Thursday, February 14, 2013

Economic Life (17) Consequences

By the time of Jeremiah, the instructions dealing with the jubilee and the seven-year release of bondservants and redemption of lands were being ignored in Judah. Jeremiah described the situation.

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I said, ‘Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you six years, you must let them go free.’ Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me (Jer 34:13-14).
God’s instructions had been ignored. King Zedekiah and the leaders of the people must have realised this was a problem, because they decided to free all bondservants, but because they were under threat, rather than because it was the seventh year.
King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for all bondservants. Everyone was to free their Hebrew bondservants, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female bondservants and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free (Jer 34:8-10).
This was a wonderful event, but unfortunately, the people quickly changed their minds and put those who had been set free back in bondage.
But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again (Jer 34:11).
The word “enslaved” is a strong word (kabash). It means to “conquer, subjugate, or violate”. These people had bonded themselves, because they needed help to get out of debt. They had been set free (Kophshim). They were now being enslaved by force, so their situation was made worse. Jeremiah brought a strong word from the Lord.
Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name. But now you have turned around and profaned my name…. You have forced them to become your slaves. Therefore this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the LORD—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth (Jer 38:15-17)
Jeremiah explained that their failure to give people freedom as the instructions for economic life require would be the direct cause of their loss of freedom; in a fairly nasty way, by sword, plague and famine. They would become abhorrent to the kings of the earth, whereas if they had applied God’s instructions, they would have been held in awe by the nations.
Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great” (Deut 4:6-7)

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