Written by: Rachel Chai (Photo by: Joseph Yap)
The Prophetic Significance of Jubilee
Waking up is a chore. When I was child, even with a string of alarms ringing every three minutes, making it in time for school assemblies was still an uphill climb. Yet, the holidays wielded an uncanny power on me. Whenever we were about to set off to Kuala Lumpur, where Sunway Lagoon — my favourite water theme park — awaited for me, I would miraculously roll out of bed on my own, filled with vigour and purpose at 3 a.m. I would even race into my parents’ room, determined to hound them awake.
We all need a reason to wake up to — something that ignites our heart with such passion that it immediately snaps us out of our slumber. Sometimes, God will spark off something in our hearts, rousing us wide awake from our spiritual slumber. He will place a burden upon our hearts, causing us to rethink our values and shape our behaviour and lifestyle.
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
In the same way that the Ephesian church was exhorted to “wake up” from their spiritual slumber, I believe that God is in the business of wakening hearts across Singapore in 2015. This is for the purpose of reclaiming the significance of the Jubilee. It has become the term used by the Singapore government in “marking the nation’s 50th anniversary,” but we could also understand the significance and excitement that this year heralds from a biblical perspective.
Context of Jubilee
The original Hebrew word for ‘Jubilee’ is yobel (יֹּובֵל). Yobel refers to a ram’s horn — the trumpet that would sound throughout the land on the Day of Atonement, signifying a consecration of the fiftieth year and proclaiming liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants (Leviticus 25:9-10). These are salient themes that reflect the redemptive work that God had established for His people and continues to establish today.
“It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.” (Leviticus 25:10 ESV)
In this momentous year, God sets a decree that all Israelites would return to the original land that had been apportioned to them, regardless of whether they had squandered it away or lost it in the previous years. This was the very plot of land inherited by the Israelites when Joshua distributed it among each tribe and clan upon conquering the land of Canaan.
“You shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants…[every slave, he and his family] shall be released in the year of Jubilee.” (Leviticus 25:10,54 ESV)
All slaves were to be released from their masters and all debts cancelled. While criminals are not to be set free from prisons, Israelites who had landed in debt and had sold themselves to repay their irreconcilable debt were given a new lease of life.
Implications of Jubilee
How does this 2000-year-old context set the stage for the significance of Jubilee in our lives as Singaporean Christians? While we may not be freed from our school, housing, or CPF loans, a call is being issued to us. It is an appeal to “conduct [our lives] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27 NIV) and in a manner befitting of this season.
Beyond national celebrations and festivity, there is a need for us to respond to this call by returning to our country’s spiritual inheritance. While our probability for survival was low from the cusp of independence, Singapore has witnessed miraculous economic growth as a nation. It is undeniable that we have been blessed richly by God.
Billy Graham prophesied in 1979 that Singapore would be the “Antioch of Asia”. Antioch lies along a significant trade route in Paul’s day, quite similar to what Singapore is renowned for today. Historically, it pioneered the first Christian church outside Israel and was the location where “disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26 ESV). Antioch was not only instrumental in spreading the gospel, but also as a launchpad in ministering aid, where “the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to [neighbouring countries]” (Acts 11:29). Barnabas and Saul were commissioned and released at Antioch to be “set apart for the work to which [the Holy Spirit had] called them” (Acts 13:2-3 ESV). I long for the day where this lion city rises with a roar and establishes an unparalleled network of spiritual “trade routes” in advancing the gospel, within our borders and beyond.
The prophetic destiny of our nation awaits to be unleashed, so let us commit to contend for our nation to fulfil this destiny. All hands are needed to be put to the plough. We might not all be missionaries or evangelists to the nations, but we are all a part of this grand narrative that God is weaving for Singapore.
We can all press into prayer, desiring for our country to return to claiming her spiritual heritage. Prayer is the key to awakening the heart of the nation, and unlocking our prophetic destiny. As this little red dot has yet to reach the pinnacle of the prophetic fulfilment as the “Antioch of Asia,” I believe we all need to “pray [for] the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38 NKJV). Prayer precedes the commissioning of labourers into the plentiful harvest. We can collectively establish His house as “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7 NIV), in hopes that we shall witness Singapore return to her spiritual DNA.
Before our nation can be released into her prophetic destiny, God desires for the hearts of His people. In the course of studying the Jubilee, I began to draw parallels between the Israelites’ stubbornness and the hardness of my heart towards those whom I felt had wronged me. I realised that this inability in releasing others from “debt” had hindered the intimacy between my Father and I, drawing me away from my first love. As I understood the significance of the Jubilee in my life, I felt compelled to write letters to the parties involved, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. As I sought to release them fully from the “debt” they owed me, I felt a rising assurance that I, too, was released from pent-up bitterness and malice.
Jubilee warrants a consecration, more than a celebration. The trumpet sounds for those who would respond: to return to our first love and to release others from debts that we have held against others, just as Christ’s sacrifice released us from our debt.
Beyond contending for the nation, I am also convicted of the need to pray for all Singaporeans. These are the very people who will carry Singapore from glory to glory, and strength to strength. We cannot lay dormant any longer. Our prayers need to burn with excitement of what God will do through Singaporeans whose hearts have been consecrated before Him. In Singapore’s Jubilee year, let us join our hearts and hands to pray for Singaporeans to grasp the urgency of returning to the arms of our first love; let us also release ourselves and others from debt.
The Jubilee’s stage has been set. The siren has sounded for such a time as this, calling us to awake from our slumber. Let us not hit the “snooze” button or remain comfortably tucked under our blankets. The full realisation of Singapore’s prophetic destiny is within reach.