For the week of January 29, 2005 / 19 Shevat 5765
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 18:1 - 20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1 - 7:6; 9:5
The First Step to Freedom
And God spoke all these words (Shemot / Exodus 20:1).
The past couple of weeks I have been discussing the freedom that we can experience in God. The deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt is a dramatic and clear illustration of the freedom that is available to all of us today through the Messiah.
After many years of oppressive bondage God miraculously and decisively delivered the Israelites from Egypt. Finally they were free.
When someone is set free they are not simply freed from something, they are also freed to something. Israel's deliverance was only the beginning of a greater process. They would then have to face new challenges and opportunities as God led them to the land promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, centuries earlier.
This week's portion contains one of the most significant events in the entire Bible and a critical step in their new life of freedom: the giving of the Ten Commandments. There is so much that could be said about these "ten words," which is how they are referred to in Hebrew, but I want to focus on their relationship to this subject of freedom.
The Ten Commandments, while providing us with a great moral standard, help us to see how morally weak we actually are. It is this moral bankruptcy that is the main cause of our bondage. The first step to freedom is found in accepting that we all fall short of God's standards for living.
Every type of oppression in the world to some extent is a symptom of our moral and spiritual weaknesses. That does not mean that in the case of abused people for example, that they are to blame for the abuse that they endure, just as it was not the fault of the people of Israel that they were enslaved by the Egyptians. But the inability to live freely even in the most oppressive situations, is because we have fallen short of God's original design for the human race.
The contrast of Yeshua's life illustrates this. From the beginning of his time on Earth, he was threatened by oppression. He began life with the stigma of illegitimacy, he was born in a stable, and then, since his life was in danger, his family spent his early years moving from place to place. Later he was misunderstood by his own family, friends, and authorities. He endured great temptations, had to avoid attempts on his life, was unjustly arrested and sentenced to a most cruel death.
Yet in all these things Yeshua was free. In every hardship, God was with him. There was never a sense that his life was not under the loving control of his Father in Heaven. No one was ever able to manipulate him. While living a simple and poor life, not only did he have every need met, he was always able to give to others. In the end not even death could hold him, for on the third day he rose to life.
The reason Yeshua could live a life of freedom was because he possessed in himself the moral and spiritual qualities that were part of the original human design. We, on the other hand, no matter how we try, are in bondage to a corrupt human nature that lacks the ability to live rightly.
Whatever could be said about freedom from life's oppression, the greatest freedom we experience is internally. To possess peace in the midst of chaos, hope in despair, joy when grieving, and confidence when facing failure, is true freedom. To be generous in spite of poverty, to bring blessing when cursed, healing even while in pain, and so on, are the fruit of that freedom.
Even though I wish that every one reading or listening to this message would be set free from every external oppressive thing that may be negatively controlling your life right now, my greater wish is that we would all find the inner freedom without which we would still be in bondage.
Internal freedom is a possibility, but in order to experience it, we need to come to grips with our own corrupt nature. Acknowledging our bondage is the first step to the freedom that only Yeshua can give.
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