Bad Stewards: the Israelites and the year that never came

By Charlie Osewalt | 19 July 2013

Stewards - israelites

Lessons in caring for God’s world

What if Christmas never comes? Or, as in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia, spring is held back by a  never ending winter? As Israel became a nation they received laws from the Lord they had to follow. One of these laws was the Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25 states:

Count off seven Sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years.Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere …Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.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.  For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

The land was to rest for two years: the forty-ninth and the fiftieth. Food was to be gathered naturally from the fields. Why? Just as people need to rest from work, so does the land. The principle is rest, honour that which serves you. Respect all things as they all work for you.

One problem: the year of Jubilee never happened in Israel’s history. There is no record of it. Why? Bad stewardship by Israel: the leaders, the priests, the prophets. They did not follow this year of rest and celebration and especially did not trust in God’s provision.

You see, it is hard to trust that food will naturally grow for two years and that will be enough for be and my household, my family. The default mechanism is to work, and to work harder and harder. This way I trust in what I can control, my own strength. I am the provider; I must provide. God tells his people why they need to rest the land later in the chapter:

…the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. Lev 25:23

They were to provide, not for their own households, but for future generations, children they would never see. Israel was to be redeemer of the land, honouring it and as God’s stewards foreshadowing by their stewardship Jesus, our redeemer. They failed for lack of faith.

Are we, today, any different? Do we see the natural resources of our world as ‘ours’? Are we short-sighted, seeing only our immediate needs or do we look to the future as good stewards, holding His land in supernatural trust?

We are all stewards. Good, bad or ugly, we are His stewards.

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Posted by Charlie Osewalt

Charles Osewalt is a husband, father of four children and former elder at Redeemer Church NYC. He has worked in schools for the last twenty years as principal in the Morrisanna section of the Bronx. He formerly worked as a content and curriculum specialist for Stewardship. He tweets at @charlesosewalt

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