(This study is an expansion of the worship section in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007)
What God says and does is of utmost importance to everyone. In Exodus 20, God gave Israel what are known as the Ten Commandments and the Law of the Altar. The Ten Commandments have been of great importance to many nations and cultures through the centuries. What He’s about to say to Israel next is critical to understanding who we are.
“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant …” Exodus 21:1-2a
I stop there because of the impact of those six words – “If you buy a Hebrew servant” – on Israel and the world. God had just introduced Himself to Israel as the “Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 20:2) God brought Israel out of the house of “bondage” (ebed – servant, slave) and into a new relationship with Him. What would that relationship be? A life of abad – service and worship.
Every human being is born into spiritual slavery. People are slaves to sin. Look at this exchange between Jesus and a group of “believing” Jews in the Temple in Jerusalem.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:31-36
It’s interesting that after talking with this group of “believing” Jews for a few minutes, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus. They were deeply offended by His words about being in bondage. Jews were very sensitive to the idea of bondage because of Israel’s long history of many seasons of bondage. They saw themselves as free men even though they were under Roman control. How could Jesus make them “free”? These Jews saw only the physical aspect of their lives. Jesus took them deeper and showed them their spiritual condition – “whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.”
God did not do away with slavery when He freed Israel from physical bondage in Egypt because everyone is a slave to sin. Everyone. Slave owners are slaves to sin. Free men and women are slaves to sin. Slaves are slaves to sin. Freedom from slavery to sin is a spiritual process that God explains to each of His households (dispensations).
Jesus explained to Israel that “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” The people of Israel could have experienced spiritual freedom if they had accepted Christ as their Messiah Savior, but they didn’t. People today can experience spiritual freedom if they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, but most don’t.
The Apostle Paul explained brilliantly that experiencing spiritual freedom is by God’s Grace through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:1-14
Paul then tells the Romans a remarkable truth that few understand to this day. It is the secret God revealed to Israel in the wilderness.
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:16-18
Notice keys words here – “slaves” “obey” “death” “righteousness.” These are keys to life and understanding it. When God created Adam, He created him to obey Him. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying…” (Genesis 2:16) Eve knew that as well – “God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” (Genesis 3:3) There we see the relationships line up. God is the Creator – Adam and Eve were the created. God is the Commander – Adam and Eve were the commanded. God gave Adam and Eve everything they would need to live perfect lives. His single requirement was that they obey Him. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6) Those two acts of “disobedience” on the part of the first woman and man opened the door to slavery to sin.
With that in mind, look again at the words of Paul in Romans 6.
“”Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
We’ve circled back to the first thing – obedience. Adam and Eve had that choice. Israel had that choice. We have that choice. God created humans to obey and serve. It’s in our spiritual DNA. People can serve sin which leads to death or obey God which leads to righteousness. The true believer’s position in this is certain – “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
That term “slave” or “servant” bothers people, just like the Israelites who told the Son of God – “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.” People just don’t get it. They are in bondage – in bondage to sin, in bondage in sin to death, in bondage to Satan. Every person who is born is born into bondage. It doesn’t matter if their parents are billionaires or paupers – they are in bondage. Every man and woman, every boy and girl, need to hear these words from their Creator – “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” True freedom is through obedience to God.
Slavery in Egypt is a powerful example of what it means to be a slave to sin. The Israelites who gathered together in the wilderness to hear from God had been slaves to Egypt all of their lives. They had also been slaves to sin all of their lives. What was God going to teach them about being slaves? Instead of serving harsh Egyptian taskmasters who cared nothing for them, they would serve the Almighty God Who loved them deeply.
In the next part of our study we’ll see how God taught Israel the meaning of true freedom.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”