“…the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land..” Exodus 1:9-10
Israel was more and mightier than their hosts in Egypt. So how did they end up slaves? Israel dealt their way into bondage. They went willingly. 430 years of oppression started with some sort of deal.
That’s the way it is for us. We are never placed in bondage unless we go willingly. We perceive some greater gain or lessening of pain by cutting a deal, and we place ourselves in the shackles voluntarily. It is always the case, whether with a nation or a man.
If this were not so, why would Paul tell us in Galatians to not allow ourselves to be placed under the yoke of bondage. He’s talking, of course, about leaving the freedom of Christ for the bondage of religion But If it were not within our power to refuse that bondage, why would he give us that warning?
No, we not only consent, but desire bondage. We not only give in to it, we flee willingly into its arms. We are offered security by its constraints, ease by its rules and regulations. One who is in bondage no longer has the will (or need) to fight. One who is in bondage no longer has the obligation to think, to discern, to decide for himself.
Yet, like Israel of old, bondage is a cruel mistress. It always ends with us “serving with rigor”. We trade freedom for security, only to find we have neither. We trade the fight of freedom for the peace of slavery, only to find ourselves under an even greater danger. We trade tending sheep in the land of Goshen, only to find ourselves in a pit of mud, making bricks to build someone else’s cities.
But it does not have to be so. We can be released from the bondage of “do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” and walk in the freedom that comes in Christ. How? Some think it’s by simply casting off the yoke and living in spiritual anarchy…a sort of “wild west” where there are no rules. We respond to legalism and spiritual bondage by going to the other extreme or “anything goes.”
Instead, I think there is a better way, and the answer is found in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, and not on things on the earth.” It’s those earthly desires – security, wealth, ease – that get us in trouble. But when our mind is on Christ, our gaze fixed on eternity, those temporary treasures lose their glimmer.
Religious rules? Though they may appear pious, they are earthly. Though they offer us the apparent ease of a life decided for us, ultimately they are bondage. Though they offer to excuse us from the hard and lonely work of thinking and praying and seeking God for ourselves, eventually we end up slaves.
I feel a little like William Wallace in Braveheart here, when he’s trying to convince his countrymen that there is no price too great for one taste, one moment of freedom. Don’t cut the deal. Don’t sell yourself into a lifetime of slavery because you are afraid to live free.
You were a slave. Christ has made you free. Don’t submit again to the bondage of slavery.
Do you have the guts to live free?