on the cross. He stood in front of us and received the “stones” that we should have received. The spirit of Christ is the spirit of the new covenant, and it is the exact opposite of the spirit of the Pharisees. Only one who has the Spirit of Christ can enter into a life-time of perpetual happiness.
A true story entitled “Love’s Atom Bomb,” was published some years ago about a godly Christian in Korea, whose two sons were shot dead by a Communist youth. That godly father went and sought out his son’s murderer and not only forgave him, but adopted him as his own son and brought him to Christ. Such a man certainly understood the forgiveness of Christ clearly.
We are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps – not putting a curse on others by wishing evil for them, but by blessing those who curse us. The world is full of people who wish evil for others and who go around cursing and complaining and speaking evil of others. Let us go around instead doing good and blessing and releasing people everywhere we go, in this year of jubilee!
Only an accursed person hurts and injures other people wherever he goes. This is how most of the children of Adam live. They only know how to wish evil for others, hurt them with their rude remarks and defile them with their backbiting. Unfortunately, even many so-called “believers” live like this, proving thereby, either that their conversion was false, or that they have backslidden to the point of having lost their salvation.
The good news of the Gospel is that we can be saved from such a miserable existence. We can now become a blessing to every family that we meet.
The blessing with which God blessed Abraham was, “I will bless you....and in you ALL THE FAMILIES of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.12:2,3). This is the blessing that can now be ours through the Holy Spirit (Gal.3:14).
We can be merciful to others just as God has been merciful to us.
We can release others just as God has released us.
We can bless others just as God has blessed us.
We can give freely to others just as God has freely given to us.
We can be large-hearted to others just as God has been to us.
This year — and every year — can be a happy year for all of us, if we release everyone who owes us anything, or who has hurt or harmed us in any way. Bury those grudges permanently and be merciful to all men and thus make a new beginning with the Lord today.