Slavery is not an option; we do not choose to be slaves, we rather become enslaved. Slavery is a reality of life and an unfortunate side effect of our early emancipation from all things God. We wanted a bigger world than the Garden of Eden, and ironically our world got smaller and smaller. One of the worst case scenarios is depicted in the book of Exodus when the young nation of Israel was used and abused as Egyptian workforce. The world of the Israelis shrunk into mere survival mode. Getting the job done without getting killed was a daily goal. Living with low self-esteem and suffering daily abuse, their life was considered cheap and replaceable. And apparently, the Egyptian king simultaneously despised and feared them because he decreed to kill their newborn sons to keep Israel’s population growth at bay. Operation “Exodus” started when Moses was called to task. Mission Impossible: Leave Egypt and move a whole nation to a land next to the Mediterranean Sea, formerly known as the land of Canaan, soon to be known as the country of Israel.
Reading the story of Exodus is experiencing human helplessness versus God’s power to redeem. In a very moving statement to Moses God makes His intentions very clear (Exodus 6:6-8):
“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’”
Slavery, unfortunately, leaves its mark on the human spirit. Besides physical abuse there is emotional abuse; dealing with unbridled hatred day in and day out causes both innate fear and bottled up anger. “But the mind can remain free!” you might say. “No one can tell me what to think!” Well, along comes mind control: Occupy all your time with hard labor while with the cracking whip instructions are continuously forced down your throat from the day you are able-bodied until the day you die. In time your mind gets used to being told what to do and what to think. And this is exactly what several centuries of slavery did to the people of Israel. Moses encountered their broken spirit when they ran into difficulties during Operation “Exodus”. The Egyptian king would not let Israel go without a fight, and immediately, Israel was ready to give up. In the 6th chapter of Exodus we read:
“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.(…) So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.”
Built over time, Slave mentality will not dissipate overnight; and so, the nation of Israel needed time to heal. A new generation had to grow up with a new mindset: the mindset of the redeemed.
We all can learn from Israel’s history. The book of Exodus teaches us a lesson or two about freedom. Freedom has a purpose. Freedom’s purpose is summarized in Exodus, chapter 4 when God sends a request to the Egyptian king:
“Let my son [Israel] go, so he can worship me.”
Our destiny is to worship the Lord. Yet there’s still another purpose to our freedom, and it’s beautiful and astounding. At the end of the 29th chapter of the book of Exodus God says about His people:
“I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.”
The purpose of Israel’s freedom was to worship God in the land that He provided, a land He too wanted to dwell in! What is God revealing here? God reveals one of the deeper meanings of His name. His name was earlier revealed to Israel as “I Am”; and part of “I Am” is the encouragement deriving from “I Am with you”, God with us. God wants to live with us; God wants to live in us. In other words: He wants to move in! With a heart of worship we will enjoy His presence and God will enjoy ours.