Sometimes when we hear Jesus quote a scripture from the Old Testament, it doesn’t seem to have the same impact on us as it did the original hearers. The reason is that we aren’t as familiar with Old Testament as we should be.
That is right, we need to be a people who are familiar with the scriptures because they are God’s love letters to us.
Here is a place where Jesus quotes, or rather reads, from Isaiah. He says -
Luke 4:18-21 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Now what is significant about that verse that Jesus reads?
What is significant about that verse is all of the history behind it. This verse has to do with the Jubilee.
What is the Jubilee?
When Israel came out of Egypt, God gave them certain laws about resting. God said that every Saturday they should rest, that is the Sabbath. God also said that every seventh year, Israel should let the ground rest. Finally, at 50 years, they should celebrate a Jubilee.
On the Jubilee, not only does the ground rest, but three other things take place as well.
If any land is acquired during those 50 years, it is to be restored.
If you have made anyone a slave in those 50 years, they are to be released.
If you have acquired any debts in that time, they are to be forgiven.
So celebrating the Jubilee would have been a time of great joy and celebration. It seems like it would have also been a time of great trust for those who had to let the slaves, land, and debts go.
It really would have, but God was saying – You need to do this for each other because I have done this for you when I brought you out of Egypt. I gave you the land of Canaan, I broke your bonds of slavery, and I canceled your debts. Now, you need to do that for one another.
The problem is, of course, that no one actually celebrated the Jubilee. So God says that He will punish the people.
Jeremiah 34:2 "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, `Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
So here is what Zedekiah does:
Jeremiah 34:8-10 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, that every one should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother. And they obeyed, all the princes and all the people who had entered into the covenant that every one would set free his slave, male or female, so that they would not be enslaved again; they obeyed and set them free.
Yet the story continues in the next verse.
Jeremiah 34:16-17 but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves, whom you had set free according to their desire, and you brought them into subjection to be your slaves. Therefore, thus says the LORD: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty (Jubilee), every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty (Jubilee) to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, says the LORD. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.
That is when Judah goes off to Babylon in exile.
That is right, and that is what God is saying – you don’t want freedom for your slaves, that is fine, then I will set you free from the land.
But not all hope was lost. Isaiah told the captives in Babylon this:
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty (Jubilee) to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
This is what Jesus reads in the synagogue and proclaims as being fulfilled.
Now each of those Jubilee promises has a heavenly fulfillment.
Remember that the Israelites were to do three things – forgive debts, restore the land, and free the slaves.
Well we ask God in the “Our Father” to forgive our debts (we say sins, because that is its true meaning),
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;
Our Heavenly homeland of heaven has been restored to us.
We are no longer slaves to sin and our passions.
All of these things were accomplished by Christ on the cross, and we are to pass them on to others.