Remembering Slavery

One of the most interesting things about reading through the Old Testament is how repetitive the theme of slavery is. Over and over again, the inspired writers remind and recount the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt; the way that God split the sea so that they could walk through it; dashed the Egyptians who pursued them; fed them; led them; chose them.

Then the refrain. Israel sinned. They despised God. Over and over again. They were disobedient and tested God. The chosen people refused to honor the God that freed them from slavery.

Exodus 19:3-6 shows in clear words what God’s intentions were for his people: “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:  ‘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.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Yet, they didn’t. While Moses was on the mountain Sinai, the people decided to make a golden calf to worship. Even Aaron, their priest, leading Levite, and brother of Moses participated in the idolatry and revelry. Yet, God did not leave them or abandon them, but over and over again he forgave their sins.

Asaph wrote in Psalm 78:38: “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.”

As New Testament Christians, we have the same grace from Jesus, our God-king, who is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”. We sin daily; our leaders in churches that claim to be Christian veer to the left and right without maintaining each word of the inspired bible as “God-breathed.” Our homes and families turn into chaos and war-zones. We leave God and turn to our own ways over and over again. We do not forgive; and hold on to the pain of past hurts.

Yet, that is not where God leaves us. He switches our focus – asking our spirits to look back to Egypt, his unfaithful people, and the way in which God remained faithful to them. In many ways, we were those Old Testament slaves in Egypt without God. Miraculously, God chose us and enlightened us with his gospel through the words of the Bible. And now we are redeemed children of God. Yet, we each have Adam’s unfaithful bones in our bodies. We return to our former ways and leave God. Yet, just as God repeatedly turned the Old Testament descendants of Abraham back toward the wonders and unearned love of God for his chosen people, we remember a parting of a different Red Sea.

The sea that we Christians focus on now, is the sea of blood that poured forth for the forgiveness of the sins of the children born to Adam and Eve. God executed his only son, splitting apart his skin, banging nails in his flesh, and allowing his blood to flow red and warm down his arms. This was the ultimate act of love: God loved sinners, we his enemies, enough to die for us.

When we are plagued with sins and when we feel overwhelmed by how often we have been unfaithful to God, we have a miracle of God’s love to look to. We have the cross, where God died – defeating death and sin for us, and we have the resurrection, where God proved that because Jesus lives, we, too, shall live with him forever. God’s Old Testament miracle of freeing the Israelites from the bondage of slavery pales in comparison with the freedom that God has given us through Jesus’ death on the cross and our New Testament “Red Sea” of forgiveness.

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