Modern readers experience great dissonance when reading the end of Leviticus 24 along with Leviticus 25. The stoning in chapter 24 proves that God will not tolerate evil near His tabernacling presence, and the jubilee shows that God expects radical generosity and concern for neighbors where He dwells. Your most conservative friend would never imagine making a law to execute those who blaspheme God; your most progressive friend would never come up with such merciful legislation as the jubilee year, during which God expects the return of lands, the release of debts, and freedom for those in servitude. In the jubilee year, God purposes to prevent a disproportionate private accumulation of wealth; in Leviticus 25:23, He explicitly commands that the land is not to be sold in perpetuity. The jubilee proclamation also protects families from suffering utter ruin. So how do we live with the tension found in God’s severe judgement and His lavish mercy so close to each other?
It is enough to say that God hates evil with more passion than we do and loves us with more passion than we have for others. Both truths about God must be held together. Another fact highlights the difference between us and God: as far as we know, Israel never actually kept a jubilee year in the promised land. When Jesus announced at a synagogue the words of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19), he is announcing the first jubilee year ever. Jesus, God in the flesh, would show the mercy Israel failed to show. This jubilee came because Jesus faced his own execution, yet for our blasphemy. We must always consider this fact as we read about events that are difficult for us to understand.