Mishpatim
For the week of February 5, 2005 / 26 Shevat 5765
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 21:1 - 24:18
Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25, 26

The Essence of True Freedom

See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. (Shemot / Exodus 23:20, 21).

Over the past few weeks, we have begun to look at the topic of freedom. The story of the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt is a wonderful illustration of the dynamics of experiencing true freedom. We have noted already how Israel's liberation was only the beginning of a great journey ahead. Last week we looked at the giving of the Ten Commandments. We saw how understanding God's standards brings us to a healthy place of humility, as we come to grips with our moral and spiritual deficiencies.

Our inability to fully live according to God's standards does not mean that they have no relevance to our lives. Our sins should drive us to dependency upon God and his provision for those sins. At the same time we need to accept that God has provided good parameters in which to live.

 

There are some faulty notions today regarding freedom. Some believe that freedom is found only when we throw off all controls and boundaries. Rules are understood to be restrictive, thus preventing us from truly being who we are meant to be. Yet the Scriptures and the experience of life prove otherwise. Good rules, limits, boundaries, and controls are absolutely necessary in enabling us to live healthy and productive lives. Just doing whatever we feel like doing whenever we feel like doing it is destructive for both ourselves and those around us.

Rules are bad when they are coldly applied indiscriminately for their own sake. This is what Yeshua ran up against with many of the religious leaders of his day. He was not against God's commands, in fact his interpretation of the commandments were at times stricter than what was generally understood. At the same time he would take the religious leaders to task when their interpretations of the commandments became an end in and of themselves, disregarding both God's intentions and the welfare of the people they were to lead.

This week's portion reveals an essential dynamic in what living free really is all about. Following the giving of the ten commandments God revealed to Moses further life regulations. God provided the people of Israel directives for every aspect of life, including relationships with one another, situations involving personal injury, property, social issues and justice, and community events. Living according to these directives would help to ensure a healthy and prosperous society.

But God did not only give the people a set of rules to live by. He also promised that his very presence would be with them to guide them in their journey. This is the difference between just having a religion and being in relationship with the God of the Universe. After so many years of being controlled by an oppressive system, they were now called to live in freedom a true freedom which combined healthy living with the dynamic of daily being guided by their Creator.

This is what God provides us today in Yeshua. Like the people of Israel long ago, we have his written word, which speaks into every aspect of life. The Bible is God's instruction book in which God reveals how life is supposed to work. We would be foolish to ignore its details.

In addition we also have God's Spirit to help us understand his written word and to guide us in this life. We are not left to ourselves to figure out God's revelation nor in the making of life's decisions. God wants to walk with us as we grow in our knowledge of him and life. This is the essence of true freedom.

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