Summary: All people are imprisoned by our sin, but God has offered us liberty.


SCRIPTURE: EZRA 1:1-4, GALATIANS 3:1-9 / Hymn: “To God Be the Glory”

The story is told of a young man who wished to marry the farmer’s beautiful daughter. He went to the farmer to ask his permission. The farmer looked him over and responded, "Son, go stand out in that field, and I’m going to release three bulls, one at a time. If you can catch the tail of any one of the three bulls, you can marry my daughter."

The young man stood in the pasture awaiting the first bull. The barn door opened and out ran the biggest, meanest-looking bull he had ever seen. He reasonably decided that one of the next bulls had to be a better choice than this one, so he ran over to the side and let the bull pass through the pasture out the back gate.

The barn door opened again. Unbelievable! He had never seen anything so big and fierce in his life. It stood - pawing the ground, grunting, slinging slobber - as it eyed him. Whatever the next bull was like, it had to be a better choice than this one. He ran to the fence and let the bull pass through the pasture, out the back gate.

The door opened a third time. A smile came across the man’s face. This was the weakest, scrawniest little bull he had ever seen. This one was HIS bull. As the bull came running by, he positioned himself just right and jumped at just the exact moment. He grabbed . . . . . but the bull had no tail!

Life is full of opportunities. Some will be easy to take advantage of, some will be difficult. But once the opportunities pass, we face the real possibility that they may never come again. Whether or not to accept Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and savior is just such an opportunity . . . a choice. It’s an opportunity to experience the freedom that can only be found in God’s love for each of us. The problem that many people face, however, is two fold. First, it is a problem of admitting that we need saving. The second – and often the most difficult – is the problem of admitting that we can’t save ourselves.

During their four-hundred years of bondage in Egypt, the Israelites had no doubt that they were prisoners, slaves to a foreign master. They prayed for deliverance. God heard their prayers and raised up a deliverer in Moses. Moses served God by leading the Israelites out of their captivity. He gave them their freedom from the Egyptians. What he could not do, however, was to free them from their own sinful natures.

The Books of Exodus through Deuteronomy are replete with the stories of how disobedient and unfaithful the Israelites were even after witnessing God’s incredible power and love. At Marah they complained that the water was too bitter to drink, and God made the waters sweet. In the Wilderness of Sin, they complained that they were hungry, and God gave them manna. At Raphidim, they complained that there was no water to drink, and God commanded Moses to strike the rock at Horeb. Moses obeyed, and water came from the stone. Aaron and his wife, Miriam, turned against Moses because he had taken an Ethiopian bride, and God punished Miriam by making her a leper. But Moses prayed for her, and God healed her.

In the Book of Numbers, God led the Israelites to the promised land, but their faith was so poor that they were afraid of the inhabitants. They defied God and refused to go forward. And so they wandered in the wilderness until all the defiant generation had passed away. God declared, “And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.” (Num. 14:33) Yet, Israel continued to sin at Taborah, Masa, and Kibaroth-Patalah (spellings?).

But this is not just the story of the Israelites. This is the story of us all. It is a microcosm of the sinful nature of us all. In Deuteronomy 9, God tells Moses that the other nations were not driven out of Canaan because of the righteousness of the Israelites. God drove them out because of the wickedness of those nations. God declared that the Israelites had no cause to be prideful “for you are a stiff-necked people.” And so are we all, all of us are “stiff-necked people” who cannot achieve our own salvation without God’s divine intervention. So long as we turn our backs on God, we will remain in the prisons of our own sinful natures. But freeing us from our prison, delivering us from the captivity of our sins is what God in Jesus Christ has been doing for generations and continues to do today.

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