January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

SPIRITUAL FREEDOM: Lessons from the Exodus

SPIRITUAL FREEDOM: Lessons from the Exodus

Dr. C. T. Luiskutty

In every person there is an innate desire for freedom. Today there are only a few countries that are under the domination of foreign powers, yet many countries are under the oppressive rule of autocrats and people there do not have political freedom. Even in many countries with political freedom, people do not experience economic or religious freedom. We consider political freedom, economic freedom and religious freedom valuable, but the most priceless is spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom is a personal choice of individuals and cannot be guaranteed by the governments of this world or by political, economic or social systems. It is God-given and maintained by the individuals.

While some religions promise spiritual freedom as a result of many years of hard work or after many cycles of life, in Christian faith spiritual freedom is a free gift of God given to every one who believes in Jesus Christ. All that is required of man is to believe in Jesus Christ and receive by faith the gift of grace that is offered to him. Thus the first step of spiritual freedom is believing in Jesus Christ and receiving Him as one's Savior and Lord (John 1:12). As a result of this initial step the Holy Spirit takes residence in him and the Bible says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is spiritual freedom.  

Apostle Paul warns in Galatians 5:1 that a person who has been called in to freedom may lose it by his own choice. This can be illustrated with the example of Israel. Jacob and his sons came to Egypt voluntarily because their brother Joseph who was the ruler in Egypt at the time was willing to give them refuge from famine that was affecting the whole land. After a few generations, they became slaves to the Egyptian rulers. Under bondage, oppression and persecution they yearned for political freedom but did not have the muscle power to free themselves.  Therefore they cried out to their God Jehovah who heard their cry and sent Moses to deliver them. It took many miracles and plagues brought forth by God before the Pharaoh would let the people go. Even though they got freedom from Egyptian bondage, their journey to the Promised Land and its occupation was not smooth sailing.

In today’s society, many people are under the bondage of sin and, as a result, of harmful habits. By nature man is sinful and generally there is pleasure in sin. On one hand there is the oppression, pain and destruction of sin and an urge to get out of it and, on the other hand, there is the inability to escape sin and a desire to enjoy its temporary comfort and pleasures.  

In Biblical history we see that Israel was oppressed by the Egyptian slave masters with the approval of their ruler. They even attempted to limit their numbers through selective infanticide. Such cruelty is practiced in different ways in the present time, not only by totalitarian governments and dictators but even by so called free and civilized societies.  The basic reason behind such atrocious acts is the control of human mind and behavior by the “ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2). All human attempts to come out of such slavery usually fail.  In the case of Israel, when the torture and burden of labor became unbearable, Israelite people began to cry out to God and He responded. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering” (Exodus 3:7). Our God sees the misery of His creation which is in bondage to the devil and sin, listens when they cry out to Him in pain and is concerned about their suffering. It is this type of sincere crying before God that brings spiritual freedom.

God raised a man, Moses, to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and he was able to bring political freedom to them. However, spiritual freedom for all human beings could not be won by any ordinary or even extra ordinary human being. Man came under the bondage of sin because of his offense against God. No human penance is sufficient to erase the guilt, hurt and penalty of sin and close the gap between God and man.  All human efforts throughout history failed to win spiritual freedom. Thus God allowed His Son who is God by nature to become man incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ and sent Him as the deliverer of all mankind from the bondage of sin and its effects.  

At the direction of Jehovah, Moses performed a number of miracles to afflict Pharaoh and his people in order to force them to free Israel. But no miracle performed by Jesus would force the devil to free the people from the bondage of sin. It took the miracle of the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Deliverer Himself before the power of Satan and his stronghold on human race could be broken. And that is what happened on the Cross of Calvary. 

Even though Moses showed the way of escape to the people of Israel in Egypt, they had to perform an act of faith before they could be delivered. They had to kill a lamb and put its blood on the door frame in order to escape the death angel and win freedom from bondage. Similarly though freedom from sin is made available to all through the blood of Jesus Christ, it is appropriated only by those who believe in Him and His offering.  The rest continue to suffer and perish in the bondage of sin and its disastrous effects.

Israel was brought out of Egyptian bondage to embark on a journey to their promised land. They had many struggles in this journey through the wilderness. They faced lack of water, wondered how food would be provided, how they would be guided through the dangerous and unfamiliar terrain of the desert and how they would face the enemies on their route.  Many rebelled against God and their leaders time and again and as a result many perished before they reached their destination. But God always came to the rescue of those who would repent and listen to His commandments.

Freedom from Egypt does not mean a life without restrictions. Israelites were instructed to listen to Moses and they were given the Ten Commandments and other laws to follow.  They were intended to be a separated people with a different kind of lifestyle—a people that serves the only true and living God. Their place of worship should be erected according to the pattern God showed them, their mode of worship was as per strict rules, their food habits, interpersonal relationship and social life were to follow strict guidelines given by God. Even though they were set free from the slavery of the oppressive rule of Pharaoh and slave masters, they were still under strict rules and guidelines.  The people did not like the restrictions and some even preferred to go back to the old slavery.  

We can learn many lessons from the history of Israel. Our freedom from sin and Satan’s oppressive and destructive rule comes through Jesus Christ. However, we do not reach our destination immediately. There is a long journey ahead of us.  On the way there are many hurdles and enemies. Also the new life is with restrictions imposed by God in order to save us from great dangers with dire consequences. 

The spiritual journey means engagement in warfare and Paul warns the church to learn lessons from the history of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13, he wrote:

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”

We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.  And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the  culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be carefulthat you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not  let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 

Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage. But as they walked through the wilderness, their attitude, desire and actions became displeasing to God.  Most of them became idolaters, indulged in revelry, committed sexual immorality, tested God and grumbled.  The result was that God was not pleased in them and consequently almost all of them who started from Egypt perished on the way. Apostle Paul points to the history of Israel to warn the church against the lure of the world that could result in the loss of the spiritual freedom that was granted to them. There is pleasure in sin; following sinful addictive habits may give temporary benefits; the old lifestyle and business practices may have been profitable. Therefore there may be a temptation to return to such lifestyle as many Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt. Even though they came out of Egypt, Egypt and its attractions never came out of them. This might happen to Christians also. We need to bear in mind that the lure of sin has eternal consequences and thus overcome all such temptations and remain steadfastly in the spiritual freedom that we have been brought to.  We should also be willing to fight for the freedom—not only ours, but to bring others to this great experience.

In the present culture there are many pitfalls that await a believer. Sin appears in many attractive and overpowering forms. Jesus brought us out of Satan’s authority and set us free.  Now every believer must heed to Apostle Paul’s admonition, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

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