23. The Spirit of Jubilee

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture this morning is from Isaiah 61:1-3, and Luke 4:16-21; and our subject; ‘the spirit of Jubilee.’ Isaiah 61:1-3 first of all.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me;

Because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;

He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,

To give unto them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they might be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. 1

And Luke 4:16-21

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” 2

As we have seen previously, our doctrine of man influences us profoundly. Within limits, as Solomon stated it:

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: 3

If a man believes that he is made up of two or three substances, as the ancient Greeks held, such a belief has consequences. He will then believe that in a moral battle one part of him is to blame, and another part is innocent. The Greeks with their view of man as body and soul, two different alien substances, or body soul and spirit; or body, mind and spirit, could thus localize sin in one part of the body while saying the rest of man was innocent. The mind or the spirit could be held innocent, and the body, the flesh, was guilty. So that man somehow, no matter what he did, could plead that this aspect of his being carried him away, not that he was at fault. This kind of thing is commonplace in our time, and it is very easy to tell people that circumstances are responsible for their problems, or for us to blame circumstances.

I recall a classic case which was one in which a girl had every reason from the humanistic point of view to plead innocence; she came from a particularly wretched family - not wretched in the economic sense. Her mother had been a very beautiful woman when she was younger, but was now middle aged and looked beat up, and was very jealous of her daughters. She spent most of her time in psychiatric offices. The father did very little except to tell the children who were all now twenty and older: “Well, you always know you have a roof over your head.” That was the limit of what he did, beyond providing very well for the family. All the children except the youngest, a girl of twenty, were in the sexual revolution to the hilt, and could be described only as a mess, together with their mother. This girl had married to get away from the home at about eighteen, a brilliant young man, somewhat older than herself, who was a scientist; who had been attracted to her by her dewy-eyed innocence and her romantic ways, because she believed that somehow life could be better, and she was the one person in that family who had been chaste. But her husband was compulsorily adulterous. Finally, in rebellion against a situation, and a particularly evil situation, she was involved in adultery with a friend of her husband’s, and in the act realized that the man was just taking advantage of her because she was so innocent. So she ran away from the home and called me - I barely knew of her existence. And what she tried to say was that it was her anger against her husband and her strong emotional feelings of resentment that had carried her away, and had been responsible for her act of adultery.

Now, in situations like that it is very easy for us to be sympathetic, to the point that we agree with people; and we only do them evil. But what I had to tell the girl was that she had not been carried away, that her sin was not due to anger or to emotions, but to her heart; and not until she saw herself as a sinner in her heart, not on the edges of her being, was she saved, and was she able to give a new direction to her life.

When we have a divided view of man we can talk about being ‘carried away’ by our emotions into sin, when in reality sin always begins in our heart, in the center of our being. What we do when we indulge in this kind of thinking is to do what the Greeks did, to reduce sin to a metaphysical act rather than a moral fact. “It happened simply because that is the nature of the human animal you see.” That is the old excuse. Our bodies or our appetites are thus and so, and they sometimes overwhelm us. This view is very popular, and it is popular because man is a sinner- as a sinner man wants to say: “It is things on the periphery of my being, not my heart that is at fault.”

But this is not all, how we view ourselves and the nature of man will affect our view of sin, and how we view sin will affect our view of grace and the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that is our concern in particular, for we are concerned now with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in this series. If sin acts only on the borders of our life while the center remains intact, it is our fortress. Then so too will grace and the Holy Spirit act only on the borders of our life, according to our thinking. All the while, we will reserve the heart for ourselves. The sinner likes to believe he is in command of his sin. It is a very common belief among sinners: “I can stop drinking” or “I can stop this or that, whatever I am doing, at any time.” It is a very familiar kind of refrain.

We like to believe that sin is on the periphery of our lives while the heart is good. As one particularly degenerate and perverted man once said to me and to several others when he could not excuse himself or his acts, he had been exposed in it, and he said: “If you really get to know me, you will see I am very different.” Have you ever heard that before?

Now this is the view of sinful man. “Sin is not me, it is not what I am, it is just something on the borders of my life which sometimes gets the better of poor, innocent me.” But this kind of view has crept into the church, and too many churchmen seem to believe that man's sin is on the borders of his life. But the heart commands the center, and it commands grace and the Holy Spirit. They seem to believe that grace can be accepted or rejected, and the gifts of the Spirit brought into play at will, because the command-post for them is not the throne of Almighty God, but man’s heart. Man is the determiner in this kind of thinking. And the result is a utilitarian view of sin, of grace, and of the Holy Spirit: “Sin, grace, and the Holy Spirit can all be used selectively, they are resources for self-promotion.”

Another remark coming from the world which you no doubt have heard: “A sensible man sins judicially.” After all, one of the classics of English literature is a volume of letters written by Lord Chesterfield to his son, and the whole point of those letters was that a gentleman sins judiciously. His son never learned to do that.

People tend to approach God the same way: “we will use God, we will use grace, will use the Spirit, judiciously.” One man I have met several times, and he is indeed a very personable, a very successful professional man and has a family of charm and intellectual superiority. He has been in churches both Reformed and Arminian, liturgical and non-liturgical, Charismatic and non-Charismatic. Why? Well, his needs vary. At times he wants a church that will do the most for his family or for his interests, he has been by turns interested in healing, in music, in youth work, and so on. All things must serve him, and so churches are like a smorgasbord table - he will go to the point that will give him what he wants.

We have an ironic fact in the humanist, he insists on being in command. But if he sins it is not he that chose evil, but one aspect of his being that carried him away. The fact is that the humanist who says that he is: “The master and captain of his soul” forgets that the captain of a ship is normally liable for all things under his command, whereas the humanist says he is the captain, but he blames the crew for everything.

Now, as we approach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we must begin with this fact; we are not the standard. Here both Charismatics and non-Charismatics are too prone to tell what the Spirit has done in their lives, as though this should be our witness. But the criterion is not in us nor of us, but in and of Christ and His kingdom. The Lord is the normative man, Christ’s experience with the Spirit in His incarnation must be normative for us. That experience is set forth both in Old and New Testaments, most centrally in the Scriptures that we read.

For our Lord begins His ministry by declaring:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” 4

The prophets had said: “Thus said the Lord” and that the Spirit spoke through them; but our Lord says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” The Spirit and the Son are together one in the message, and in the ministry, in the life that Scripture sets forth. The Holy Spirit was fully upon Him, to enable Him to do His appointed work. Everything else that we know about the Spirit is fragmentary - any witness that we are able to make from our own lives is fragmentary, as compared to the Lord’s relationship to the Spirit. It is not even Pentecost, which is man's experience, but Christ who is the norm, to know the meaning of the work of the Spirit in the life of man.

Moreover, what Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:16-21 set forth is not merely an episode in the life of our Lord and His ministry, but a setting forth also of what our life in the Spirit is to be. Because when the Lord’s life and His work and ministry are set forth in terms of the Spirit, He is also set forth as the Son of man, the last Adam, the head of the new humanity, of which we are all members. So that what the Spirit of the Lord does in Jesus Christ as set forth in these words, He is to do in and through us. It is a beggarly view of the Spirit to limit Him to our salvation and even to our sanctification. The coming of the Spirit here and His work in the life of our Lord, in the life of the new humanity, of which He is the Federal head, is set forth as the preaching of good tidings, setting free the captives of men and of sin, comforting all who mourn, and declaring God’s vengeance.

The work of the Spirit here is indeed echoed in the whole of our Lord’s ministry, and therefore must be in our life and our ministry, our work, our calling. It is set forth in the Beatitudes, and in all the teachings of our Lord; and it is summed up as bringing about a mighty reversal of all things.

We encounter the work of the Spirit also in the experience of the two pregnant women; Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary. And the Virgin Mary carrying our Lord said in Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

My soul doth magnify the Lord,

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:

For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;

And holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him

From generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm;

He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,

And exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things;

And the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath holpen his servant Israel,

In remembrance of his mercy;

As he spake to our fathers,

To Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 5

This is the work of the Spirit, to bring about a mighty reversal of all things, the restoration of God’s order, the creation of a new humanity, the restitution of all things, the establishment of God’s kingdom. The Spirit’s work is to preach “the acceptable year of our Lord.” This is the Jubilee, the great reversal; the time of return, restoration, and restitution. The trumpets of Jubilee sounded in the Old Testament, together with a great declaration:

“...proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof…” 6

Unto all the inhabitants thereof, go ye unto all nations and preach the gospel - bring all things into captivity to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jubilee, of fulfillment and of freedom. The work of the Holy Spirit is the great restoration, the development of God’s order, to ‘be in the Spirit’ is to work for God’s Jubilee. The reversing of all things that are, the shaking of the things that are, so that only those things which are unshakable might remain.

Humanism also has borrowed the idea of the Jubilee, but its Jubilee is the realm of death and mourning, where life is exchanged for ashes, and freedom for bondage. Our Lord is the spirit of the Jubilee, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Jubilee, and the Lord thereof. When we are filled with the Spirit, then we work to bring in the kingdom of the Jubilee and we say together with our Lord:

“Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” 7

So spake our Lord, and we can do no less.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our heavenly Father, who hast called us to be thy people and given us the Spirit of Jubilee, make us valiant to the overturning of the things that are, the shaking of the things which can be shaken, so that only thy kingdom may stand, and thy Word remain. O Lord our God, we come into thy presence rejoicing that thou art at work in our time to destroy the powers of darkness, to bring forth thy judgment upon all the nations, and to shatter the kingdoms of this world, so that only the kingdoms of our Lord might remain. Our God, how great thou art, and we praise thee. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Is it not too theologically sound for people to witness publicly the change of life, the change in their life because they were saved or the Lord has come into their hearts, like the preachers do on the TV they will give a witness, testify what the Lord has done for their lives?

[Rushdoony] Yes, a great deal of emphasis in the past couple of generations has been placed upon getting up in meetings and making a public witness. I don’t think it is the right emphasis, because the witness is to be to the Word of God, and the witness to our salvation is to be our lives.

I know that in one community, this one woman was very, very prone at every opportunity, at a meeting or anywhere else, to give a testimony; and her husband who was a very fine Christian said he wished she would make some kind of testimony in the home and in her family life. And I am sure there are many others whom I have known over the years where someone in the family could have said the same thing.

We have reduced witnessing to words. We live in an age of verbal and paper Christianity, and the witness has to be in the reconstruction of all things in terms of Scripture. Because what does our Lord say that the Spirit is doing? Why, in Isaiah 61:1-3, the witness of the Spirit is set forth. Now that has to be our witness also.


[Audience Member] Could you comment on the matter of the disarmament of our submarine fleet in the light of the elections?

[Rushdoony] I’m sure that this matter of the disarming of our submarine fleet is known to every candidate; if they are keeping silent, it is because they have chosen to do so. Well and good, it underscores the fact that our hope is not in politics, it is in the Lord. And we are not going to change politics very much until we change as a people, until our witness is something more than a verbal one, until we begin to reorder all things as the Spirit requires of us. Yes?

[Audience Member] They say that Russia couldn’t fight a war because they can’t feed themselves, but they don’t have too. They don’t have to carry on a big war, they have already got the big guns, and we don’t dare do anything to them, we can’t stop them. The old adage “If you wish peace prepare for war,” they have the guns, and they can conquer the world peacefully, right, don’t you think?

[Rushdoony] Today we have increasingly the theological dimensions of our problem being brought to focus on us. And in every country we see governments that are near collapse, that have centralized power to the extent that they have virtually destroyed the individual and his freedom. This is no less true of the Soviet Union. Certainly, they were not able to cope with the auto workers strike in their own country, which led to the Polish shipyard workers strike. They do have grain stored, we are told, for a short-term war. But the issues are going to be decided by the Lord, and if this country is in need of judgment, from the Soviet Union or anyone else, there is no physical fact that is going to prevent that judgment from falling upon us. But if this country stands clearly in terms of the Lord, we are going to stand in terms of any and every power.

The issues, I believe, are ultimately theological, they are a matter of faith and obedience, and we are now a disobedient people, a fearful people, because we have every reason to be fearful of the judgment of God. And the whole world today is staggering along from weakness to weakness. How the nature of the collapse and the judgment will come, no one can really predict; but we are already in a time of judgment. Yes?

[Audience Member] I’ve heard that there are adverts on TV which try to persuade Christians that they shouldn’t be involved in politics.

[Rushdoony] Today there is an attempt which we encounter in the press almost every day, and on television, and in the news media by radio and other sources to say that the attempt by evangelicals to command the scene politically is somehow morally wrong and anti-scriptural. This is a statement of consummate hypocrisy, because the thing that is veryclear is that they certainly did not do anything over the years as the National Council of churches spoke out again and again on issues; nor did these same people protest when Martin Luther King became political; they applaud it. It is, therefore, an act of hypocrisy for them to feel that Evangelicals of all people are to be silent; they and they alone have no voice. What they are doing is to reinterpret the First Amendment and the separation of church and state to mean that everybody has a right to speak and to express themselves, but freedom of speech to the Evangelical community has to be denied. Now this is how they are interpreting it, and it is hypocrisy.

Let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Is 61:1–3.

2 Lk 4:16–21.

3 Pr 23:7.

4 Lk 4:18.

5 Lk 1:46–55.

6 Le 25:10.

7 Heb 10:7.

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