Summary: We fear freedom for reasons both internal and external -- "broken spirit and cruel slavery". Choose to be a liberator for someone else and you can break that slavery.
We are made to be free; in fact, we need freedom. Every person needs freedom. That’s obvious. That’s what God has made us for. The Scripture says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” We say we want to be free. We want to be free.
But therein lies a problem. The problem is that that’s not the whole truth. We don’t always want to be free. We don’t always want to be released from the things that hold us back. Freedom sounds wonderful; but freedom also frightens us.
We’re working together during this Lenten season on the theme~ "Habits of the Heart", which is a way of talking about listening to ourselves. We’re trying to discover who we are deep down, and how the Spirit of God can work in us. When I speak of the habits of the heart, I am speaking of the deep seated, habitual ways in which we think of ourselves, and I am asking us to try to hear what is going on inside our very souls.
I said last week that listening to ourselves is actually a way of listening to God. Last week, together we stood with Moses, out in the deserts of Midian, tending sheep and watching a bush burning with the fire of God’s presence. We listened to Moses and his “I am” experience. We learned, first, that if we can begin with declaring our availability to God. . as when Moses said, “Here I am, Lord” … then God will respond with His declaration that He has a place for us in His plan. “I am the God of your father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God, we learned, does not treat us as if we were but a speck of dust in the vastness of the universe; no, God shows us that we have place in His plan.
And then last week we also found out from watching Moses that listening to God always makes us feel responsible. In one way or another every time we listen to ourselves we hear the voice of God calling us to responsibility; Moses phrased it, “Who am I that I should go to Egypt and bring out the Israelites from slavery? Who am I?” But we also discovered that when we hear that call to responsibility, however inadequate we may feel, still we are buttressed and supported by the dynamic, enabling presence of the ancient of days, whose great word is simply, “I am”. I am who I am. Tell them that “I am” has sent you. That means that the presence of God is with you.
But I want to go a step further this week. Still working with the personality of Moses, still watching Moses live out his calling before God, I want to explore another of the habits of the heart with you. This one too has to do with listening to ourselves. This one too is a way of listening God through listening to ourselves.
This time I am concerned with freedom, listening for freedom. I am concerned with the deadly habit of the heart that will not accept freedom even when it is offered. We need freedom, but we don’t want it. We say we want it, but we don’t accept it. That is a deadly habit of the heart.
In Exodus, chapter 6, Moses, having accepted his calling, has gone to Egypt with his brother Aaron. There he has reviewed the plight of the people of Israel. He has seen for himself now profound their suffering is. He has stopped off at the brickyard, where they are expected to turn out bricks by the thousands, but with inadequate materials. He has watch the taskmasters whip and drive the salves mercilessly. Moses has seen the deadlines of servitude. But he will discover that the physical slavery of the people is nothing when compared to their spiritual slavery. Listen to the story.
We are made to be free; in fact, we need freedom. Every person needs freedom. But therein lies the problem. That’s not the whole truth. The problem is that we don’t always want to be free. We do not always want to be released from the things that hold us back. Freedom frightens us. We even resist it when it is offered.
You see, there are reasons both internal and external why you and I don’t like being offered freedom. There are reasons both inside our own hearts as well as in the outside circumstances that explain why we have a hard time with God’s offer of freedom.
Moses has heard the wonderful promises of God. Moses has discovered that God is offering the people freedom, and has promised it in every kind of way imaginable. I don’t know if you noticed how many times in this passage the phrase, “I will” turns up. Six times in the short space of a few verses, God promises that He will free His people. Now that ought to be good news. But somehow it’s not.