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In the Gates

The Year of Release

The Fourth Commandment

Deuteronomy 15.1-6

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess – if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

Acts 4.34, 35

It’s not hard to see how this statute would give greed a rest. People would be reluctant grant large loans to others, knowing that every seven years the debts would all be cancelled. This “release” would remind the people that God is Lord of all possessions and that we must not hold so tightly to things that we allow them to become the most important things in our lives.

The believers in Acts 4 demonstrated the kind of heart attitude God was seeking among His people here. Their possessions were a trust from the Lord, for the needs of their families and of the Body of Christ. Not having such a heart – or Spirit – in the Old Testament, formal external constraints would have to do. We’re not surprised to know that Israel never kept them.

In this series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics from our bookstore.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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