Summary: Bondage begins with the awareness that you are no longer free...
Living the Life You Choose
I’d like to begin by asking you two questions this morning:
First, are you happy with your life? If you could do something or be something different, would you?
And second, do you understand the difference between bondage and freedom?
The people of Israel were already working for Pharaoh. The Egyptians had been building great cities, temples, and tombs for a very long time. Those great buildings were constructed by the painstaking labour of hundreds of thousands of hired tradesmen and workers…and the Israelites had benefited from that. But then the tables turned on Israel, and where once they had worked for Egypt willingly for profit, now they are forced to labour merely to survive.
Nothing changed very much. The Israelites were bound before the taskmasters afflicted them, only it was a willing bondage. They had bound themselves over to seek their own advantage. As long as they thought themselves labouring to their own advantage, they willingly toiled and suffered. But it was different after Pharaoh’s pronouncement…after they were forced to do the same labour, only there was no escaping it. The advantage after was only for Egypt, and not for Israel. They still lived in Goshen, and at day's end they would still go home to the same houses, and eat the same garlic, leeks, and melons for supper. Nothing changed but the purpose of their labour...they began to live and work for Egypt instead of themselves.
Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, and the Scripture says that they were naked and unashamed. But on the day they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they realized that they were naked, and began to feel shame. What had really changed? Nothing. They’d been naked all along. The only difference was in their awareness.
Where Bondage Begins
Bondage begins in the mind, with the awareness that you are not free. Nothing else had to change for the Israelites to begin to chafe and be resentful. They engaged in the same labour, worked on the same buildings, had the same foremen, ate at the same lunch hour beside the same co-workers...all was most likely the same. The only thing that changed initially was their level of awareness. Once they had laboured by choice for their own gains…but after they were forced to labour for another's gain. How quickly and easily the transition came that transformed freemen into slaves! In the few moments that it took for the awful truth to dawn upon their minds, they were made slaves.
Those who have suffered greatly tell us that there is no torment worse than what the mind inflicts upon itself. And for Israel, the suffering must have begun early on. How galling it must have been after Pharaoh's grand announcement to know that you had no choice but to labour. Before, one was at least able to live under the illusion that he was enduring a life of backbreaking toil because he wanted to. But now he has been stripped of such illusions. Now he knows that there is no choice open to him but endless toil. The only escape was death.
At first the difference may have been imperceptible. After all, if you're doing the same things the day after you find out you're a slave as you were doing the day before, it may not seem all that different. It probably became noticeable in little things first; a slight change in the attitude of the foreman (now a taskmaster), maybe a shorter lunch break, and the sense that a worker couldn't go home until he was told he could.
But how those little things would wear on the mind of someone who had lived all his life believing that he was in charge of his own destiny. It doesn't matter that the differences between the two days were hardly worth mentioning. What matters is that now he is living a life not of his choosing. Yesterday he was; today he’s not. Yesterday he was free; today he's a slave.
And that’s the difference between bondage and freedom; you are free when you’re living the life you choose; you’re bound when that choice is not yours to make. There may be no difference at all in the lifestyle of the bond or the free. There may be no difference in the labour of the bond or the free. There may be no difference in the practices of the bond and free. The two may be identical in every way. But if one is not living the life he has chosen, he is bound. Nothing has to change but his awareness. And the man who knows he is a slave is truly a miserable man.