By Stuart Powell
One of the most widely known Bible stories is Israel’s exodus from Egypt. We tend to frame the exodus as the nation’s permanent liberation from enslavement. The books of Exodus and Leviticus describe Israel’s journey during their first year after leaving Egypt. In Leviticus 25, God explained his plans for the Year of Jubilee as a time when property ownership was restored to the original Jewish recipient’s family and slaves were set free. God explained his reasons for this: “For to me the people of Isra’el are slaves; they are my slaves whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God” (Leviticus 25:55; all Scripture quotations are from the Complete Jewish Bible).
By means of the exodus, God won the battle that delivered Israel from Egyptian slavery. We are mistaken if we presume God released Israel from slavery. We see in this passage that God replaced Egypt as Israel’s master. God also did for the children of Israel what Egypt never intended to do. Because Israel adopted faith in God—as had Abraham—God adopted the Israelites as his children. He granted them an inheritance. God did not intend for his slaves to toil in endless servitude. God intended to give them a part in his plan of rebuilding the good of creation. God gave Israel the feast of Passover to remember the hope he purchased for them.
Flash forward several hundred years. In a manner similar to how God rescued Israel from Egypt, God also liberated every Christian from our slave master. Jesus won the battle at the cross to break the hold of sin and death on our lives. Paul wrote to the faithful in Rome,
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in relationship to righteousness; but what benefit did you derive from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end result of those things was death. However, now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you do get the benefit—it consists in being made holy, set apart for God, and its end result is eternal life (Romans 6:20-22).
Christians are God’s slaves of faith. We are also God’s children, joint heirs and participants in his plan of redemption through grace. Our enslavement does not follow the pattern of colonial Europe or modern traffickers. We have personal value to our Master, and he is lovingly devoted to us. Jesus gave the church of Christ the Lord’s Supper to remember the hope he purchased for us. The emblems on this table are memorials of that battle.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.