My congregation Beth-El House of Yahweh observes all the Biblical Feast and it has been a blessing for me to observe these appointed times where we can take time out of our busy schedules and commune with each other and the King of the universe. This week is the Biblical feast of Sukkot aka Feast of Tabernacles, where the Hebrews remember how Yah kept them during their wilderness time after leaving bondage in Egypt. My congregation usually goes away to a camp ground with other congregations from across the nation for Sukkot but this year we stayed in the South Bronx and each day we had activities and each evening we worshipped under our Sukkot and waved the fruit and branches as we are commanded to do in scripture.
“In Biblical times, Sukkot was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as “the Feast” (1 Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40) and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Yahweh (Exod. 23:14; Deut. 16:16).
The Torah explicitly commands three things regarding the festival of Sukkot:
To gather the “four species” (Lev. 23:40)
To rejoice before Yahweh (Deut. 16:13-14; Lev. 23:40)
To live in a sukkah (Lev. 23:42)”.
Our Theme for this Sukkot is: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb from Revelation 19: 6-9 and each night different groups from my congregation worked together as neighborhood based groups to lead the service based on various themes. My group was the Brooklyn/Harlem group and our theme was Jubilee. As a faith-based organizer working on economic justice or what some of my colleagues call the Moral Economy I LOVE Jubilee. Across the country clergy are using the Biblical Jubilee model to end economic injustices such as payday lending. For more information on this work check out: Pay Day Lending is a Biblical Issue.
For my group’s service I shared a reflection on Jubilee and how this Biblical practice can assist
us not only financially but spiritually as well.I invite you to read my reflection below and offer your feedback.
Since this week’s theme is The Marriage Supper of the Lamb I wanted to share briefly on the connection between the traditional Hebrew engagement and marriage ceremony, the West African traditional engagement and marriage ceremony and how both point to our Messiah. When we look at the traditional Hebrew Marriage ceremony we see many practices that point to our Messiah’s return and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For instance, in The Book of Revelation 3:20 Yahshua says:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Well did you know that when a Hebrew man wanted to marry a Hebrew woman he would go to her home and do a “knocking Ceremony” and if the sister wanted to accept his proposal she would open the door and the groom to be would be invited into a festive meal but if she didn’t want to accept it her dad would open the door to break the news to the brother proposing, bringing a new meaning to the phrase “what’s behind door number 2!”
West African Knocking Ceremony
In West African countries such as Nigeria where many Hebrews migrated after the temple was destroyed traditional engagements to this day include a knocking ceremony where the groom to be knocks on the bride to be’s door. When we read in Revelation 3:20 that Yahshua is knocking this is an invite for us as his bride to accept him into our hearts. In knocking ceremonies if the knocking groom is let in the bride, her family and the groom have a meal together to celebrate, like Yahshua mentions in Revelation 3:20.
Photos of my friend Nina’s Yoruba Traditional Engagement Ceremony (Can you spot where I am?)
A wedding is a time of celebration, but in Hebrew culture our traditional engagement and marriage ceremonies point to more than just romance but they point to a divine love story between Israel and Yah. No matter how many times Yah knocked on Israel’s door and got no answer in return he keeps loving us and pursuing us as his bride.
Aren’t you grateful that Yah keeps pursuing us?
Though Jubilee was an awesome way to honor Yah, our Hebrew ancestors didn’t fulfill it and yet STILL Yah has a final Jubilee, a divine Marriage Supper for his wayward Bride and all who join her.
According to minister and author Jack Wellman, the word Jubilee in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “Yobel” or “Yovel” meaning ram’s horn, trumpet or Coronet. To announce the Jubilee year, the Shofar would be blown and this would happen on the Day of Atonement, which shows an important connection between Atonement, having our sins forgiven and being able to celebrate the Jubilee. When you heard the Shofar blown on the Day of ATONEMENT on the 50th year you knew that not only were your sins forgiven but that your debts were forgiven and if you were a slave you would be set free. This is why in the gospels Yahshua teaches us to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
The Septuagint translation of the Bible renders the word Jubilee in Hebrew as a blast of liberty! Jubilee meant that those who had to sell themselves into slavery due to poverty would be freed and indeed don’t we sell ourselves into bondage when we sin?
But the Good News, the Great News, the Gospel News is Yahshua came to give us Jubilee Freedom and we know this because he began his earthly ministry by reading Isaiah 61: 1-4 in the Temple:
The Spirit of YAH is on me,
because Yah has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of Yah’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our Yah,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of Yah
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
The Year of Yah’s favor that we read about in Isaiah 61:2 is the Jubilee year so by reading this scripture to start his earthly ministry Yahshua is letting us know that he is beginning a Jubilee!
Blowing the Shofar for the Feast Days in Nigeria at the Community of Hashem Congregation
Jubilee was more than a year of celebration but it was a year of liberation. Jubilee was the 50th year in the Hebrew calendar after the 7th Shabbat year or what some call the shmita year where the land laid fallow and was allowed to rest. Sadly, though Jubilee was an awesome gift to Yah’s people like my sister Shanay reminded me the Hebrews never fully kept the Jubilee which is one of the reasons we went into captivity. Instead of fully keeping the Jubilee the Hebrews would try to play Yah by doing things like not giving out loans in the 49th year. Have you ever tried to play Yah, by finding a loop hole not to completely follow his commandments? For instance, some Hebrews would try to get out of taking care of their parents by saying “I need to pay my offerings.” See one aspect of a religious spirit is trying to play Yah aka having a form of godliness while denying Yah’s power.
Yah can’t be played or mocked.
We will reap what we sow, unless we come under the banner of Yahushua’s love and grace by answering when he knocks on the door of our hearts.
Who would agree that most of our people are in economic bondage?
How many articles and documentaries do we see on Black economics and yet Yah created a plan for our economic liberation and it’s called Jubilee.
Jubilee was instituted for our people coming out of Egyptian slavery so no one would ever have to live in slavery again. Who knows that economic debt can feel like slavery?
Jubilee means slaves are set free and debts are forgiven and land was returned to those who lost their land to debt.
How many people need to be set free?
Well the Apostle Paul lets us know in Galatians 5:1:
It is for freedom that Yahshua has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
This scripture is also alluding to the Jubilee and making a connection between Yahshua and Jubilee like Isaiah 61.
Jubilee in the Natural
Do you know why items are removed from your credit reports after 7 years? This is because the credit industry on a small level is following Torah Jubilee. If you have items that are older than 7-years on your credit report seek credit clean up services because it’s illegal for those items to remain on your report.
Yes, even the banks prosper by taking from our culture.
Bankruptcy only last 7-years because even our sinful financial system has enough sense to at least half way follow Jubilee. Remember every 7 years is a Shabbat year where the land was to allowed to rest and after 7 Sabbath Years which is 49 years the next year the 50th year is the Jubilee year.
Did you know that different Christian denominations had a campaign called Jubilee 2000 to ask world governments to forgive African countries of their debt?
2015-2016 was a Jubilee Year and during this time the United Nations urged America to pay reparations due to slavery. This is why it’s important to keep up with current events in light of the Bible because Yah is moving and we don’t want to be left behind.
I participated in the United Nations fact finding mission as a testifier on the impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Women and Girls, you can read my testimony here. After these fact-finding missions, the UN decided ancestors of the slave trade deserve reparations.
I mention these natural examples of Jubilee because we as Yah’s people left this practice on the floor and now others are attempting to use it but with Yah we his people still have a chance to practice Jubilee and get it right even though we have been dead wrong.
I also share these natural examples of Jubilee because first the natural and then the spiritual so let’s talk about the Spiritual Jubilee which is that time when we will be with Yahshua united as all 12 Tribes of Israel and those who join Israel.
Revelation 19:6-9 tell us that:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For Yah the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of Yah.”
On that Great Day all of our debts natural and spiritual will be no more. Who is looking forward to that eternal jubilee?
So as my Pastor Jonathan Mickens reminds us these Feast Days are dress rehearsals for that wonderful time when we are with Yah and living in that millennial period, BUT how can we practice Jubilee now?
Well maybe you aren’t a big multi-national bank but almost everyone reading this has someone in their life that owes you a debt, the debt that is owed to some of us is money and for others the debt is emotional but guess what right now we have a divine choice-we can be like our Hebrew ancestors and not fully keep Jubilee or we can answer the call to set those who have hurt and offended us free.
Or maybe you don’t need to set someone free but due to sin that has you bound you need Yah to set you free. Are there sins that have you in slavery? Well guess what Yahshua came to set you free and give you an eternal Jubilee!
So I want to invite you to a time of personal prayer where you ask Yah to help you forgive someone who wronged you that you need to set free or if a sin has you in bondage take the time to pray and ask Yah to set you free from that sin.
Remember we can practice Jubilee everyday by walking in liberation and extending liberation to our brothers and sisters through the power of forgiveness. In this way we can begin the Joy
of Eternal Jubilee today!
For more information on the Yoruba of Nigeria’s migration from Israel read Origin of the Yoruba and The Lost Tribes of Israel.