God’s Jubilee Message
“John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him].” (John 1:15-18)
We read about the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25. Every forty-ninth year God required the nation of Israel to begin a year long sabbath called, “The Year of Jubilee.” Every 50th year was a sabbatical year.
In the Old Testament everything revolved around the sabbath. At the end of creation, the Lord God rested on the seventh day, the sabbath. In the giving of the law the Lord commanded Israel to keep the sabbath day holy. But, did you ever notice how many sabbath days the Lord required the children of Israel to keep? He required them to keep a seventh day sabbath, a seventh week (50th day) sabbath, a seventh year sabbath, and a 50th year sabbath.
This 50th year sabbath, “The Year of Jubilee,” was, like everything else in the law, typical and prophetic of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Sabbath, salvation in him, and of the gospel of God’s free grace. This Year of Jubilee was a season appointed by God during which the children of Israel were required to adjust their social affairs once every fifty years, setting their brethren free from bondage and free from all debt, and restoring lost possessions, lost property, and lost inheritances to those who had lost them. It portrayed and typified the great work of our Lord Jesus Christ in restoring chosen sinners to God and to one another, and bringing us at last into that great sabbath of eternal rest in “the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” To many throughout the land the year of jubilee was “the accepted time” and “the day of salvation.”
The year of jubilee was announced by the blowing of a trumpet throughout all the land. That is, of course, a representation of gospel preaching (Isaiah 27:13; Psalm 89:15). Blessed are those ears that have been made to hear the joyful sound of God’s free grace, of God’s great, free, everlasting salvation in Christ!
There were four distinct and special sounds of the trumpet in the camp of Israel. Each one distinctly portrayed the preaching of the gospel. Memorial trumpets were sounded to announce the new moon and call the people together in a joyful assembly of worship (Leviticus 23:24; Psalm 81:3). Battle trumpets, trumpets of war (Judges 3:27) were sounded to gather the people to battle (1 Corinthians 14:8). Trumpets of alarm warned men of impending judgment and called them to repentance (Joel 2:1). And the jubilee trumpet announced the beginning of that joyous year of restoration (Leviticus 25:9).
The jubilee trumpet was different from the others. This trumpet’s sound was never heard except once every fifty years. Yet, its sound was so sweet and so distinct that no poor captive in the land of Israel was at a moment’s loss to know its music and its gracious meaning.
That is just exactly the way it is when God the Holy Spirit causes a poor, needy, captive sinner to hear the gospel, when he proclaims pardon to the guilty, pardon by the blood of Christ, he causes the sinner to understand that atonement has been made and accepted. At that very moment, jubilee commences. The soul long held captive to sin to Satan, and to the law is set free and walks and dances in liberty. What a joyful sound! What a joyful day! When the gospel jubilee trumpet sounds in the soul, the acceptable year of the Lord begins (Isaiah 61:1-2; 63:4).
Oh for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise!
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
He breaks the power of cancelled sin
And sets the prisoners free!
His blood can make the foulest clean—
His blood availed for me!
The Jubilee Trumpet
The jubilee trumpet, like the gospel of Christ, proclaimed seven things, seven things that sound like heavenly music in the sinner’s ear.
1. Atonement — The jubilee trumpet was to be sounded on the day of atonement (Leviticus 25:9). That is where gospel preaching always begins. The gospel has not been preached until atonement has been proclaimed. There can be no joyful sound apart from the sin-atoning blood of Christ. The jubilee trumpet declared atonement blood shed, atonement blood accepted, atonement finished. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was delivered unto death under the wrath of God because he was made sin for us and our sins were imputed to him. He was raised again the third day because our justification was accomplished, because our sins were forever put away!
2. Liberty — The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement, and it began with the proclamation of liberty, liberty according to the very demands of God’s holy law (Leviticus 25:10). Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us plainly that he is the Liberator and the One who proclaims liberty (Luke 4:17-21). Be sure you do not miss this. — The liberty proclaimed in the year of jubilee, the liberty proclaimed in the gospel is the blessed liberty of grace; but it is liberty demanded by God’s holy law. Unlike the other ceremonies of the Levitical law, this law concerning the Year of Jubilee was given at Sinai, at the very time God gave the law to Moses (Leviticus 25:1). The law of God, being totally satisfied by the blood of our Substitute, demands the liberty of every redeemed sinner. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
3. Forgiveness — The Year of Jubilee was a time of forgiveness (Leviticus 25:35). The poor wretch who had lost everything, who had incurred such a tremendous load of debt that he sold his land, then his house, and at last sold himself into bondage, when the jubilee trumpet sounded was released from bondage and released from debt, forgiven completely, freely, and forever. His debt did not bar him from the joy of jubilee. His debt qualified him as the one for whom the trumpet sounded. Hear me, now. — I am sent to preach the gospel, to blow the jubilee trumpet, to the poor.
“Not the righteous, not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call!”
4. Rest — The Year of Jubilee was a year of rest (Leviticus 25:3-5). The gospel of Christ is a proclamation of rest, calling weary sinners to rest, promising eternal rest (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:1-11; Psalm 116:7; Galatians 5:1-4).
5. Bounty — The Year of Jubilee was a year of great, unparalleled bounty. — “Ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety” (Leviticus 25:19). Oh, what a gospel this is! In Christ we are made to dwell in complete safety in a land of infinite bounty. Here we lie down in green pastures and fear no evil. Our treasury is the unsearchable riches of Christ. “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s!” We who have been brought by the grace of God into the liberty of the gospel have been brought into his fulness. Let us therefore be careful for nothing, but in all things give thanks.
6. Restoration — In the Year of Jubilee every man who had lost his inheritance had it returned to him in total, free and clear, with no mortgage of any kind, no lien of any kind against it (Leviticus 25:13). All that we lost in Adam, Christ has restored. All that we lost by our own willful rebellion and sin, Christ has restored. David understood this. He sang, “He restoreth my soul!” We who “were by nature children of wrath, even as others,” are now made to be “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ!”
7. Brotherly Love — In the Year of Jubilee the children of Israel were required by law to love their brethren. — “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 25:17). In the gospel jubilee saved sinners are constrained and taught by grace to love one another. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” — Have I been loved freely? Let me love freely. — Have I been forgiven freely? Let me forgive freely. We read in Matthew 18 of a forgiven servant who took his fellow servant by the throat and demanded payment on the spot. He was obviously bold enough to deal with the man face to face; but he was utterly destitute of the grace, compassion, and forgiveness he had experienced from his master. — Have I received freely? Let me give freely.
Do you know who began preaching at the beginning of the very last Jubilee? It was John the Baptist, who was sent of God to proclaim that the year of the Lord had come, to tell sinners that he who would perform all that was promised, typified, and hoped for in the Year of Jubilee, the Lamb of God, had come!
The Baptist’s Witness
As the Year of Jubilee began, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” In verse 15 we have John the Apostle’s description of the ministry of John the Baptist. He describes John’s whole work as that of a witness. Here is the Baptist’s witness. — “John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.”
“John bare witness of him.” — That is what a preacher does. He bears witness of the Savior. He tells what he knows. We bear witness of him, the Lord Jesus, not of a doctrine, but of him, not of a denomination, but of him, not of a theological system, but of him! Like John the Baptist, God’s servants are sent “for a witness, to bear witness of the Light” (v. 7). Faithful men bear faithful witness of him who loved us and gave himself for us.
“John bare witness of him, and cried.” — As the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3), John the Baptist came crying like the crier sent to blow the jubilee trumpet when atonement was made and the Year of Jubilee began. John cried. That is what the preacher does. He cries, “Redemption is done! Justice is satisfied! Sin is put away!” They cry with earnest zeal and fervency, “Repent, for repentance, the turning of sinners to God by the blood of Christ is accomplished!” They cry, “This is the Christ!” — “This was he of whom I spake. He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.” Christ came into the world six months after John the Baptist; and he came after him to be baptized by him. But he was before him. He is the eternal God. The Christ is preferred before him, preferred before John, preferred before Moses, any of the prophets, any apostle, any preacher, any man, any angel, or anything (Colossians 1:18-19).
The Redeemer’s Fulness
“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (v. 16). — All fulness is in Christ. That is God’s jubilee message. All fulness is in Christ as our Mediator. It is in him for us. Everything we lost in the sin and fall of our father Adam has been recovered for us by Christ and is found in him. It is Christ, and Christ alone who supplies all the needs of our souls. — “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
There is an infinite fullness in our Savior! — “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” — “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” — “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him” (Colossians 1:19, 2:3, 9-10). There is in the Lord Jesus Christ a boundless, infinite supply of grace for poor, needy sinners, exceeding great riches of grace for time and eternity! — “His Fulness!” What a thought! — “His fulness” is all fulness. All the fulness of…
“Of his fullness have we all received.” — All we who were chosen in him, redeemed by him, called to him, born of him, and given faith in him, all God’s elect, every heaven born soul, every believing sinner has received, is receiving, and shall receive of his fullness by the gift of God’s grace, by the operation of God’s power, and by the hand of faith.
“Of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.” — In Christ we have received, from his boundless fulness, grace because of grace.
“Of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.” Blessed be his name forever!
The Savior’s Supremacy
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” — The opening word of verse 17, “for,” connects this with what we have just seen. We have received grace for grace out of the fulness of Christ our Redeemer and Mediator for this reason. — “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Be sure you get this. — That which the law commands, grace bestows. God’s promise runs side by side with his precept. Indeed, grace turns precepts into promises and promises into performances. This is our Savior’s great supremacy over Moses. It was he who gave the law by Moses, and he who fulfilled the law by grace. The law he gave demanded righteousness. The grace he performed brought in righteousness, complete justification. The law he gave demanded satisfaction. The grace he performed gave satisfaction, perfect redemption. The law he gave demanded our death. The grace he performed accomplished death for us, substitutionary atonement. The law he gave demanded holiness. The grace he performs gives holiness, perfect sanctification in regeneration. And all this grace, by which the Lord Jesus has magnified the law and made it honorable, in the everlasting salvation of his people was done in truth, without the least compromise of God’s holy law and justice (Romans 3:24-26; 8:1-4).
The Son’s Declaration
Fourth, in verse 18 the Spirit of God speaks about the Son’s declaration of the Father. It is in Christ alone and by Christ alone that men and women know God. — “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
God is Spirit, without form or shape, immense, infinite, and incomprehensible. No man has ever seen him or heard his voice. No man has ever been found who could know the counsel of his will, not Moses, not Elijah, not you, not me. No man was ever found worthy to take the book of his decree and loose its seals, except that man who is himself God in all his fulness, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, he who is in the bosom of the Father, because he is one with the Father.
He stood forth before the heavenly angels in the beginning as the Lamb that had been slain in the midst of the throne and took the book as our Surety. He showed himself in human form throughout the prophetic age of the Old Testament. At last, the Word was made flesh, dwelt among us, and was crucified for us. And now, in the crucified Christ the very glory of God shines forth in the redemption and salvation of his people.
That is what John 1:18 is talking about. The words “he hath declared him” speak of something done at one time, with finality, in the past. At Calvary, in his substitutionary accomplishments on the cross, our blessed Savior declared the Father, the triune God, in all the fulness of his Being and glory to man! That is God’s jubilee message. As we blow the jubilee trumpet, as we preach the gospel, God who alone commands the light to shine out of darkness shines forth in the dark, depraved hearts of lost, condemned sinners, giving the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!
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