December 2, 2010
I have never felt the bonds of slavery. Not even metaphorically. I am a thoroughly Midwestern, American woman. I have parents who allowed me a fair amount of leeway when I was a minor and a gracious amount of forgiveness when I was old enough (and dumb enough) to need it. I had a liberal curfew, fairly flexible work schedules in my work and the right to vote since the age of 18. I don’t really know what it is like to be in captivity, to be truly afraid for my life, or to be bought and sold like property. Slavery is the one thing in the Bible that I simply cannot relate to, even though it is discussed often and in detail.
Sometimes, that makes it difficult to really appreciate the writings about being set free.
In recent years, though, I have come to face my enslavement to sin more fully. Instead of looking at the sins I commit as an inherited disease, I have begun to see the snares and trappings of slavery that sin carries with it.
This is significant for two reasons: One, it removes my ability to make excuses. Sin is not inescapable. It, like slavery, is a temporary condition because I have been offered freedom. Two, It helps me realize that my situation is not hopeless. Sin is not a disease I was born with; it is a condition of this world, and I will one day be released from it for good.
Now, when I feel myself slipping, falling back into old patterns, I don’t feel a sense of rebellious “freedom,” I feel the chains tightening. I feel my true self slipping, silencing and the handcuffs of old ways binding me.
Sin now feels like what it has always been—slavery. And when I find verses dealing with slavery in the Bible, I’m able to at least comprehend my personal slavery and my personal, God-given freedom.
The Old Testament contains list after list, chapter after chapter of laws that were dictated to the Israelites during their time in the desert. Usually, these lists are ignored in modern society or irrelevant because we do not have an ark to carry around, a tabernacle to construct or sacrifices to offer. Once in a while, though, a word or phrase reaches out from the past to shout something relevant about the future, about the present. One such passage on slavery struck me recently.
Exodus 21:7-9 discusses the proper handling of slave girls who are given to the sons of the masters. She becomes entitled to full inheritance. How interesting.
Proof that God really doesn’t change.
Simply by being married to the master’s son, the bride is redeemed and set free from slavery, entitled to full rights as a daughter. Likewise, we the church, the bride, are redeemed by our relationship with Christ. We are freed from the slavery of sin and entitled to full inheritance in His name.
October 20, 2010
There is one aspect of Moses’ life story that has always bothered me. It always made me extremely uncomfortable that in some verses it says “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” I just could not logically explain why the God of heaven, this loving God who forgives and reaches out to nations would specifically harden a man’s heart. It causes Pharaoh to sin and costs lives. What purpose could this serve?
Well, I think God let me in on the secret today.
As I sat down to read, I was drawn back to this question and here is an excerpt of my personal journal. God opened my eyes: “I have always wondered why God would harden Pharaoh’s heart. The idea just occurred to me that maybe it was to prove to as many people as possible (advisors, etc.) that Moses’ God was the only REAL, true God.”
Through the 2 1/2 chapters I covered today, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of this insight to me.
It’s important to remember that the plagues started off as, basically, annoyances. Yes, the waters were turned to blood, but people were able to dig near the waters to get clean water (Exodus 7:24). It was just inconvenient. Then there were frogs, then gnats, then flies. The plagues slowly increased in severity.
1.) Time and again, the magicians of Egypt were able to mimic the works of God which led to Moses’ claims being dismissed. BUT God uses the progressively more complex plagues to turn the magicians first.
“18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. 19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.” –Exodus 8:18-19
It took 3 plagues, but they got it.
2.) Then God shows that the God of Moses and the Israelites is in control of it all by excluding the Israelites from the plague of the flies.
I’m sure that this was done to show the people of Egypt that something special was going on.
Then I reached Exodus 9:16. I don’t know why I’ve never paid any attention to this before, but I wish I had because it answers my question completely.
“16 But I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
And, God’s effort produce results. Some of Pharaoh’s officials believe as well.
“19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ “ 20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.”–Exodus 9:19-20
So, maybe, when we completely do NOT understand the plan that God is working out in our lives, maybe God is just trying to be the God we all envision Him as. Maybe he is being loving; maybe He is reaching out. Maybe His hand will be MORE evident when there is oppression or strife.
If that’s the case, and even more can be saved, who am I to complain?
October 11, 2010
Even the most diligent of Bible readers can struggle occasionally with the Old Testament. Some of the accounts are simply long lists of laws dealing with temple ritual we no longer observe; some are long lists of genealogy. Interspersed between these two types of writings are personal accounts of men and women who played an important role in the furtherance of God’s will through His people. The unfortunate thing is that these personal accounts are so familiar, even to the most unchurched, that when a person actually sits down to read the story, it can be…well, boring.
It is tempting to just skim the story, recognize the familiar points and move on, but you can miss some really cool things that way. (For instance, prior to Noah’s escapade in the ark, people were vegetarians. It was only after the flood that they were given the animals as food as well. Genesis 9:3. Who knew, right?)
However, there are times when the Holy Spirit offers us an insight into the story that is spiritually significant and often overlooked. I found 2 such insights in Moses’ story. I would like to share one with you now.
If you are unfamiliar with Moses’ account, please check out the link to the right. There is a page named ‘Moses’ that will give you a helpful frame of reference.
In Exodus 3 verse 6, Moses learns that the burning bush he has happened upon, in fact, contains the Spirit of God. Moses has a pretty natural reaction: He hides his face. He is afraid to look at God. I would have to say that I would be too. But the interesting thing about Moses is that by verse 11 of the same chapter, he has mustered up enough courage to argue with God.
That’s right. Moses sees God, knows it’s God, recognizes the might of God to the point of hiding his face and then ARGUES with God. What changed so drastically in those 5 verses? Where did this boldness spring from?
Well, that’s what struck me as new this time around. It was still just Moses and God in the desert, so the environment hadn’t changed. No miracles had been performed yet; no storm had come. The only thing that changed was that God actually asked Moses to DO something.
Yep. Moses’ sudden boldness, courage and defense comes when he is asked to go lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God promises to go with Moses, and doesn’t even ask Moses to approach the Pharaoh alone–he is instructed to take the elders with him– but he still argues (3:12 & 13). Better yet, God shows Moses 2 proofs and Moses STILL argues. (4:1-9)
This is interesting to me, and I immediately began to think of myself, my reaction to God when He asks me to do something. I either pretend I didn’t hear; pretend I will get around to it eventually…or I argue with God.
“Not me God. Surely there are more qualified people out there. Surely, you want someone with a spotless record and more skills…”
This type of avoidance is my specialty, and apparently it was Moses’ as well.
Well, Moses does go. He leads the Israelites out (through an intermediary) and he travels with God for 40 years, but Moses never really loses that spirit of stubborn resistance. Despite visual, daily reminders of their living God, the Israelites and Moses all fail time and again. Moses is never granted entry into the promised land because of his disobedience…and I think that is the lesson in it all.
I don’t want to lose the promised land because I’m a stubborn girl who argues with God. Not only does it sound crazy, it is ultimately futile. He is God after all.