Galatians 5:1 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE, we see God leading His people out and setting them free.
In the Old Testament, God tells Moses, “Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go” (Ex. 8:1).
In the New Testament, Jesus stands up in the synagogue, opens the book of Isaiah and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Lk. 4:18).
From the beginning, God’s desire for man was freedom. When God created Adam, He did not constrain his choices. Mankind has always possessed a free will.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:16-17).
When Adam’s will was put to the test, he failed, and surrendered his God-given freedoms. From that day forward, unredeemed man would be ruled by another, and his freedom would always be measured and doled out by those in authority over him.
Thankfully, out of His mercy and grace, God steps in from time to time and places a man in a leadership role to further His purpose and His plan. Joseph is a good example:
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are: You shall be over my house, and according unto your word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than you. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without you shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 41:39-44).
Joseph’s authority was absolute and universal, and there was no part of Egypt which he didn’t control. Surely Joseph’s leadership influenced and increased the degree of freedom of first generation Israel. The Bible says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).
God was with Joseph and He gave him the wisdom to guide Egypt through the predicted seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph kept the people of Egypt from starving, and for this they remembered him and his family for the rest of Joseph’s life.
But here’s where the story takes a sharp turn. The Bible says, “And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.” There is finality in that verse, as if it describes the end of an era.
Isn’t something similar taking place in the church today? True men and women of God of “that generation” are leaving us—leaders who possess real Bible faith; patriarchs with the spiritual grit to stand against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Look around, church. There are too few left who know how to touch God through the kind of prayer that moves mountains—the kind that keeps right on asking, and seeking, and knocking. The kind of Christian that never, ever quits.
When Joseph died, the Bible says, “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.”
According to my husband, this new king knew exactly who Joseph was. Since he came to power about 60 years after Joseph’s death, he was well aware of Joseph’s leadership and successes during Egypt’s now infamous harvest and famine. This verse in Exodus 1 means that the king had no regard for Joseph—he didn’t care about him or his God.
Compare that attitude with leaders in today’s modern church. They, too, are aware of the Josephs in the church, past and present, but they have no regard for them. Some will acknowledge as far back as Azusa Street and move forward through the great tent revivals, the waves of miraculous healings, and the massive crusades that drew tens of thousands toward salvation and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Preachers today recall the harvests of the past, but fail to discern the spiritual famine happening in their own churches. They want the results of Joseph, but they don’t want to put in the time with God to reap them.
Before Joseph died, the Bible says the children of Israel “were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” So the new king had a problem on his hands. He didn’t realize that God’s promise to Abraham was unfolding on his watch or that a new nation—Israel—was growing at an alarming rate. Threatened, the king did what ungodly rulers do: he wore down their freedoms to nothing.
The children of Israel were not enslaved overnight; it happened in stages. The king garnered support from his people and took the first step, which was to set taskmasters over them to “afflict them with their burdens.”
In his commentary, Matthew Poole says these taskmasters, or masters of tribute, “Were to exact from them the tribute required, which was both money and labor; that their purses might be exhausted by the one, their strength by the other, and their spirits by both.”
Yet even in this affliction, the Israelites continued to multiply and grow, which “grieved” the Egyptians.
According to my husband, this word grieved really expresses “a mixture of loathing and alarm.” Out of hate and fear, the Egyptians clamped down harder on the children of Israel and made them serve with “rigour,” which means “to break in pieces or crush.”
When this didn’t stop their expansion, the Egyptians pressed harder.
“And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour” (Ex. 1:14).
This same pattern is true of the world and the church today. Our Egypt—the world—loathes Christians. Actually, it’s Him they hate—the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13)
Any person, organization, or group that is antichrist wants His followers to lead bitter lives with hard bondage. They want to self-appoint themselves as taskmasters. And just as the children of Israel allowed themselves to become enslaved, so has the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It didn’t happen overnight. It started with afflictions like these that stung the spirit and drained the purse:
Afterward comes the rigour (the hate):
- A high school coach loses his job after praying for his team on the football field.
- A county clerk is jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
- A teacher faces suspension for calling homosexuality a sin.
But the bitter bondage, that takes time. In recent decades, we’ve seen millions of unborn babies murdered, young children taught to question their gender, marriage redefined, and God pushed completely off the campuses of our public schools. Had the church at large not been so weak when these national sins surfaced, it would never have allowed them to harden into the brick and mortar laws we have today.
- A gunman sits through a Bible study before killing several people in a church.
- The vice president’s Christian faith is likened to “mental illness” on national TV.
- Crosses are removed from public parks and monuments etched with the Ten Commandments are vandalized.
For too long, Christians have forfeited their God-given freedoms and allowed themselves to be shackled in silence by those aggressively pushing an antichrist agenda. Why is that?
Both situations involving the children of Israel and the church beg this question: How did they allow themselves to get into such bondage?
My husband addresses this in his commentary on Exodus: “[God] allowed them to be reduced to slavery so they would want to leave. Had they continued as they were during the time of Joseph, actually having the best of the land, and being treated as royal guests, there is no way they would have left Egypt. They had to be reduced to abject slavery, and the worst kind at that, before they were ready to leave. As someone has well said, man will seldom carry out the will of God until it’s in his own personal interests to do so.”
It’s true. When the children of Israel got tired of slavery, they started looking for a deliverer. God gave them Moses, who would tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go.”
God gave us the Lord Jesus Christ who led captivity captive, and liberated the souls in paradise who died before the Cross. After the Cross and His resurrection, Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
Christ restored our God-given freedoms through His finished work at Calvary. In John 8:36 we read, “If the Son therefore shall make you free (Christ alone can make one free, and He does so through and by what He did at the Cross, and our faith in that finished work), you shall be free indeed (a freedom which the world cannot give and, in fact, doesn’t even understand)” (The Expositor’s Study Bible).
My husband says liberation by Jesus Christ not only frees us from sin, but also from the fear of man and what man can do to us. So what are we waiting for, church? What are we, as believers, to do with this freedom?
Exactly what Adam should have done with his: use it to surrender our will to the will of God—that’s where true freedom reigns.