The Year of Liberation (Jesus' Declaration at Nazareth— The Founding of the State of Israel)
(Written in May, 1998, on Israel's 50th anniversary of Statehood.)
by Lawrence W. Hilliard

"The history of Israel is the great living proof of the working of Divine Providence in the affairs of the world." "If there is no divine purpose in the long-travail of Israel, it is vain to seek for any such purpose in man's life. In the reflected light of that purpose, each Jew should lead his life with an added dignity." (J. Jacobs)

"Belonging to Israel is in itself a spiritual act. It is utterly inconvenient to be a Jew. The very survival of our people is a kiddush hashem. We live in spite of peril." (Abraham Heschel)

"By virtue of our national and intrinsic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine which shall be known as the State of Israel." These words spoken by David ben Gurion on Friday, May 14th 1948 in the Tel Aviv Museum declared that after 2,000 years of subjugation and dispersion, Israel had once again become an independent state. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Israel's statehood, her Jubilee Year. The continued existence of Israel and the Jewish people through the tortuous centuries of exile, dispersion and persecutions are exhibit A that history is not the effect of impersonal forces operating randomly. Israel's history is a proscenium upon which a Divine plan for her and the Gentile nations is being unfolded, epoch by epoch. "Where in the annals of mankind are we to find a parallel to that amazing survival and miraculous emergence of the Jewish people into Statehood after 2,000 years of exile, dispersion, martyrdom and suffering? How can we account for all this except by the fact that God has chosen Israel as the people to serve His eternal purpose, and that, in some unique sense, He is ever-present in their wonderful history?" (Isidore Ipstein, The Faith of Judaism, p. 278) The Jew has journeyed through the crucible of history, enduring national and personal suffering, persecution, dispersion and Divine chastisement, to be led to the grave of death then to be resurrected on the soil of Israel for all the world to witness—the Hand of God. In the words of Elie Wiesel, "Israel is the only nation in the world whose existence is threatened. Should Israel lose but one war, it would mean her end and ours as well. But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all." (The Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech, delivered on 12/10/86.)

As Israel celebrates her fiftieth year, the Jubilee (Heb. "yobel", ram's horn), there is a profound historical significance and future consummation embodied in the event. In the Old Testament when an individual or family became impoverished due to famine or catastrophe, a family member could sell themselves as a bond-servant and offer any landholdings to their creditor. For there was to be no permanent transfer of ownership to one's creditor for God claimed the land as His own possession (Lev. 25:23), and all Israel as His special possession (Ex. 19:5), thus nullifying slavery within the nation. On the fiftieth year, the Jubilee, the blast of the ram's horn was heard throughout the land, signaling the beginning of a year in which slaves were emancipated and mortgaged property returned to its original owner. "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." (Lev. 25:10) The year of Jubilee spoke eloquently of freedom from financial and physical bondage, a restoration of the family secured by God's redemptive grace. The proclamation of the Year of Jubilee commenced on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 25:9), revealing that only by the forgiveness of sins could the redemptive liberty of the Children of God begin. As the goal of the Jubilee Year was the emancipation of the individual from the shackles of poverty, the Day of Atonement freed man from the insidious slavery to sin and effectuated reconciliation with God. Thus the Jubilee year incorporated the truth that liberty of body and freedom of spirit is to be found only in the redemptive grace of God. "The Day of Atonement and the Jubilee had much in common. The message of both was a 'new birth.' The Day of Atonement freed man from slavery to sin and enabled him to start life anew, at one with God and with his fellow man. The Jubilee had for its aim the emancipation of the individual from the shackles of poverty, and the readjustment of the various strata in the commonwealth in accordance with social justice." (J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haptorahs, p. 532)

"And this—is the Gospel which He bears to poor, the release which He announces to the captives, the healing which He offers to those whom sin had blinded, and the freedom He brings to them who were bruised; and all as the trumpet-blast of God's Jubilee into His world of misery, sin, and want! A year thus begun would be glorious indeed in the blessings it gave." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p. 454).

On a specific sabbath in the synagogue at Nazareth, 2,000 years ago, Jesus applied the text of Leviticus 25:10 to himself and manifestly announced that the Jubilee had arrived. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18, see also Isa. 61:1-2). Jesus' words were like a trumpet blast announcing healing for the sin-sick and broken-hearted, deliverance to the captive of spirit, and by His perfect atonement release from the bondage of sin. The clarion proclamation of the redemptive, healing, delivering power of God would trumpet from Nazareth throughout the land of Israel for the next three and a half years. "When heralds proclaim the Year of Jubilee throughout the land with the sound of the Trumpet, the year began, the prison doors were opened and debts were remitted. The preaching of Jesus is such a blast of the trumpet. The word proclaimed becomes a reality. It is a creative force. It gives what it declares. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3, p. 705). The authentic Jubilee proclamation was sounded on that signal sabbath in the synagogue at Nazareth. "When Jesus proceeded to affirm, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,' they would have understood Him to be announcing that the Jubilee had arrived, that the acceptable Year of the Lord had begun. And that is what Jesus wished them to understand. This is no prophecy of an impending emancipation from Heaven. What the Scripture speaks of has attained its fulfillment in its pronouncement by Jesus." (G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, p. 88-89). A redemptive epoch had arrived for Israel and the Gentile nations that would continue throughout the centuries of Israel's dispersion and final restoration.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." (I Cor. 15:51-52).

At the consummation of the age the rabbis say that, "… in the last Jubilee the Son of David will come." (Talmud of Bab. 97b). The last trumpet will sound to usher in the final consummate Jubilee of victory and liberation. The resurrection of the dead will conquer death and liberate the redeemed to live by the life of God forever. "This Resurrection, which is variously supposed to take place at the beginning or during the course of the Messianic manifestation, would be announced by the blowing of the great trumpet (4 Ezra 6:23)." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Book 5, p. 436). The rabbis say that the voice of the Messiah will raise the dead. "… when the King Messiah comes, the holy blessed God will raise up those that sleep in the dust…" (Zohar in Genesis folio 73.1). The redeemed have received at present only an earnest of their inheritance. "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge (Gk. arrhabon: deposit, first installment, engagement ring) of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory." (Eph. 1:13-14). Just a downpayment of the purchased redemptive inheritance has been given to the recipients of God's saving grace. At the end of the age God will redeem his pledge and open the treasuries of heaven to all His people to behold His beatific face. "For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face." (Ps. 11:7).

The Year of Jubilee speaks of redemption from physical and spiritual bondage effectuated by the intervention of Messiah. As Israel celebrates her Jubilee may we anticipate the greater Jubilee to come, the "Day of Messiah" when the redeemed will enter into their full inheritance to behold their Redeemer "face to face." On that day alone will the redeemed of Jew and Gentile find complete security in the presence of their covenant God. "And they shall be Mine, sayeth the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Malachi 3:17). Shalom!

"As parts of Israel, we are endowed with a very rare, a very precious consciousness, the consciousness that we do not live in a void. We never suffer from harrowing anxiety and fear of roaming about in the emptiness of time. We own the past and are, hence, not afraid of what is to be. We remember where we came from. We were summoned and cannot forget it, as we wind the clock of eternal history. We remember the beginning and believe in an end. We live between two historic poles: Sinai and the Kingdom of God." (Abraham Heschel, A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 426)

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