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The signifiance of jubilee in national welfare

The signifiance of jubilee in national welfare

Although the concept of Jubilee like Christmas has been heavily secularized to mean a mere observance of a 50th anniversary of a historic event (e.g. birthdays, wedding anniversaries, foundation dates etc) or a phenomenon like (independence, liberation or the end of war etc), the original concept of Jubilee could be traced back to the Bible (Lev 25:8-16,23-55; 27:16-25; Num 36:4). It was originally meant to be a maintenance mechanism to protect the rights of the vulnerable, poor, weak and powerless in society. This showed how the almighty God of justice cared about the well being of his people (Israelites) whether from a big or small tribe, strong or weak clan, powerful or powerless family. 

The concept of Jubilee as already established above, was specifically instructed to serve as a maintenance mechanism (a system by which certain values or order is preserved in society). For example the role of the police in the state is a maintenance mechanism to prevent lawlessness or the constitution is a maintenance mechanism to preserve and promote good governance. 

Jubilee being a maintenance mechanism was sanctioned by God to achieve the following: 

  1. To prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community or nation at large.
  2. To render it impossible for anyone to be born to absolute poverty, since everyone had his hereditary land.
  3. To prevent those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another.
  4. To utterly do away with slavery.
  5. To afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited.
  6. To periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, prevent the division of the people into first class and second class citizens, and preserve the theocratic structure that was originally in place before Israel had Kings. 

When you consider what is going on in the world today and especially in Africa, you would realize a complete opposite to all of the above values. Imagine the current revolution taking place in North Africa and the Middle East. These have been basically triggered by people’s demand in line with the Jubilee blue print established in the word of God. 

Some questions however that beg for answers as we look at the Significance of Jubilee in National Welfare includes: Why should one person or family be richer than a whole nation and worst still, hold that nation to ransom? And why should one family or few families live at the expense of an entire nation? Why should some of our children go to schools where their future is almost bleak while the children of some study abroad in expensive schools? Why should others take their personal interest over national interest by siphoning public funds that are meant for the greater good of all? Why do some waste food when others sleep hungry? Why should our poor rural women continue to die at child birth when others fly abroad just to deliver their babies? The list of questions can go on and on. 

But the final question we need to ask in the light of all this is – is God concerned about all of these vices that are perpetrated in our society? The answer certainly is in the affirmative as spelt out in the jubilee blueprint. In order to look at these questions microscopically, we would do so under three headings: 

  1. The Relevance of Jubilee in Governance – the pillars of democracy and good governance are said to include people’s participation in decision making, accountability of duty bearers, consensus that ensures the views of minority, transparency in government’s distribution and expenditure of public resources, rule of law, equity in distribution of goods and services, observance of human rights which include: right to life, security, association, food, education, health, freedom of association and access to the  means of making wealth among others. When these values/principles are juxtaposed with the principles of Jubilee, we can clearly see the silver cord that runs through them. A clear evidence of how God mindfulness about the well being of citizens within a state. 

For instance consider Isaiah’s prophecy about the bringer of Justice or Jubilee in Is. 61:1-2. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.., 

Do you notice some themes that gel very well with good governance principles? Consider bringing of ‘good news to the poor’. Note here that the Bible does not say ‘the Good News’ which would have meant the Gospel. Rather this good news would include anything that brings hope to the poor, alleviate them from: poverty, sickness and diseases; empower them with knowledge to demand for their rights and privileges, gives them a new lease of life. The full range of impact of the Gospel ought to bring about not mere liberation of souls of men from eternal damnation but also brings about an empowerment to emancipate from bondage of oppression, poverty, sickness and hopelessness. 

What better time could there be then to proclaim such ‘good news’ than in the year of Jubilee? We must sensitize our people that God is interested in the progress of our land and its people. He desires that every citizen of the land enjoys his gracious gift to mama Salone and even more so those who are called by his name (his children). 

Again consider the proclamation of ‘freedom for captives’. It suffices once again to note that this does not only allude to freedom for the spiritually bound but also literal freedom for those who are held behind bars unlawfully. Thank God that we do not currently have on record any political prisoners in our prisons. However, there are many whose rights are currently being abused either by lack of access to justice or its pervasion in the hands of the powerful. There are those who are put out of action and held captive by acts of evil forces (human) in high offices of governance. Jubilee should bring about freedom from deprivation of basic goods and services perpetrated by corrupt practices and individuals who can stop at nothing in embezzling resources that are meant for the celebration of this Jubilee year. Is that not ironic?

We must sound the Shofar of “jubilee” or “yaabal which literally means “to flow,” or make “rich stream of sound” (Ex 19:13, Josh 6:5,Ps 89:15) for those in the high offices to know that this is the year of freedom, rest, restoration for the people of the land. At least for once to enjoy the good of mama Sa Lone –i.e. our diamond, gold, bauxite, iron ore, rutile (titanium) , zircom, marine resources, fertile and arable land, forest resources and what have you. We’ve got to proclaim that good news in our churches, pulpits, homes and communities, offices, poda podas, market place and anywhere we could find ourselves. 

  1. The Relevance of Jubilee in Social Issues – no one needs a college degree to discern that the days we are living in are not only morally bankrupt but socially ill. The Jubilee principle to a large extent is actually centered on social issues than direct spiritual ones. Remember that during the year of Jubilee, there was hardly any instruction about embarking on direct spiritual exercises. Rather the focus was placed more on our interpersonal relationships (man to man) within the community, homes and state. On the eve of Jubilee a joyful shout or clangor of trumpets was sounded and the celebrations lasted for a whole year. During this year the land was to be fallowed, and the Israelites were only permitted to gather the spontaneous produce of the fields (Lev 25:11,12). All landed property during that year reverted to its original owner (13-34; 27:16-24), and all who were slaves were set free (25:39-54), and all debts were remitted

As mentioned before, the Jubilee injunctions largely border on social issues. Take for example the fallowing of the land. What would this imply? Those who tilled the soil (more often than not – slaves), should have REST from their labor. Those who may have lost their land property by way of leasing or pawning; hence are deprived of equal means of making wealth, should have their land back, and of course those who are slaves should be set free, and all debts were to be cancelled. 

What implications can we draw from this? Note here that these instructions are analogous to President Koroma’s call for Attitudinal and Behavioral Change (ABC). Well, you know by now whose attitude and behavior needed to be changed first. I guess we all must be thanking God for the long stick of the Anti Corruption Commission for preaching the ABC message to those who once preached to us to change our attitude and behaviors. 

In view of the Jubilee concept, one would only say that the time has come for all Sierra Leoneans to put on their patriotic hats and be true to our regular profession in the national anthem “land that we love…” It is high time to preach the message of using honest scales in dealing with one another. It is high time we paid people their honest wages. It is high time to increase the salaries of civil servants and the minimum wage of all workers commensurate to the rate of inflation and cost of living. Hear what the word of God says in (Deut 24:14-15) “ Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin’’. 

It is high time we preached against double-hand land deals that go on all over the place; one piece of land being registered to five or more people. And sadly though the authorities in the community or ministry often times may know the real owner but due to bribes fail to administer justice. 

It is high time we stopped the cruel treatments we often give to our wards at home; those who are brought to us in the name of going to school but end up being modern domestic slaves. When these ones cry under our yoke, it becomes a curse to the land or individuals mistreating them because God says “he is father to the fatherless and defender of widows” (Ps. 96:5) 

It is high time we preached the message of hope to those who are brokenhearted. Let us love one another and spur one another up to good works for the common wealth of all (Is. 61:1-2).

  1. The Relevance of Jubilee in Economic Issues – I guess it is obvious now that the Jubilee concept is actually one of liberation in all facets. Between last year and this year, so many African countries have observed or will observe their Golden Jubilee of Independence. But the question that is on the lips of most Africans and others is what do we have to show for it? Is it not in Africa where particular individuals become richer than the state? Take late president Mobutu of Zaire now DRC for example. It is alleged that by the time of his overthrow, he had 7 billion in the Swiss Bank while the total national debt amounted to 4 billion dollars. Take other recent examples – the assets of deposed president of Egypt Mubarak is estimated at well over 50 billion dollars, Gadifi is said to donate to Libya over two billion dollars every year. Not forgetting Tunisia’s Ben Ali massive wealth. You could name more names, I guess. 

But what is the point I am trying to make here? Although most of these countries have either celebrated their Jubilee independence or are soon to celebrate, their leaders are sited on huge stash of wealth that can better the lot of their people who continue to wallow in poverty. Well let’s come back home. 

Don’t you think that there are many Sierra Leoneans sited on huge stashes of ill gotten wealth that can change the status of this land? Don’t you hear of the big sums of money that are embezzled by corrupt official every day? How about the National Jubilee Committee? How about the huge sums of money government lose everyday at Water Quay due to corruption? How about our leaders who mortgage the wealth of our land in the form of nefarious (evil) mining contracts that do not favor the common wealth of the nation? May the God of Jubilee bring about the increase that will cause Sierra Leone to enjoy this Year of Jubilee and beyond. 

It is obvious that God has placed in Sierra Leone all that it takes for the land to prosper. He has given us the means of making wealth just as he did for the Israelites. However, if this is to be realized, we need to weed out all those structural demons (by this I mean evil and corrupt officials in high offices who may never darken the walls of the church with their presence hence are sometimes unaffected by our prayers … though for now). If we are to speed up the realization of the good of the land in this year of Jubilee, we must exorcise these demons not only by our prayers but by exposing their corrupt and shady acts that impinge on the common wealth of the nation. We must blow the Jubilee Shofar (perhaps in our own case the whistle) on these individuals and let Anti-corruption sweep them away.

 Being silent about these things will delay the realization of our REST. Therefore, it is high time we rose up as a church to challenge these evil forces both with our prayers and action.

By Pastor Edgar James Momoh

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