How many times do you suppose you have said or heard it said, “If only I had it to do over again.” Hindsight is nearly always better than foresight. We learn things by experience that often we could not see before. That would be good except for one thing – in most areas of life, we can’t back up and do it over again. The old saying, “You only go around once,” seems to apply in a lot of cases.
As a child I used to play with a toy called an Etch-a-sketch. Any of you middle aged people ever play with that now ‘ancient’ toy? I actually think it is still available to buy today.
The Etch-a-sketch was a little red and grey drawing board full of sand (or at least something like sand). It had no digital readouts. It didn’t beep at you or flash. It didn’t even take batteries. You twisted two knobs on the bottom of the screen to draw a picture. If you messed up, all you had to do was shake the thing a couple of times and you got a clean slate – a chance to start all over.
Wouldn’t it be nice if some parts of life were like that Etch-a-Sketch – things like, say, your over-the-limit credit card account? Just pick up the card, shake it a couple of times, and the bill gets paid off? I know it doesn’t work that way. Neither does most of the rest of life. You may dream of some day finding a winning lottery ticket blowing along in a street gutter somewhere, but the chances of that happening are pretty scarce. However, it is possible to start all over with God. Somehow, all of us seem to mess up and get ourselves into trouble. We need a chance to start all over.
With that in mind, let me remind you of the ancient concept of Jubilee when they would blow the ram’s horn on the Day of Atonement among God’s people which signalled a release of all debt and a freeing of slaves. You see, the Old Testament people were no different than we are in many ways. They were great starters, but it wasn’t long until they had messed things up. In that day, if an Israelite got so far in debt that he couldn’t pay his creditors, he might sell the land that his ancestors had passed down to him. If he still couldn’t pay his debts, he could be forced to sell himself and his family into slavery in order to pay off his bills. There were no bankruptcy laws. If you couldn’t pay, you lost your property and your freedom. Pretty dismal prospects for somebody in hoc.
That is where the year of Jubilee came in – a sort of divine Etch-a-sketch. You see, every half-century, in the year of Jubilee, all the land reverted back to its original owners. If they weren’t alive, it was given back to their families. And all Israelite people who had been sold into slavery because of their debts were freed. What a great deal! God gave the law of Jubilee for several reasons. First, it kept control of Israel’s agricultural economy from moving into the hands of a few powerful landlords (a bit of divine anti-trust?). More important to the people, though, it gave those who had messed things up beyond hope a chance for a fresh start.
You may have heard of the Liberty Bell in America. It is a pre-Revolutionary War relic that was first hung in 1753 in the newly finished Pennsylvania State House, the building that would eventually become Independence Hall. On that now famous bell are inscribed these words: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land…” The inscription then attributes the words to Leviticus 25:10, the Old Testament passage that describes the Jubilee.
Of course, the liberty bell developed a crack some years after it was originally rung, to the point that today it is quiet. The same could be said for the Old Testament jubilee. As a law of God, it is now silent. But the liberty bell that Jesus Christ rang for us over 2,000 years ago is still being rung every day, every hour, calling men and women and young people to come to God and be set totally and completely free.
We all need a fresh start and what better time than right now to let God empower our desire to start over, to have another crack at life as we’d like it to be and not as it has been. Are you ready to take God at His word and let Him birth in you a new day? God is always ready!