This sermon is about freedom. Are you free?
We like the word freedom. “I am a member of the Free Reformed church.” But in reality I see many who are not free at all.
Brother John doesn’t come to church. He is angry with another member, who hurt him by what he said. John is not free. He is bound by anger and revenge.
Sister Cathy is afraid of God. In the past she has made a big fault that destroyed her family. What will God say? Cathy is a prisoner of sin and guilt. She can’t enjoy and feel happy.
Peter is stressed. He is jobless. No job – no income – no food on the table. Who is going to help me? Peter is pressurized by a difficult life. He is not free.
For Peter and Cathy and John there is good news today. This is the message from God:
Christ came to set you free
Freedom. Liberty. That is the main point in Leviticus 25. “You shall set the 50th year apart and proclaim freedom to all the inhabitants of the land.” The Lord God wants his people to be free.
The Israelites came out of Egypt. There they had been slaves. Working hard. No holidays. Living in fear. No income. A land of slavery.
But now God led them out of slavery. Into the land of milk and honey. To enjoy. To worship him. To live in peace forever.
Then after 7 years, they take a sabbatical. No sowing of the seed, no ploughing of the land, no harvesting of the crops. In the sabbath year, the land rests and Israel takes a holiday. The LORD will provide. God’s children are free!
Then Israel counts 7 x 7= 49 years. “The 50th year shall be a jubilee for you.” A special year of liberty, freedom. The Lord wants his people to be free. Every one of God’s children must be happy in his own place.
Therefore, verse 23:
Your land must not be sold on a permanent basis, because you do not own it; it belongs to God, and you are like foreigners who are allowed to make use of it.
Maybe you have to sell your part of the land. You are suffering. Poor. Hungry. Desperate. – But in the 50th year you’ll get your property back. You are free to start with a clean sheet.
Or take verses 39-40:
If a fellow-Israelite living near you becomes so poor that he sells himself to you as a slave, you shall not make him do the work of a slave. He shall stay with you as a hired servant and serve you until the next Year of Restoration.
Due to our sins, there are many things going wrong between people. You don’t enjoy. Not free but restrained. Locked up in jail. – But in the 50th year captives are set free. Everyone gets a new start. Even the poor people in prison can heave a sigh of relief.
God wants his people to be free. Therefore we must give one another that space. See verse 35:
If a fellow-Israelite living near you becomes poor and cannot support himself or herself, you must provide for them as you would for hired servants, so that they can continue to live near you.
Why should anyone be pressurized by guilt or sickness or poverty? God wants his whole people to enjoy. He makes me free so that I can make others free.
Leviticus 25 is a wonderful chapter. It tells us who God is and what he wants. He wants you to be free. To worship him. To enjoy.
Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement, send someone to blow a trumpet throughout the whole land.
Secondly, pay attention to the date: the 10th day of the 7th month. Every Israelite knows: that is the Day of Atonement. You can read more about that day in Leviticus 16. Please read that chapter at home.
The Day of Atonement is the day of the big sacrifice. The high priest must confess all the sins of God’s people. Idolatry. Greed. Lust. Superstition. Lies. Gossip. Hatred. – All sins are packed upon the scapegoat. Taken away into the desert. God forgives all our sins. He makes us free from guilt. We can start with a clean sheet.
On the 10th of the 7th month the trumpet is blown. Let the party begin! God’s people is free. The special year of the LORD’s favour has come!
Now let’s turn to Isaiah chapter 61.
Isaiah is a prophet of the LORD. In his days the people of God is in a difficult situation. Israel is not free. The enemies have come. Their land has been destroyed. And they live in exile, in a foreign country, far away from home.
Yes, the Lord wants his people to be free. But how is that possible? We are sinners. Far from God. Far from each other. We are captives. In Satan’s prison. Who will set us free?
This is the message of Isaiah. God will send his saviour. He will set the captives free in the year of God’s favour. 61 verses 1-3:
The Sovereign LORD has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison.
He has sent me to proclaim that the time has come when the LORD will save his people and defeat their enemies. He has sent me to comfort all who mourn, to give to those who mourn in Zion joy and gladness instead of grief, a song of praise instead of sorrow. They will be like trees that the LORD himself has planted. They will all do what is right, and God will be praised for what he has done.
We are making a mess. We steal. We hate. We lie. We are selfish. No one can really enjoy because of our sins. There’s no peace of mind. No love between people. No trust. Even in church we are not free.
But the year of jubilee will come! One day …
When will that day arrive? Who is the messiah speaking in Isaiah 61? We want atonement. We need reconciliation – with God and with people. Where will we get it?
The answer is in Luke chapter 4. Where Jesus is preaching in Nazareth. His topic is: the year of jubilee. Liberty.
Is it possible to be free? Free from guilt. No fear. Free from anger. No hatred. Free from sin. Just enjoying and worshiping …
Yes, the LORD wants it. Leviticus 25.
But we are sinners. We can’t set ourselves and others free. We are in jail. Think of John and Cathy and Peter – the 3 people I started the sermon with. Bound by anger. Captured by fear. Imprisoned by stress.
Yes, one day – Isaiah 61 – God’s saviour will come. Gladness instead of grief. The broken-hearted will be healed. He will set the captives free.
But when is that going to happen? Listen to Jesus, 4 verses 16-21:
16 Then Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures
17 and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed
19 and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”
20 Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him,
21 as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”
Isaiah said: one day … Jesus says: Today is the day!
Isaiah said: the messiah will come … Jesus says: here I am, I am the one!
This is good news. For Nazareth. For Israel. For Mamelodi. For me and you.
Jesus Christ came to set you free.
Christ is blasting the trumpet. Good news! Now the time has come when the LORD will save his people – the year of the LORD’s favour. The feast of freedom.
Free from guilt. On Good Friday the lamb of God is slain for all your sins. This is the day of atonement. You are free!
Free from fear. You may be sick. You may even die. But the LORD will give you your own part of the beloved land. Eternal life with him. You are free!
Free from anger. Yes, we are all sinners. But when God has forgiven me my sins, how can I refuse to forgive you? All of us are saved by grace. You are free!
Free from selfishness. How can I not help my brother or sister who is in need? Yes, I’ll love you with the love of Jesus. So that you enjoy as well. You are free!
Did you hear the sound of the trumpet?
Not once in 50 years. Every Sunday the good news is preached here in the church. Jesus sets the captives free!
Not one day … maybe … This is the hour to receive God’s favour. Today is the day to be happy and enjoy your liberty!
Jesus speaks to Peter and Cathy and John.
Brother John, don’t be a slave of anger and revenge. Forgive that person who hurt you – as Christ forgives all the times you hurt him. All of us can start with a clean sheet. Be free!
Sister Cathy, don’t be afraid of God. On Good Friday the lamb of God took your sins away. Be happy, no matter what you did wrong. Feel free!
Even Peter, jobless and poor – don’t let stress eat you. The church is one big family. Your brothers and sisters will take care of you. Jesus sets you free!
The good news is for you as well.
Jesus says to everyone who believes in him: “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8 verse 32.
We will really be a free & reformed church.