How do biblical concepts of exile, justice, fruitfulness, idolatry, jubilee, sabbath, redemption, mountains, and eternal rest weave together?
Jubilee that Begins in Famine
Growing up in famine, Naomi had essentially never had true rest.
When she, her husband Elimelek, and two sons went to Moab for work, they left Israel due to the severity of the famine there, hoping to not die.
In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.Ruth 1:1
After 10 years in Moab, the famine had spread there. Whether by famine or by some other cause, death gobbled up Naomi’s future, first by taking the life of her husband, then her two sons.
After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.Ruth 1:4-5
When they had no grain stored up and when all hope was lost, Naomi and Ruth gleaned jubilee at a time where they should have only known famine.
Naomi’s jubilee freedom journey back to her own land started in loss.
On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.Leviticus 25:13
In the bible, the “year of jubilee” was a time of complete redemption. The Israelites would work their land for six years, and on the seventh year leave the fields to rest. This seventh year was called the “sabbath year.” After seven sabbath years (7×7), the following 50th year would be the year of jubilee. On this year of jubilee, the people would receive back all the inheritance (property) they had lost, and eat the abundance of the land that they had not sown.
The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.Leviticus 25:11-12
The year of jubilee would start on the Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of the 7th month.
Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.Leviticus 25:9
For anyone interested in keeping up with the times, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) for this year is October 4th and 5th, 2022. Since Jesus has atoned for our sins and many people are waiting on the justice of God in this season, it is likely that God will reveal himself as the God of Justice to his people around this time. In the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement directly precedes the Harvest Celebration (Shavuot).
In their Ruth 2-4 Jubilee experience, Ruth and Naomi receive back their inheritance through the life of a half-Moabite, half-Israeli kinsmen Redeemer named Boaz (“Strength”).
In the year of jubilee the field shall return to the one from whom he bought it, to whom the possession of the land belongs.Leviticus 27:24
Boaz’s mother was Rahab, the spy who hid the Israelite spies and plead for her household to be spared. Just as Rahab became a hiding place for the Israelites, so the nation of Israel became a refuge for her family.
God Buys Back what Binds us
The Devil stole plenty from Ruth and Naomi. Their experience is like Job, from whom the Devil stole everything.
Satan tries to directly steal:
- Their spouses (stability)
- Their sons (hope for the future)
- Naomi’s name (identity)
- Finances (via famine)
Indirectly, he tries to steal:
- Joy (via bitterness)
- Healing (via rawness)
- Dignity and Honor (via shame)
- Peace (via displacement)
God’s steadfast love through Ruth calls the promises back in. God restores Naomi to her right name. She goes from Mara “bitterness”, back to “pleasantness”.
When Satan tried to rob Naomi and Ruth, God robbed him of his power and stole back the bitterness, rawness, shame, displacement, hopelessness, abandonment, poverty, and false identity. Today, Jesus’ blood is what allows God to buy back evil with good.
Since Naomi symbolizes Israel, it should not surprise us that the chronological length of Israel’s exile was directly related to the math of jubilee. Specifically, the seven sevens of jubilee is used in the book of Daniel as the divine math that God uses to determine the length of the Israel’s exile in Babylon.
When Israel became like the nations in worshipping other Gods, God made Israel like refugees of the Nations. While shocking at first, God is a great equalizer. He used this experience so not just Gentiles, but all of the people of the earth would identify as exiles, through an exile experience.
God buys himself a double portion, not just by redeemed Israel, but buying back Israel AND the Gentiles. Just as Naomi (Israel) returned to her land WITH a righteous foreigner (Ruth), so Jesus promises to restore the exiles of all nations to a better land.
Through the steadfast, family love of these two women, the Lord gave a son who would later be one of the ancestors of Jesus (Obed, related to the word obedience).
You can read more about this story and its implications for Global Apostolic ministry here.
Safety for Moab
In Jesus, God offers greater safety for Moab and all the nations. Historically, Moab put its safety in worshipping Chemosh on the Mount of Olives (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7, 13, 46).
For the Moabites, the Mount of Olives was a place where Chemosh required worship in exchange for security (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7, 13, 46). The Mount of Olives was also where the Ammonites worshipped Molech (via sacrificing their children in fire) for security and fertility.
Jesus habitually visits the same Mount of Olives to pray during his earthly life, and from this same Mount of Olives he sources his donkey for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, tells his followers about the end of the age, and weeps in Gethsemane (located on the same mountain).
Other similar mountains of Israel’s neighbors included:
- Mount Zaphon, where the Canaanites worshipped Baal
- Mount Hermon, where the Sidonians worshipped Baal
- Mount Bashan, where the Amorites worshipped Ashtoreth
The Greek pantheon with the (mostly mythical) Mount Olympus follows the same pattern.
It is these mountains that Jesus refers to in Matthew 17:20, saying:
“Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”Matthew 17:20
Jesus understands that in an apostolic sense, the faith of his people will have the effect of dismantling the idolatry and the worship of other gods in their hearts.
Ultimately, God offers deliverance from other gods and idolatry because they cannot save people in times of trouble OR on the last day.
Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.1 Samuel 12:21
Yahweh weeps over those who have put their trust in false gods.
My heart cries out over Moab;Isaiah 15:5
her fugitives flee as far as Zoar,
as far as Eglath Shelishiyah.
They go up the hill to Luhith,
weeping as they go;
on the road to Horonaim
they lament their destruction.
If people do not receive Jesus’ help as Deliverer, their false gods will take them into eternal captivity.
Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive, and Chemosh will go into exile, together with his priests and officials.Jeremiah 48:7
For those Israelites and Gentiles who fail to find their refuge in Christ, not even the idols of their mountains will be able to hide them.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[b]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”Luke 23:28-31
Just as Ruth had to choose Yahweh,
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”Ruth 1:16-17
And Orphah chose Chemosh,
And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”Ruth 1:15
Yahweh offers each of us a choice.
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”Joshua 24:14-15
Like Ruth, Jesus provides an eternal home (and often, a permanent earthly home) for those people who have left their families, nations, and religions for him.
The vulnerable women and people of Moab may have been displaced from their territory, but in Christ, they have been invited to a better one.
“Make up your mind,” Moab says.Isaiah 16:3-4
“Render a decision.
Make your shadow like night—
at high noon.
Hide the fugitives,
do not betray the refugees.
4 Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you;
be their shelter from the destroyer.”
Like Rahab, Jesus will not betray the Moabite refugees, but will be their permanent shelter.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LordIsaiah 56:6-8
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
8 The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
Yahweh promises permanent jubilee to foreigners who “keep his Sabbath”, leaving their rest and restoration to God without striving.
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2 Blessed is the one who does this—
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”
3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,Isaiah 56:2-3
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
God does not dismantle anything he will not Restore
God is not a thief. He does not take away anything permanently, or without a plan to restore it. He has invited all people (Gentiles and Jews alike) to find safety in the clefts of his mountain, the place in the spirit where he reveals his character to people. This is the same rock on which Jesus encourages his followers to build their houses (security, legacy).
God is aware that the exiles of the world of the world will need a new home.
2 Like fluttering birdsIsaiah 16:2
pushed from the nest,
so are the women of Moab
at the fords of the Arnon.
For those who willing, God brings exiles out of Moab as lambs to a place that they will find true safety.
Send lambs as tributeIsaiah 16:1
to the ruler of the land,
from Sela, across the desert,
to the mount of Daughter Zion.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.John 10:27
In the Old Testament, The “I AM” mentions Zion as the mountain where he will be worshipped. Yahweh will be worshipped there because this is the place he has revealed his character to Israel.
For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices.Ezekiel 20:40
However, the promises of the New Testament in Christ are for all nations. In the New Testament, as a result to this intercultural dialogue, Jesus clarifies that the geographical Mount Zion will be replaced by worshipping God in spirit (in the spirit while still on the Earth) and as an eternal New Heavens and Earth.
“Sir,” the woman said, “I see that You are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where one must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. 24God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”John 4: 19-24
This is the New heavens and New Earth where God will eternally dwell with his people.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.Revelation 21:2
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”Revelation 21:3
A Hope and a Future
Ruth and Naomi would have lost their hope for the future, but God redeemed their family and made it fruitful again.
Jesus warns his listeners that there is a direct correlation between idolatry and fruitlessness.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’[b]
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?Luke 23:28-31
But in his fullness of life, he promises to make the nations flourish and fruitful again.
Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”Isaiah 56:3
In Isaiah 56:3, God refers to the foreigners as “eunuchs” for multiple reasons. While he is likely redeeming the stigma of childlessness for people who are biologically unable to have children, he may also call them eunuchs because they are a people without hope for the future.
Just as Mara had to choose to come out of bitterness in order to have a hope for her future, many people just stop at bitterness. They fail to enter in to the promise because they have made suffering their identity.
But Jesus calls the hopeless back into hope. For every place of famine, Jesus calls in fruitfulness.
I will make cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees grow in the wilderness; I will make evergreens, firs, and cypresses grow together in the desertIsaiah 41:19
To a famine-stricken people, he promises that they will be trees of righteousness that bear fruit in every season.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:8
Each of these trees is from a different geography, which speaks to the restoration of the nations.
Jesus promises that the people’s fruit will be not just earthly, but supernatural.
On either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Revelation 22:2
Confession of the King and His Kingdom
Even in times of explicit shaking, many Christians have failed to claim Jesus as their only refuge. Partially, this is because many Christians are distracted with the idols of the world and do not know Jesus as their sole refuge. As shaking happens, God exposes the inefficacy of idols like money, power, sex, popularity and others.
Many Christians would prefer God to bless their own Mount of Olives without dismantling, without transformation, and without issuing a new invitation to the world through Jesus Christ.
In misplaced hope, they disown Christ through their actions and words.
But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.Matthew 10:33
They consider it intolerant to offer foreigners or non-Christians true safety in knowing Jesus Christ.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20
They do not know the King, and they do not know the purpose of the Kingdom. They have not tasted true security for themselves, and do not perceive their need of it.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.Luke 6:25
In the appearance of wisdom, they have not grasped hold of the promise. Their double mindedness equally prevents others.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.Matthew 23:13
These will all perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.Colossians 2:23
They are afraid of looking foolish in the world’s eyes.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.Matthew 16:25
For they loved human praise more than praise from God.John 12:43
They do not hear Christ’s warnings, that he alone is the only stronghold in times of trouble.
So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination of desolation,’a described by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the housetop come down to retrieve anything from his house. 18And let no one in the field return for his cloak.Matthew 24:15-18
Still, the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to anyone who is willing to receive it.
I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.John 8:37
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.2 Corinthians 7:2
“There is no Salvation without Jesus Christ.”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6
So Lord, may we perceive your invitation to hide ourselves in the cleft of the rock.
My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.Song of Songs 2:14