This year Singapore celebrates her Golden Jubilee. 50 years of independence.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech reminds us of some of the things that we can celebrate as a nation:
- We can celebrate our resolve to defend ourselves and to survive over the last 50 years.
- We can celebrate how we turned vulnerability into strength.
- We can celebrate our journey from third world to first as one united people.
These are just some of the many things that we can be thankful for as Singaporeans. But let us not forget that as Christians we also rejoice because it is God our Creator who has made all things and it is He who has given us good government. As guest preacher Pastor Andrew Reid reminded us from the book of Romans during our National Day service:
Rom. 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
As Christians, the idea of the Jubilee has a significance even greater than our national triumphs. To understand this, we need to go back not just fifty years to 1965, but over three thousand years to when God rescued Israel from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt.
As the Israelites journey to the promised land, God gives them commands to observe once they enter the land. These commands are recorded for us in Leviticus 25. When the Israelites settle in the land, they are to work it for 6 years. On the 7th year the land is to have a year of rest. This cycle of 6 years work and rest on the 7th is to be repeated 6 times for a period of 49 years. The 50th year is to be a Jubilee year when liberty or freedom is to be proclaimed throughout the land.
But freedom from what, you ask. As an Israelite, if you are poor and face extreme hardship, you would have to sell your land. If things do not improve, you would have to sell yourself and become a servant. You could free yourself or your relative could do it for you by paying what you owe. But suppose you could not pay. Then you and your family would have to continue being servants. But during the Jubilee year, you are given a second chance. You are released from your debt and become a free person, no longer in servitude to your human master. For the Israelite, then, the Year of Jubilee proclaimed new life. It was indeed a year to celebrate!
We 21st-century Singaporeans might miss the significance of the Jubilee at first — after all, we’re a peaceful and prosperous nation, nobody’s servants. But God’s great rescue of Israel and the cancellation of debt He commanded every 50 years is in fact a small picture of what Jesus has done on the cross for every one of us.
Colossians 2:13-14 says:
Col. 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
Col. 2:14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
You see, God is our creator. Because He made and sustains us, we owe it to Him to live in His ways. Instead, we either ignore Him and live however we like, or we reject Him and His commands outright. This rebellious, self-sufficient attitude is what the Bible calls sin. Because we fail to acknowledge God for who He is, we make a mess not only of our own lives, but of our society and the world. Life might seem to go on for now, but one day we will all have to give an account of our lives before God, and the punishment for sin against the ultimate authority is death (Romans 6:23).
Yet instead of giving us what we deserve, God sent his son Jesus to die for us on the cross. Because Jesus dies the death that we deserve, God cancels our record of debt. Colossians speaks of it as being nailed to the cross. Now this is freedom indeed — this is new life. This is what the Jubilee really celebrates!
What does this mean for Christians in Singapore? It means thankfulness for a fair and upright government. It leaves no room for grumbling or complaint where a good job is being done with the welfare of citizens at heart. But it also means a commitment to proclaiming the gospel as Jesus commanded us, right here in the Singapore soil where God has planted us, because this is the good news that brings freedom and new life.
So, blessed Year of Jubilee, friends! You don’t have to be Singaporean to rejoice in His sovereignty and goodness, but if you happen to be, I hope you see our national celebration as a double blessing. Unlike the original Israelite audience of Leviticus 25, we now live in certain hope of the Eternal Jubilee. And this is the proclamation everyone needs to hear!