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Leviticus 25:10 NKJV 10 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.
Juneteenth is the day that many African Americans celebrate the day when ‘the last’ of the nation’s enslaved African Americans learned of their freedom in Galveston, TX. This was over TWO YEARS after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. (I might add that the first slave ship to dock in America was in August 13, 1619. This would mean that in America, it has been 401 years of slavery. The Jews spent 400 years in Egypt, so I think it about time we talk about restitution and Jubilee in America).
I see two striking similarities with Bible Jubilee, and American Juneteenth today.
· Jubilee could not begin until all of the Hebrew tribes had been notified (by rams horn – this is what the term ‘jubilee’ actually means), and everyone were able to participate in it.
· Jubilee came with the expectation of restoration and restitution for everyone concerned. Everyone had to be free.
In the book of Leviticus, the year of Jubilee meant that Hebrew slaves and prisoners were to be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the Blessings of the Lord would be on display in full force.
Preachers like to preach about Jubilee, and many, (like me), have attempted to pronounce it’s blessings over their congregations here in the US. Some have even attempted to use the Jewish Calendar find the correct day that it’s seven year cycle would begin. This is almost impossible to do especially since the entire group of the twelve tribes would have to be notified when Jubilee was to start before it could begin in earnest. This was no easy task. Someone had to deliver the message to the far reaches of land to ensure that every tribe was served. (Email was out since the internet was always down, and there
was no mobile service throughout the land). (See Lev. 25, Isa. 61 and Luke 4).
Biblical law on restitution says that anyone who had wronged his neighbor “‘shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.'” (See Lev. 6:1-5).
We also see an example of restitution in the Luke’s gospel, in Zacchaeus. This man meets Jesus and was immediately convicted of sin. In his case the sin was being dishonest in his business dealings. Zacchaeus did more than repent in words, he committed to REPAY those who had been offended, and give them interest for what he had taken. (See Luke 19:1-10).
I believe that for us, real Jubilee will be held up until America takes this kind of action. All wrongs must be made right, and debts that cannot be paid must be forgiven. We can start with repenting for the original sin of slavery, and make amends for it by paying their descendants for 400 years of labor and hardships.
The idea of reparations in not new, nor is it as radical as it might seem. Rev. Mark Pollard, head of an international group seeking social justice, agrees in an article in Charisma Magazine, November 2000. Speaking about Germany’s reparations for the Holocaust he states: “Fifty billion dollars has been paid primarily by the German government in the last 50 years, with another $20 billion to be paid by 2030 for the Holocaust and Nazi crimes”. Rev. Pollard then posed a poignant question to the church in America. “Are Germans more moral than Americans? Are African Americans less deserving than Jews? “
Could it be that many in the church today are finally coming around to the idea of restitution? Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said during a church service, that white people in our nation needs to atone for racism. He demonstrated his contrition by shining the shoes of a black man during the worship service. Even though the act is symbolic in nature, it could potentially open the floodgates of repentance needed that might begin to bring real restitution to what I like to call the ‘last tribes’ in America, that is, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and others who have been wronged since America has become a nation.
When America repents, and begins to make amends for the sin of slavery and racism as a whole, I believe we will see the kind of real revival that many in the church have been praying for.
Happy ‘belated’ Juneteenth everyone
Bishop Horace Ransom Jr. is the Senior Pastor and Founder of New Covenant Church International in Detroit, Michigan. He is a Jurisdictional Bishop and serves on the Board of Presbytery for the Jabula International Network, North America. Bishop Ransom is an outstanding teacher of the Word of God with a passion for challenging believers to become the best that they can be. Faith, Purpose and the Kingdom of God are frequently the subject matter of his dissertation.