On a Memorial Day weekend, we naturally think of FREEDOM. We sing in the USA—
My country, ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain side
Let freedom ring.
The way that America now understands “LET FREEDOM RING” must grieve the One who sits on His throne in Heaven. Freedom from oppressors is advantageous and worthy of celebrating. God redeemed Israel out of bondage and delivered them from their taskmasters in Egypt. Then God gave them feasts by which to remember and celebrate their freedom from bondage. Their memorial celebrations teach that the secular is not to be separated from the sacred. Freedom from involuntary servitude is to be enjoyed!
But freedom from constraints, restrictions, laws, government, community, family and Yahweh is another thing— such freedom is idolatry. It is the fashioning of a god named FREEDOM in order to do whatever is right in one’s own eyes—to exalt self to the throne of life instead of God the Creator and Redeemer.
Yahweh redeemed and delivered Israel for service! His declaration is not a Declaration of Independence, but of SERVITUDE in Exodus 19:4-6—
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT—Exodus 21:1-23:33—are judgments given by God to show that He is intimately involved in the ongoing function of the law and order in Israel. They are not free to do as they please. Judges are to mediate but ultimately the law is in God’s hands and He hears the case. The judicial judgment is a Divine judgment. That’s why oaths are taken before the LORD. Exodus 22:11 asserts—
The issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the LORD that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property.
AN OATH BEFORE THE LORD is to call upon God to take vengeance on the person who gives false testimony.
There is a Divine concern for social justice. Caring for the poor, one’s family, respecting property, and helping one’s enemy are not understood as matters of SOCIOLOGY or even MORALITY; at the heart, they are THEOLOGICAL MATTERS.
Israel must be concerned about these things because God THE CREATOR has chosen to be concerned, not simply in giving these laws in the first place, but in attending to them in a personnel way. These laws are a part of divine agenda for the world. Hence, they are integral to the relationship that Israel has with God. The sphere of salvation is not some spiritual realm, removed from the mundane aspects of daily life.
Last time we explored the social significance of Exodus 21:1-6. Today, I want to dig into the deeper, spiritual significance of this passage—
These are the laws you are to set before them: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
But if the servant declares, `I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the door-post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
The last sentence—THEN HE WILL BE HIS SERVANT FOR LIFE—is at the key that unlocks the deeper spiritual meaning of this passage. We might write beside it SERVITUDE, NOT FREEDOM!
Certainly, that’s what Yahweh aspired from Israel! Their willingness to serve and obey Him for life was to be motivated by their love for Him. God would not violate the free will He has given to man. They had to make a choice. Israel was free to go their own way or they could choose to do God’s will and serve Him perpetually. Exodus 24:3 records—
When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”
Israel voluntarily bound themselves to perpetual servitude—over and over again the nation would break faith with God and suffer the consequences as transgressors of this law of voluntary servitude.
The deeper spiritual application of this law is the LORD JESUS CHRIST. Throughout Scripture Christ is identified as God’s Servant as well as the Servant of the Jews. For instance, Acts 3:26 declares—
God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.
Romans 15:8-9 says—
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.
Now turn in your Bibles to Philippians 2:5-8—
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Theologians call this passage THE KENOSIS—the self emptying of the Second Person of the Trinity— who voluntarily places Himself into submission of the will of the First Person of the Trinity—the Father—thereby becoming the Son of God as well as the Servant of God.
There was no obligation except love for the Father and the Church that moved Jesus to abandon the riches of heaven. Taking the subordinate position of Son in the Godhead—Jesus willingly surrendered His equality and became a Servant so that He could have the Church as His bride forever. Ephesians 5:25-27 says—
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Love led Him to Calvary! Love led Him to undertake a service that no law could lay upon Him. The pierced ear symbolized the humiliation, pain and suffering that was necessary to obtain His bride forever. Like the Hebrew master, who purchased a bride for his servant, God purchases a bride for Christ. The church of God, however, is purchased with Christ’s own blood.
Jesus voluntarily came down to earth, emptied Himself, and made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant and the marks of perpetual service.
He came to do the will of the Father, whatever that will might be. He never once did His own will, not even in the reception and salvation of sinners, though surely His loving heart, with all its affection plays a part. Still Christ only receives and saves as the Servant of the Father’s will. Jesus taught in John 6:37-39—
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
Jesus makes clear in John 6:44—
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Here we have a most interesting view of the servant-character of Christ. He, in perfect grace, holds Himself responsible to receive all who come to Him within the range of God’s will. That’s salvation from God side!
The flip side of salvation is that we are to be liked-minded with Christ. How could the wife and children of the Hebrew servant fail to love one who had voluntarily surrendered his liberty in order that he and they might be together?
And what is the love presented in Hebrew slave, compared with what shines from Christ? It led Him to think of us before the foundation of the world—to visit us in the fullness of time—to walk deliberately to the door-post—to suffer for us on the Cross, in order that He might raise us to companionship with Himself in His everlasting kingdom and glory.
Out of love for Him, we are to say, “I do not want to go free—I want to be Christ’s. Here’s my ear— pierce it Master!”
THE PIERCED EAR was A MARK—a sign of belonging to another. The apostle Paul asserts in Galatians 6:17 that he is a servant owned by the Lord Jesus—
Let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
Paul bore on his body evidence of what he had suffered for Christ. As slaves were often branded with their master’s name, so the apostle had the mark of Christ upon him in his numerous scars.
Paul is saying, “If you cause me trouble, you’re picking on my Master—Jesus, who owns me—the marks on my body are proof of His ownership!” This imagery reaches all the way back to the beginning when God MARKED Cain after He killed Abel. Genesis 4:10-15 records God’s dialogue with Cain—
The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
With this mark, Yahweh declared, “Cain belongs to me—if you kill him—you will have Me to deal with.” Marked Cain was a “walking sermon” on the grace of God and the tragic consequences of sin. Marked Cain was a picture of humankind—restless, hopeless, wandering, defeated!
God had told Cain, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Did Cain spend the rest of his life wandering? NO! He rebelled against God’s grace and built a city! Cain wanted to be free—free from God’s will and declared his independence in disobedience.
Cain’s rebellion foreshadows the people of the last days as they too will build a city—Babylon the Great—with the hope of freeing themselves from God during the Tribulation Period. Everyone who worships the beast and his image will receive his mark on the forehead or on the hand. Revelation 14:11 predicts their doom—
And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.
In contrast, 144,000 servants of God will receive a seal on the foreheads for protection from the Beast and God’s wrath.
The Scriptures contain many events that picture the last days. Man’s history is a series of cycles that repeat with new participants repeating the attitudes and actions of the past. Before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the LORD marked for deliverance those who loved Him. Ezekiel 9:3-6 reports—
Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.
Everyone bears an invisible mark—we either belong to and serve Satan or we have been purchased by God with the blood of Jesus and serve Him. Ephesians 1:13-14 affirms the CHRISTIAN’S MARK—
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
There will be no pity or compassion on Judgment Day for those who are not marked in Christ with the Holy Spirit. In Zechariah 11, the LORD God announces that in the end times there will be a “flock marked for slaughter” that He will not pity or spare.
THE PIERCED EAR is not only a mark of being owned, but also of voluntary servitude. It’s a paradox of the kingdom of heaven that the road to greatness is servanthood. Jesus asserted in Mark 10:44—
Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
This doctrine has been twisted and distorted under the guise of freedom and democracy. Americans idea of leadership is that the leader is servant to the polls. Take this past week’s incident of the Air Force Lieutenant given a general discharge for lying and adultery. Immediately, a poll was taken and over fifty percent said she should not have been discharged from the service for her insubordination. In the minds of many, that makes the decision of the officers wrong! Because we live in a free and democratic society, the leaders are to serve the whims of the people not lead. Certainly, when Clinton ran for President the first time, he advocated this brand of leadership and continues to make many of his decisions based on the polls.
Let’s go back and look at what Jesus said again in Mark 10:44-45—
Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus said look at Me—I am the example of a slave who serves all. There is no incident in Scripture where Jesus followed public opinion or a crowd or an individual. he disciples tried to put Jesus in a box and press their will on Him, but He rejected it every time. To the contrary, He always did His Father’s will. Yet, He was served!
We have distorted freedom! Today, our country is where the Book of Judges ends—
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
The Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant explicitly teach that an individual, family, neighborhood and nation are under God’s authority to rule and govern with His laws as Creator and Redeemer. We are not free to as we see fit! The Book of Judges seven times shows that when individuals believe that they are free do as they see fit God responds with judgment.
The secular was once shaped by the sacred, but today the sacred is abandoned in the name of FREEDOM to pamper SELF. The external and objective authority of God has been replaced with the internal and subjective authority of man.
What was once unseemly is now commonplace. What was once instinct is now truth. What was once feeling is now belief—leaving a system of no belief at all.
Once SELF-CONTROL was a virtue—indeed the crown of the fruit of the Spirit; now self-control is bondage. Without external and internal influences, man retreats into the emptiness of self. When external demands collapse, self is only left.
The American way of life may be the envy of the world, but the American version of happiness, it turns out, is quite lethal. America is a violent and disturbed country. Its teenagers have the highest suicide rate in the world; it leads the world in the consumption of drugs, legal and illegal, in addictions of various kinds, in divorce, in the occurrence of depressive illness, and in the marketing of a vast range of therapies to counteract these problems—all of which points to a vast underlying unhappiness.
Reasoned discourse has largely disappeared, literacy is plummeting, language has been reduced to the lowest common denominator, the core of values has disintegrated, the arts are degraded, the law is politicized, and politics trivialized—all giving expression to those darker reaches where people find release from their guilt, anxiety, and alienation from God in self.
The moral hedges that surround our collective life have been trampled down. Truth is dead and all that is left is raw and often violent nature, spewed forth in the name of liberty or self-expression.
In many churches, Pastors who preach the truth are not wanted. Under the guise of being a servant to all, the sheep lead the shepherd. Abortion and homosexuality are tolerable and even acceptable for the sake of freedom. It is no accident that the abortionists are called PRO-CHOICE.
Knowing how to be religious now means knowing how to MAKE IT in a pragmatic world that is decidedly hostile to absolute principles and transcendent authority of Scripture, and in consequence, is driven to seek meaning only is self-fulfillment.
The popular and heretical “self-esteem” doctrines advanced by Norman Vincent Peale and his disciple Robert Schuller have captured the minds and hearts of millions—feeding pride. Listen to what Schuller wrote in his book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (page 83)—
How is self-esteem acquired, dignity instilled, and emotional and spiritual wealth restored? The answer lies in the deceptively simple phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread, our crust of bread—life-sustaining ideas.”
These positive thoughts, fresh ideas, and new dreams are the beginning of the process of dignity-rejuvenation. God-given ideas will challenge and equip us to rise from poverty to pride. As we grasp the ideas, pursue the challenges, and realize success, we can discover the pride of earnership as well as the pride of ownership.
Folks that’s heresy—that’s of Satan, not God! Pride is the root of sin, that egoism which breeds self-centeredness, self-exaltation, self-will, self-sufficiency, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-glorying, and hence self-delusion with its ultimate fruit of self-frustration and self-despair. I warn you that watch Schuller you’re being deceived! He is wolf in sheep’s clothing!
In contrast to Schuller’s so-called life-sustaining ideas, is our Lord Jesus Christ, In His incarnation and obedience unto death, He dramatically illustrated what He taught—
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4).
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
Therefore, we are not surprised to read in Philippians 2:3-5—
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
You can follow the likes of a Schuller and ram humility aside by pride! Exalted and glorify self instead of God! But your search for self is simply incompatible with the pursuit of God and Christ’s explicit command in Luke 9:23—
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Our you among the Americans who cry, “I want to be free—to do as I see fit” And God says in our passage, “Friend, you have a choice! You are free to go and do as you see fit or if you love Me, put your ear to the door, let it be pierced and serve Me the rest of your life.” Paul puts it this way in Romans 12:1—
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship [or reasonable service].
True Christian service and living begins with personal dedication to the LORD. The Christian who fails in life is the one who has first failed at the doorpost, refusing to love and surrender completely to the Master The motive for dedication is LOVE. We do not serve Christ in order to receive grace and mercy; we already have them. We serve Him out of love and appreciation. Each day God wants our body, mind, soul—our love—for us to serve Him.
Are you marked in Christ with the seal of the Holy Spirit?
Are you a living sacrifice?
Is your ear pierced?
Who do you serve? Self or God?