Summary: Stuff Jesus Changed, part 1. Jesus released us from spiritual chains, but just like the Hebrew slaves in Exodus never learned to live as free people, many of us today struggle with that as well.
Learning to Live Without Chains
Stuff Jesus Changed, part 1 – Bondage
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
April 8, 2007
Learning to live in freedom is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. There’s a whole branch of psychology, called Existential Psychology, that’s based on the idea that the single greatest cause of dysfunction in human beings is the fear that is caused by the realization that we have complete freedom. That each of us ultimately is alone in the universe, free to become whoever we wish to become – to shape our lives any way we choose. This complete freedom is terrifying to people, so we act in all kinds of ways that deny our freedom. We blame others for our unhappiness. We say things like “I had no choice,” when actually we have tons of choices. We claim that others made us do this or that, when every single thing we do is actually by our own choice. We are free to do anything we wish to do, as long as we are willing to accept the consequences – and it’s the consequences of living as free creatures that scares people half to death.
Ever thought about that before? Ever thought about the responsibility that comes with freedom, about how much courage it actually takes to embrace your freedom and live as a free person? As I said, learning to live in freedom, I think, is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. There’s a whole book of the Bible (called Exodus) that’s about the struggle of an entire race of people to learn to live in their newfound freedom. I want to talk to you about their struggle this morning, because I think through it we can come to understand much about the struggle each of us faces to live morally and spiritually free lives.
Let’s start with the opposite of freedom. The Hebrew people (the Israelites – the Jews) were in slavery in Egypt for 400 years. See, a group of about 100 of them had settled in Egypt at the invitation of the Pharaoh, this recorded in Genesis 46, during a time of famine. Egypt had food and rather than continually tracking back there to buy it, they settled in Egypt and Pharaoh was kind to them because his assistant Joseph had saved Egypt from the famine, and Joseph was part of their family.
Eventually Joseph and his generation died. Sixty years after Joseph’s death there was a revolution in Egypt and the new Pharoah didn’t know or care about Joseph and his family. All he knew was they were breeding like rabbits and he didn’t like having them in his country.
Exodus 1:8-14 (NIV)
8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
9 "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us.
10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country."
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.
12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites
13 and worked them ruthlessly.
14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
That is the story of how the Hebrew people ended up enslaved in Egypt. About a hundred of them waltzed into Egypt in the favor of Pharaoh because of Joseph. Sixty years later, revolution – followed by 400 years of enslavement.
I cannot imagine that kind of slavery, can you? I cannot imagine what it would be like to be driven to do hard physical labor every day of my life from sunup to sundown, to be considered property, to be beaten, for my children not to be my own, for every detail of my life to be determined by a man with a whip who neither knows nor cares a bit for me. I cannot imagine what that would do to my spirit. I think I would be completely broken. There would be no hope of escape, no chance of freedom. How do you live without hope? The spirit cannot survive without it, and so it is that I believe that after 400 years in slavery, the Hebrew people were a broken people. 400 years. That means that by the end of this period, a Hebrew slave’s father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather – well forget that – it would be about 20 generations, you’d have to have 20 greats there to get a grip on this. Twenty generations of slavery. No concept of life in freedom, not even a distant dream from the past. No notion of making choices to determine one’s own destiny. No understanding of personal responsibility. I’m sure that at the end of that whip those people still desired freedom most days, but they couldn’t have had any idea what freedom really was. They never had to buy food to provide for themselves. They never had to seek or receive an education. They never had to make their way in the world. They never had any responsibility to make choices to go a certain way with their lives – their lives were already determined for them.