Today is Independence Day. It is the anniversary of the signing of “The Declaration of Independence” a document signed by 56 of our Forefathers on this date in 1776, declaring ‘Freedom’ from the tyranny and oppression of the British Empire in general, and of the King of England in particular. And even though it was Patrick Henry that said it, his words “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” expressed the sentiment of every one of the 56 signers of that declaration; a document that began: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration concluded: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, (and of right ought to be) Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” And that is exactly what it cost them in the ensuing Revolutionary War, as many of these men ended up bankrupt and homeless – with their families wasted and even dead – paying the ultimate sacrifice to secure Freedom for future generations.
But getting back to July the 4th, 1776, tradition tells us that upon the signing of the Declaration on Independence, the “Liberty Bell” rang out from the tower of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. In actuality, it was four days later (on July the 8th) that bells all over the city rang – including the ‘Liberty Bell’ – summoning citizens to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Pennsylvania State House (aka Independence Hall).
Now, before I continue with my musing, I would like to provide you with a bit of “Liberty Bell” trivia: The bell was ordered by the Pennsylvania Assembly 1n 1751 (25 years before the Signing of the Declaration of Independence) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 “Charter of Privileges.”
William Penn’s “Charter” was Pennsylvania’s original Constitution, but more than that, it served as a precursor to the “Declaration of Independence”— addressing the rights and freedoms valued by people the world over. Particularly forward thinking were William Penn’s ideas on Religious freedom and Native American rights. And in addition to that, his inclusion of private citizens in the process of enacting laws. My point is that William Penn – a man who loved, served, feared and walked humbly before God – was a man whose ideas and ideals were fundamental and foundational in helping to establish what became The United States of America: One Nation, Under God, with Liberty and Justice for All – regardless of race, color, creed, status or religious belief.
This provides the perfect segue back to the Liberty Bell – initially forged to commemorate the 50th year of William Penn’s charter. Subsequently, “The Bell” (as it was known in those days) was used to mark special events and occasions: everything from calling the legislature into session, to commemorating George Washington’s birthday, to celebrating Independence Day each 4th of July. In fact, it was while it was being rung to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday in 1846, that it was cracked to the point of being un-ringable and it was retired.
Sometime later, “The Bell” was adopted as a symbol of the Abolitionists Movement, being the focal point of an anti-slavery essay published by William Lloyd Garrison entitled “The Liberator” which concluded with a poem about the bell, entitled: ‘The Liberty Bell’. This represented the first documented use of the name. Quite obviously, the name took hold. Consequently, following President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd 1862, the “Liberty Bell” traveled to cities throughout the land “proclaiming liberty” and inspiring the cause of freedom.
But the most important part of the Liberty Bell (and what I call your attention to) is the inscription on it. Intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s “Charter of Privileges” and inspired by the words of Leviticus 25:10 – “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year…” they added the quotation from what followed in the verse – “proclaim liberty throughout all the land…unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Now, we can certainly see the significance of this in relation the William Penn and especially in relation to The Declaration of Independence and The Emancipation Proclamation. But what was it saying to the children of Israel when God first inspired Moses to record it? And what – if any – is the significance to us today? Before I provide you with my answer those questions, let me point out the significance of the number “7” in the Scripture. As many of you have likely observed, you cannot read or study the bible without noticing the recurrence of and the importance of the number “7” – often used in the scripture as the representative of perfection. But even more than that, “7” is used repeatedly in the scripture as the number of completeness – especially in the Book of Leviticus where the number “7” is used in a very structural way: Time itself is divided into “sevens” for both the Civil and the Ceremonial (religious) Calendar – with repeated emphasis placed upon the 7th day, and the 7th week, and the 7th month, and the 7th year – and multiples of the same. The point I am making is that the entire Jewish calendar was geared to “sabbatic” times and the Levitical Code and Jewish Ceremonial Law operated on sevens and cycles of sevens. Any real student of the scripture knows that this was something that was established by God and it is traceable all the way back to the creation narrative in the book of Genesis. There we discover the same pattern of “7” = 6 +1; The Bible there telling us that God created the heavens and the earth and all that was in them in 6 days: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and on the 7th day, He rested… and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work”(Genesis 2:1). And in order to insure that His people would commemorate the significance of the 7th day, in the book of Exodus, He instituted the “Sabbath” – A Day of Rest. It appears in Exodus 20:8 as the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” And again in Exodus 34:21 – “Six days thou shalt work, but on the 7th day, thou shalt rest.”
We could go on and on about examples of “7” and multiples of “7” in the Scriptures (the “7” branched lampstand in the Tabernacle; the children of Israel marching around the walls of Jericho for “7” days – and on the seventh day, “7” times – shouting and blowing the shofar at Joshua’s command… and watching the walls come crashing down; Naaman, the leprous Syrian commander who was instructed by Elisha to dip himself “7” times in the Jordan river… and he was completely healed; in the book of Revelation there are the “7” letters to the “7” churches, followed by the “7” year tribulation… with its “7” seals and “7” bowls and “7” trumpets) but I want to focus instead on the seven “7 year” cycles that are detailed for us in Leviticus Chapter 25. The narrative begins with God’s directive to the people to give the land a rest every seventh year. Very clearly, the people were commanded not to sow, nor reap, nor gather from the field or the vineyard. The obvious question follows: How would people’s needs be met during that “7th” year? Surely they needed to feed themselves and their families and their livestock. It seems that the Lord anticipated their question and answers it for them in V:20 of Leviticus 25 ~ “And if ye shall say, what shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I (The Lord) will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in, ye shall eat of the old store.” In other words, the Lord was promising His people in so many words, ‘If you will honor Me and obey my Word, I will take care of all your needs and necessities’.
The “high water mark’ in Leviticus Chapter 25 (and one of the ‘high water marks’ in all of scripture) has to do with the culmination of “7” cycles of “7” years; we read of it beginning in V:8 ~ “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field. In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession” (Vvs. 8-13).
To put it very simply, every seven days was to be a day of rest; And every seven years was to bring a year of rest to the land; And every seven times seven years (7 x 7 = 49 years) there was to be a Jubilee. The Hebrew word is “Yobel” – Lit. ‘A Joyful Shout!’
For the purposes of brevity (not my strong suit, at all) let me suggest to you that of all of the Feasts and the Solemn Days in the Jewish calendar, the Year of Jubilee was, by far, the most anticipated, the most longed for and the most sought after. And it is not difficult to understand why: for as we read a moment ago, after a perfect & complete seven-fold cycle of seven year periods – when the Shofar was blown on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) in the 49th year ~
- Every man’s debt was to be cancelled;
- Every obligation was to be forgiven;
- All contracts were null & void;
- Every man, woman or child sold into slavery, was to be freed and returned to their families; And any land use rights that had been sold or mortgaged and left unredeemed, were to be returned to the heir of their original inheritance.
Do you see the beautiful picture of redemption here? Old things were to pass away… and all things were to be restored and made brand new!
Now, without digressing too far here, let me interject that in addition to the obvious meaning and benefit the Year of Jubilee would provide, it had an ultimate and prophetic significance: It pointed Israel ahead to that Great Day that The Messiah would come to establish His Millennial Kingdom upon the earth – A day of which Isaiah speaks, saying: “In that day…the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (it continues) “The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. And they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain…for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as an Ensign to all the people; And for Him shall the Gentiles seek…and His rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day that the LORD shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left…from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. And He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:6-12, esv).
In that day – Labor & Sorrow & Strife shall cease… and the curse shall be broken… and “the sweat of the brow” will no longer be necessary the cravings of hunger and/or of physical need – for the Lord shall pour out His blessings upon His redeemed!
As I sit here writing this on this 4th day of July, 2013 – the 237th anniversary of the day that our country celebrates its Declaration of Independence – I am drawn to remember the inscription on the Liberty Bell ~ “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.” For myself (and perhaps you too) I can’t help but be stirred up as I realize that for myself, as a Christian, Jesus Christ is my Yobel! He is the personification of Jubilee: For from the moment that His sacrificial blood of atonement was applied to our lives by faith, all our debts of sin were cancelled – and we were set free from the power of sin & death!
As Jesus Himself said; John 8:36 – “If the Son shall therefore set you free, you shall be free indeed!” And what are we “free” to do? We are free to serve Him; We are free to work in His field and/or to labor in His vineyard – which entails fulfilling the great commission: “To go, and to preach the Gospel, and to make disciples of all nations – teaching them to do whatsoever things He has commanded us!”
I certainly need to conclude this “musing” of mine – but before I do, let me leave you with this thought: With all that is occurring in the world today – geo-politically, militarily, atmospherically, socially, economically and spiritually – according to what I read on the pages of my bible, the day is rapidly approaching when that final and ultimate trumpet blast of Jubilee will be heard from the mountains of Israel. But before that occurs… there shall be another trumpet blast heard; One that says to those in the church with the ears to hear it – “come up here!” or perhaps “behold, the Bridegroom cometh!”
The scripture declares it ~ “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout – with a cry of command from the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God: And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remaining shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1Thess. 4:16-17).
Oh indeed! At that split second in time: every one of our debts & obligations will be cancelled. Every one of our burdens shall be removed. Every one of our tears shall be wiped away – there shall be no more sorrow, nor pain, nor curse, nor might, nor death, for the former things shall be passed away.
And so, knowing that the day is rapidly approaching and that the return of the Lord for His Bride, the church, is imminent: what manner of people ought we to be? And what manner of life ought we to be living in relation to the things of the world? Philippians 4:5 says it like this: “let your moderation be known unto all men… the lord is at hand.” In other words, keep yourself from being involved in worldly pursuits… or investing in “earthly” and carnal things that will be broken-up and lost when the Lord returns.
“THE LORD IS AT HAND!” May our hearts & our minds and our attitudes & our activities be influenced and effected by this important matter-of-fact. As 1John 3:3 declares: “He that hath this hope in him, purifies himself… even as He is pure!”
I’m reminded of a quote by G. Campbell Morgan – “It is an ill day in my Christian Life when I do not remember my Lord’s death, and the Cross, from which I gain the benefit of my life… For to lose the sense of His coming, is to lose the most powerful & inspirational force for holy living. For if we believe that He may in any day take us in our work, or in any night wake us from our sleep by His voice – how pure shall we desire our personal life to be… that we might be Ready!”
“Let your moderation (your self-control / your circumspect lifestyle) be known unto all men… the Lord is at hand.”