Thursday, 30 August 2007

Malaysia, 50th Year of Independence, Year of Jubilee

i lived in malaysia which will celebrate her 50th year of independence on 31st August 2007. It is an auspicious event as 50th years is a golden jubilee in a marriage. as a nation, we are going to celebrate 50 years of independence but how much have we achieved in those 50 years? as a nation, we have gone through severe trials e.g. the communist threat in the late 40's to 60's, the racial riot on may 13th 1969, corruptions and cbts even among high ranking officials, the collapse of the deposit-taking cooperatives, the constitution and judiciary crisis, the currency crisis, the anwar ibrahim saga and so on. yet, we have also gone through good times of economic development, prosperity and racial harmony.

in the present period, it is perhaps wise to look back to see how God has been good to all malaysians and blessing us with his abundant blessings in a land rich with natural resources. it is also good to re-read the portion from leviticus 25 about the jubilee year and what God expects from his people on that 50th year. not surprisingly, we will find ourselves falling far short of God's expectations!

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Lev 25:8 “You will count seven sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to forty-nine years.
9 Then you will sound the trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you will sound the trumpet throughout your land.
10 You will declare the fiftieth year to be holy, and you will proclaim emancipation in your land to all its inhabitants. It will be the Jubilee for you. Everyone will return to his family"s property, and everyone will return to his extended family.
11 It will be the Jubilee, i.e., the fiftieth year, for you; you shall not sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor harvest its untrimmed vines.
12 For it is the Jubilee, and it is to be holy for you. You may eat the produce of your fields.
13“In the year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his family’s property.
14 If you sell property to a fellow countryman or you purchase from a fellow countryman, do not take advantage of each other.
15 According to the number of years since the Jubilee you are to buy from your fellow countryman, and he is to sell it to you on the basis of the number of productive years.
16 In proportion to a great number of years its price will be greater, and in proportion to a few number of years its price will be less, because he is selling you a certain number of its harvests.
17 You are not to take advantage of each other, but you are to fear your God, because I am Yahweh your God.
18 “You will keep my decrees and observe my laws and do them in order that you may dwell in the land securely.
19 The land will yield its fruit; you will eat to satisfaction and dwell there securely.
20 Whenever you ask, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year if we do not sow or gather our produce?’
21 I shall order my blessing to you in the sixth year so that the land will yield produce for three years.
22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will eat from the old harvest, and you will continue to eat the old produce until the ninth year when its produce arrives.
23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity because the land is mine and you are resident aliens and tenants with me. 24In all the land of your possession you must provide for the right of redemption of the land.
25 “If one of your brothers becomes poor and sells any of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his brother has sold.
26 If a man has no one to redeem it but he prospers and gains enough for its redemption,
27 he is to calculate the value for the years since its sale and return the balance to the person to whom he has sold it. Then he may return to his own property.
28 But if he does not gain enough to get it back, the property sold remains with the buyer until the year of Jubilee. It will revert back in the Jubilee, and he will return to his own property.
29 “If one sells a house in a walled city, he retains the right of redemption until the end of the year of its sale. Its right of redemption will be during that time. 30 If it is not redeemed before a full year has passed, the house in the walled city will become the buyer’s and his descendants’ in perpetuity. It will not revert back at the Jubilee.
31 However, houses in villages without surrounding walls are to be treated as fields. They have a right of redemption, and they revert back at the Jubilee.
32 “Regarding Levitical cities, houses in the cities of their possession carry an enduring right of redemption for the Levites
33 which any of the Levites may exercise; and a house sold in a city of their possession will revert back at the Jubilee because houses in the Levitical cities are their possession among the Israelites.
34 But the pasture lands belonging to their cities shall not be sold because such is their inalienable possession.
35 “If one of your brothers becomes poor and cannot support himself among you, you are to help him as you would a resident alien or a temporary resident so that he can continue to live among you.
36 Do not take from him interest on money or food, but you will fear your God so that your countryman may continue to live among you.
37 You shall not lend him money at interest or charge interest on credit for your food.
38 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
39 “If one of your brothers among you becomes poor and sells himself to you, you shall not make him do the work of a slave.
40 He is to be treated like a wage earner or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the year of Jubilee.
41 Then he and his children will be released from you, and he will return to his clan and his ancestral possession
42 Because they are my servants whom I brought out of Egypt, they are not to be sold according to the price of slaves.
43 You are not to rule over them ruthlessly, but you will fear your God.
44 “The male and female slaves which you have are to come from the surrounding nations; from them you may buy male and female slaves.
45 You may also buy children of temporary residents living among youand from their clans which are among you and have been born in your land. They become your property.
46 You may will them to your children as property, and you may make them serve forever. But regarding your brothers, the Israelites, you shall not rule over a brother ruthlessly.
47 “If an alien or a temporary resident among you becomes rich and one of your brothers beside him becomes poor and sells himself to an alien, a temporary resident among you, or to a member of the alien’s clan,
48 he still has the right of redemption after he has sold himself; one of his brothers may redeem him.
49 Or an uncle or a cousin may redeem him; or any close relative of his extended family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself.
50 He and his owner are to calculate from the year he sold himself until the year of Jubilee; the price of his sale is to be set according to the wages of a hired worker for that number of years.
51 If there are many years left, in proportion to their number, he is to pay as the price of his redemption some of the money from his purchase.
52 If there are few years left until the year of Jubilee, he is to calculate and pay the price of his redemption in proportion to the number of years.
53 He is to be treated as a worker hired from year to year, and you are to see that he is not ruled over ruthlessly.
54 But if he is not redeemed in any of these ways, he is to go free in the year of Jubilee, both he and his children,
55 because the Israelites are my servants; they are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.”

Monday, 27 August 2007

father-in-law's 80th birthday

I went back to my wife's hometown in sitiawan over the weekend for my father-in-law's 80th birthday celebration. the first time i attended his birthday celebration was for his 60th birthday twenty-years ago, we were just married and did not have chidlren yet. the second time was for his 70th birthday celebration ten years ago. this time, both our children were present to celebrate with their grandfather-in-law. for the chinese people, birthday celebrations are auspicious events, especially for the 60th, 70th, 80th and 90th birthdays. these are 'big' birthday celebrations (in chinese called 'tai sau'). so, my brothers-in-law got together to plan the birthday lunch and sent out invitation cards to relatives and friends. no angpow was received for the occasion as it was meant to be a thanksgiving to God for watching over my father-in-law all these years.

Psalm 90 has a little to say about 80 years of age. Verse 10 reads 'as for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away'. Psalm 90 is a psalm i often use for preaching at funeral services but it is flexible enough to be used for birthday celebrations. it reminds us of our finitneness and mortality (compared with the infinite and immortal God). 80 years is a lot time in human terms but to God, it is just 'a watch in the night' or 'a yesterday when it passes by'. would my father-in-law live to celebrate his 90th birthday? only God knows. we should be thankful for each year of our life well lived.

That reminds me that i will hit the mid-century mark early next year!. my family is thinking of giving a big bash in the seminary and welcome friends and family members alike f.o.c. for the celebration. after all, 50 is a milestone in one's life.