Kevin DeYoung / Jan 15, 2017 / Exodus 21:1-11
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
Let’s pray. Oh Lord, your word says that you oppose the proud, but give grace to the humble. I ask that you would give me a humble heart as I preach. May my aim not be to be thought clever, but that Christ would be exalted. We ask that you would give all of us a teachable spirit, that we might listen well. Shape us, transform us, rebuke us, and refine us according to your word. In Christ we pray, amen.
As we continue through the covenant code that God gave to his people—” the Book of the Covenant”, as it’s called in Exodus 24:7—Moses is still on the mountain and God is speaking to him. God has given him the Ten Commandments, and now this book of the covenant, that he might in turn instruct the people.
“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money. Exodus 21:1-11
So, what are we going to do with this passage? Even though Moses is still up on the mountain, these instructions feel like a downer. We’ve had the grandeur of the Ten Commandments, the pyrotechnics on Sinai, and the people fearing and trembling before the Lord—and after all of that, we now have laws about slavery.
This is not only a section of the Bible we are likely to skim, but one that we may not particularly like upon the first reading. Part of the problem is that when we read “slavery”, we probably have pictures in our minds of movies and television shows like Roots, Amistad, 12 Years a Slave, and Glory. While we need to be aware of the slavery in our past, it isn’t all that helpful for understanding what Israel understood by “slavery” in Exodus 21.
Let’s start with a little history. Slavery, in its various forms, has been a near-constant throughout human history. We know the cruelties associated with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 16th through 19th centuries, but we’re less familiar what slavery looked like elsewhere. For instance, a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates from over the same time period. During the Middle Ages, the Slavic people (or “Slavs”) were so frequently indentured by other Europeans (and sometimes Muslim countries) that they coined the word “slave” from Slav. Slavery existed among Asians and Polynesians in China and India, among Africans, and in the Western Hemisphere long before Europeans arrived.
For most of history, people tended to enslave those who were like them. Asians enslaved Asians. Africans enslaved Africans. People in the Western Hemisphere enslaved others in the Western Hemisphere. Europeans enslaved Europeans. At times during the Middle Ages, Christians were enslaved by stronger Muslim nations, but (by and large) it was not until the modern colonial period that slavery began to take on racial hues. In particular, it was when white Europeans settled in the Americas and began enslaving black Africans in large numbers that slavery took on a racial cast. It’s not true across the board, but (in many ways) you could say that racism is a result, rather than a cause, of slavery.
By the beginning of the American colonies, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was the a vital link connecting Europe, North Africa, and North and South America. Nearly 11 million Africans in total (more than the current population of Michigan) landed in the Americas as slaves. Usually, they were enslaved and sold by other Africans—sometimes on their own initiative, and sometimes on that of European firms. The most common point of disembarkation was Brazil. 4.8 million slaves went there. The next most common ports were the British Caribbean, Spanish America, the French Caribbean, and mainland North America (in that order). It’s estimated that 388,000 slaves landed here over the course of the slave trade.
Thus, the slave population in America was largely due to reproduction. By the 1860 census, there were 4 million slaves in the United States. While the severity of the slavery varied from place to place—some were somewhat familial arrangements, while others were extremely cruel—the fact is that it existed because people were forcibly taken, sold, and transported, or raised against their will to be slaves. I hope that we can all agree that slavery is a blight on our nation’s history, and that the racial animus it produced continues to have large, lingering effects.
I give all of that history, in part, because tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In God’s providence, we’re preaching on slavery this Sunday. Next Sunday, Lord willing, I’ll come to the rest of Exodus 21. In other words, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I’ll be preaching about the law regarding those who injure a child in the womb. God has providential ways of ordering these things, at times.
I also gave that history so that we don’t automatically read our history into Israel’s. “Slavery” in the ancient world could refer to a variety of economic relationships. In fact, the Hebrew word used here is the word “’ebed”, which could refer to a slave, a servant, a bond-servant, or even an employee.
Let me show you something in your Bibles that you’ve probably never looked at before: the preface to the ESV. This should be in your pew bibles. In my Bible, it’s in the preface on page IX. If it’s not there, I apologize, but I think most of our Bibles will have it. Anyway, they give some insight into their translation principles regarding specialized terms:
Third, a particular difficulty is presented when words in biblical Hebrew and Greek refer to ancient practices and institutions that do not correspond directly to those in the modern world. Such is the case in the translation of ‘ebed (Hebrew) and doulos (Greek), terms which are often rendered “slave.” These terms, however, actually cover a range of relationships that require a range of renderings — either “slave,” “bondservant,” or “servant” — depending on the context. Further, the word “slave” currently carries associations with the often brutal and dehumanizing institution of slavery in nineteenth-century America. For this reason, the ESV translation of the words ‘ebed and doulos has been undertaken with particular attention to their meaning in each specific context. Thus in Old Testament times, one might enter slavery either voluntarily (e.g., to escape poverty or to pay off a debt) or involuntarily (e.g., by birth, by being captured in battle, or by judicial sentence). Protection for all in servitude in ancient Israel was provided by the Mosaic Law. Preface to the English Standard Version
That explains what scholars and translators are dealing with with this word. There are a wide range of meanings here.
The same thing is true for the word used here for “master”: the word “baal”. When you see it later on in your Bible, it’s probably rendered as “Ba’al”, the statue. It was the name of a god, but it was also a Hebrew word that simply meant “master”, “owner”, “lord”, or “boss”.
Even if “‘ebed” is rendered as “slave” (as it is in Exodus 21), it’s not as though the Mosaic law encourages the practice of slavery. This is where we need to think very carefully. It’s true that the Old Testament doesn’t condemn slavery, but neither does it commend it. We might wish that there would be an the eleventh commandment saying, “You shall not have slaves,” but it doesn’t do that. Neither does it say, “The way to prosper is to get slaves, so let me tell you how good that’ll be.” What the Law does instead is constrain it.
It’s similar to how the Old Testament speaks of polygamy. We know that God made Adam and Eve in the beginning—one man; one woman. Yet polygamy was rampant in the ancient world; we see evidence of it all through the Old Testament. The Bible doesn’t outright condemn the practice, but neither does it commend it. Instead, it constrains it.
Divorce is similar. Jesus said, “Moses gave you the laws about divorce because of the hardness of your hearts. This is not the way that God wants things to be, but it is the reality.” So the Old Testament gave constraints.
Given the realities of the surrounding cultures around Israel, the Mosaic law actually made slavery more humane for slaves and less desirable for owners.
Let’s look at this passage in detail. There are two paragraphs: first, laws for male slaves (vv. 1-6); and second, laws for female slaves (vv. 7-11). You’ll notice the beginning of Old Testament case law here. The Ten Commandments are written by the hand of God, and they’re given with absolute moral authority. Now we have a different kind of law. You can see this case law unfolding, through the recurrence of the words “when”, “whoever”, and “if”:
When you buy a Hebrew slave… Exodus 21:2a
When a man sells his daughter as a slave… Exodus 21:7a
“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies… Exodus 21:12a
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother… Exodus 21:15a
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it… Exodus 22:1a
“If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field… Exodus 22:5a
This is case law: “If this happens, do this. When this takes place, here’s the appropriate law. If anyone does this, let me give you some stipulations.” These are meant to give examples of how God’s principles could be applied to ancient Israel.
Laws for Male Slaves
The passage begins with laws about Hebrew slaves. Notice how verse 2 speaks of buying a Hebrew slave. There’s a contrast drawn between them and foreigners, who could be taken as spoils of war. Hebrews could become slaves to another Hebrew only under certain conditions.
It could be a punishment for wrongdoing. Exodus 22:2 speaks of a thief breaking in, and then verse 3 says, “He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” So one legal penalties was being a slave.
You could also be sold by your parents. That may sound like an absolutely cruel thing for a parent to do, but it was actually done to try to give a son or (usually) a daughter a chance at a better life. “We can’t provide for you, so we’ll entrust you to this person of greater wealth. That may allow you to have some things that we can’t give you.” It was seen as an act of mercy, in most instances.
Leviticus 25 also speaks of people selling themselves into slavery. Why would you do that? Because you have no other options. If you were up to your eyeballs in debt, and couldn’t pay off your creditor—if you were destitute, impoverished, and starving—you could sell yourself as a slave.
Slaves were largely local agrarian workers. The first instruction God gives is that after 6 years, male slaves shall go free, so it’s not all that different from signing a binding 6-7 year contract with an employer. That’s not identical, but it’s analogous to that.
Slaves were considered part of the household. Back in Genesis 17, when God established the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, he said that this covenant is for “Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money…” They were to be brought in and considered as members of your household, not as property.
Note that the very first thing the Mosaic law says about slavery is to give a statement about how and when you go free. It doesn’t say, “Let’s talk about slavery. Here’s how much you should pay for them and where you can get the best ones.” No, it says, “Let’s talk about when your slaves get to leave.” It’s analogous to someone who signs up for the military. He signs up for so many years, and he owes them that. The military is going to provide him something—paying off debts, paying for schooling, or giving him a sum of money—but in return, he owes them that number of years of active service.
We see examples of this type of arrangement in Genesis, even among family members. Remember how Jacob worked seven years for Laban in order to gain the right to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel. There’s an instance where he serves, and gets his payment in the seventh year (I’m not viewing Rachel as a product to be given, but the right to marry her was). Of course, Laban tricks him, giving him Leah instead of Rachel. Then Laban says, “Well, if you work another seven years, I’ll give you Rachel.” But he allows him to marry her after seven days, as long he commits to work for those seven years.
Incidentally, this type of transaction led to the chief form of economic injustice in the Old and the New Testaments. You can make sense of Jesus’ parable about the master getting laborers for his vineyard, or of what James says about the wages of the workers “crying out against you”, if you understand how this works. Whether it involved day laborers, someone hired for the harvest, or the kind of servant that you had for 6-7 years, sinful and evil people would hire the worker and agree to the terms. Then, once they did the work, the employer would say, “No, I’m not going to give it to you.” The work is done. What can you do? They’re powerful; you’re lowly. You probably have no recourse. That’s the chief example of economic injustice in the Old Testament.
Back in Exodus 21, we see a basic principle: if the man comes in single, he leaves single. If he comes in married, he leaves married. There is a catch, in verse 4: “If his master gives him a wife…” So his master has purchased a female slave, and he gives this woman to the man. Then they have children, but they don’t get to leave together. You may think, “Well, that doesn’t seem very fair,” but it’s trying to protect the owner and his investment from the way in which slaves would try to game the system. You’d have a male slave who was coming up on the seventh year and a female slave who had just been purchased, and had six more years to go. They would say, “Well, if we get married and have kids, then you’ll get to get out of here in six months, since we have to go together.” So the Mosaic law says that that’s not how it works.
You may think, “Well, that’s cruel. That splits up a family,” but that wouldn’t have to be the end of the situation. Once the man was free, he would be able to save and redeem his family, if he could pay for their redemption. Or, he could wait for his wife’s term of service to end. There’s a different law given in Deuteronomy about women who were slaves, not for marrying their masters, but for service, so it’s possible that she could be released. Or, he could choose to join his family and stay. That’s what we see in verse 5:
But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free…’ Exodus 21:5
Our Western way of thinking is “Come on, man! Get some self respect and dignity. You’re not a slave!” But when you understand that “‘ebed” can mean “servant” or “employee”, you understand why he might say, “You know what? You’ve brought me in for six years. You treated me well when I had nothing. You’ve taught me a trade and helped me to understand the harvest. Now I have food, a home, and a wife and kids. I don’t want to leave.”
There’s a ceremony that follows that declaration. Part of the reason for this ceremony is to mitigate against a man making a rash vow in a moment of emotional anguish. There’s a process: “You need to think this through. Are you sure this is what you want to commit to?”
First, the master would bring him to God. This is probably a reference to those who stand in the place of God (perhaps the judges or the elders of the city). So he’s making this promise “before God and these witnesses”, just like in a marriage. Then the master would bring him to a doorpost, likely of the sanctuary that would later be built, and there bore his ear through with an awl. That sounds strange, but it symbolizes, “I belong to my master, and I will listen to him. Just as I have been pierced through in my ear, so may I be pierced through in my heart if these ears don’t listen to him. I love him, and he treats me well, so I want to stay there and live with him and my family.” The blood of the covenant would then literally be marked on the doorpost of the sanctuary.
It all hinges on that word in verse 5: love. “I love my master. I love my wife. I love my children.” It’s like Ruth and Naomi. When Naomi says, “Go, I don’t have any more sons for you,” Ruth says, “No, I love you. Where you go, I will go. Your gods are my gods. I don’t want to go.” Or like the disciples: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
I don’t think it’s overspiritualizing the text to ponder for a moment whether we have this sort of relationship with Christ. I’m thinking of all of the young people here—both kids and college students. As you grow up, your mom and dad make you go to church. It’s not quite slavery, but it feels like that sometimes. You have to go. They drag you. You might as well have a big old hole in your ear from how many times they’ve pulled you by it. You’re there, and you don’t want to be there, but you have to do it. Has there been a time where you’ve had this moment in verse 5? “You know, I can do what I want to do, but I love my master. I love Christ. I want to do this. I want to go to church, read my Bible, and serve Jesus.”
Everyone tells me that kids grow up so fast. They always say, “Enjoy it. The years go by so fast.” I say, “I believe you, but the days are so long.” But I know that, right around the corner, my sons and daughters will be free to do what they want to do. They won’t have mom and dad there to look over their shoulder and get them out of bed. They can say, “Well, noon’s a good time to get up.” They’ll have to make their own decisions. What will they decide?
I wonder even about some of us adults. Maybe we’ve been going through the same motions for years. Maybe you only relate to God as a cowering slave, not as a son or daughter—not as someone who says, “I could go elsewhere, but I love Christ. I’m so irresistibly drawn to him that I love to serve and live for him.” Have you made that your own, just like the slave here in Exodus 21?
Laws for Female Slaves
Then we come to verse 7, and the laws for female slaves. A female slave doesn’t get to go free after six years, at least in this instance. There’s another stipulation in Deuteronomy where certain ones would, but here she doesn’t. You may think, “Well, that’s not very fair. Is the Bible sexist?” But there’s more going on here. The woman, in this instance, wasn’t purchased as a piece of property, but with a kind of dowry payment, that she might be a wife or concubine for a master or his son. Marriage has more permanence than servitude. Again, you wouldn’t sell your daughter as a slave to get rich quick, but in hopes that it might be a way for her to have a better life.
There are a number of scenarios listed in which the female slave can be released. First, in verse 8: “If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself…” He’s purchased her to be his wife. If he’s not pleased and breaks faith with her, verse 8 says that she can be redeemed by one of her own people. The master was not to sell her to a foreigner or ship her off somewhere. So the Mosaic law has in mind her well-being, since one of her own people could redeem her.
The second scenario is given in verse 9: “If he designates her for his son…” A master could purchase this female slave and give her to his son in marriage. In that case, she became a daughter. She was not a slave, but was part of their family.
The third scenario is in verse 10: “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights.” There were three things that a master was obligated to provide to a female slave who became his wife: food, clothing, and conjugal rights. In fact, some scholars argue that these are the things the New Testament has in mind when it says that divorce is permitted upon desertion of an unbelieving spouse. What is desertion? That’s one of the messiest things that pastors and elders ever have to wrestle through. Is the person actually gone? Do you have any idea where they are? Is physical abuse tantamount to desertion?
I think you can make the argument that this is simply providing a category. If a husband is no longer providing, protecting, and having intimacy with his wife, she is to go free. He has broken covenant, and she goes out for nothing—without payment. There’s no redemption price. She just gets to go free because he has broken his covenant with her. These three scenarios are the laws related to female slaves.
Before we finish by looking at what the New Testament trajectory does to these rules, let me quickly mention four other verses that will help provide shape to these laws about slavery. Look at verse 16:
“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death. Exodus 21:16
Right there, in the Mosaic law, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was forbidden. You couldn’t steal people and sell them. What we’re dealing with in Exodus 21 are people who are slaves because of punishment, who offer themselves, or whose parents offer them. This is not man-stealing.
Remember when we went through the eighth commandment a few months ago. We saw Paul start listing examples of breaking the Ten Commandments in 1 Timothy 1. When he got to the eighth commandment (“Do not steal”), he uses the word “enslavers”. To enslave people, to steal them, was an infraction of the eighth commandment.
So let’s go to another verse:
“When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth. Exodus 21:26-27
We have in our minds those gruesome pictures of African-American slaves, with the scars and the lash marks on their backs. They turn your stomach. Well, the Mosaic law has no place for that. It says, “If strike your slave, he goes free.” This is not purchasing someone to treat as your chattel and abuse as you see fit. This is someone who comes into your household for a period of years (if he’s a male slave), and then goes free.
Turn over to the book of Deuteronomy. Let me show you two other passages. Look at Deuteronomy 15.
“If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. Deuteronomy 15:12-15
Not only does the slave get to go free in the seventh year, but the owner is instructed to not let him go away empty handed: “He worked for you all of these years. Make sure that he’s given something from the grain, the harvest, the flock, and the winepress. Don’t let him go out destitute.”
Let me show you one other passage. This one is almost shocking:
“You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him. Deuteronomy 23:15-16
That’s amazing. If you know anything about the history of the Civil War, you know that one of the precipitating factors was the fugitive slave laws, which tried to make slavery accessible in all of the states and territories. You had to bring back any runaway slaves. This is the exact opposite. It says that if you found a fugitive slave who escaped from his master, and he comes to you, don’t bring him back. Let him settle with you and be a part of your community.
That’s why I said at the very beginning that the Mosaic law makes this common practice of slavery more humane and (at the same time) less desirable for the master. You have to think, “I’m going to purchase this slave. He’s going to work with me, and then he’s going to go free. When he goes free, I’m going to have to provide for him as he leaves, and if he escapes at any time, he’s free to go.”
I’m not trying to paint too rosy of a picture of this, but we don’t want to read all of our associations into it. This was a very different law and very different mechanism. In large part, this is giving someone who’s absolutely destitute a second chance in life. “I don’t know where to turn. I’ll sell myself to a fellow Hebrew. I’ll be a slave, and work for him. In the seventh year, I’ll go free, and in those six years, I’ll learn how to do something. I won’t leave empty handed. I’ll get a second chance on my life.” So, though the Mosaic Law does not come out and condemn slavery, it greatly restrains it and humanizes it.
The New Testament Approach
Then we come finally to the New Testament. How does the New Testament approach slavery? It both undermines slavery as a physical reality and underlines it as a spiritual reality. Let me just read to you from the little book of Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner, and here’s what Paul wrote to him:
Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. Philemon 8-10
Onesimus was Philemon’s servant—his slave. He got to know Paul, and Paul led him to the Lord.
(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 11-16
Do you see what Paul is doing? Philemon’s a Christian, and Paul says, “Your slave has become a Christian also. I led him to Christ.” Surely he must have this Mosaic provision from Deuteronomy 3 in mind. This is, in a sense, a fugitive slave. “I don’t have to send him back to you, Philemon,” Paul says. “I could tell you what you should do, but I’ll let you come to that decision on your own.”
Every husband knows what this is like from his wife: “No, if you want to go out and watch the game tonight with all of your friends and leave me alone with the kids, that’s fine. Whatever you decide, okay?” In other words, “You’d better come to the right decision without me telling you the right decision.” So Paul says, “I could tell you what to do, but I’m not going to do that. He’s become a brother. I want you to think, Philemon. I’m sending him to you, and when I do so, I’m sending my very heart. I love this man. I’m sending him to you, and I want you to receive him, but not just as a servant. Receive him as something more: as a brother.” You see how Paul is undermining the reality of physical slavery. He says, “Don’t take him back as a slave. Take him back as a brother in Christ. Now he’ll truly be useful to you.”
The New Testament also underlines slavery as a spiritual reality. This is the argument of Romans 6: “You were once slaves to sin and ever-increasing wickedness. God broke those chains asunder, and now you’re slaves of Christ and ever-increasing righteousness.**
What was that Bob Dylan song—“Gotta Serve Somebody”?
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody Gotta Serve Somebody – Bob Dylan
The great reality, which is already hinted at in the Old Testament, and made clear in the New, is that our most egregious slavery is that to sin, and we’re set free from it by Christ. Now we have allegiance to a loving Lord and Master.
Let me point something out that you may not have noticed (I’m not sure I even noticed it before): Exodus is not mainly a story about freedom. With our Westernized, American sensibilities, we think of it as: “They’re oppressed and enslaved, and they’re going to have freedom!” That’s one part of it, and that’s the native tongue of an American: freedom and liberty.
But that’s not exactly how the Exodus is described by Moses. Remember when Moses goes before Pharaoh and says those famous words: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let my people go…’”? We forget what comes after that: “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” Exodus is about the transfer of allegiance from one master to another.
In our culture, freedom is the ability to do whatever we want. In the Bible, freedom is the ability to do what we should. Exodus is not saying, “Let me give you an experience of autonomy.” It’s saying, “Let me give you the gift of the transfer of authority. You were serving Pharaoh, and I’m going to set you free, that you may serve me.” They were redeemed, repurposed, and bought with a price.
You remember the end of Braveheart? (parenthetically, it’s a violent movie with some bad parts. Parental discretion advised) Anyway, Mel Gibson is literally getting his guts ripped out, not to ruin the movie. He’s laying there, with his giant Adam’s apple sticking up, and he yells out that guttural cry: “Freedom!” That’s what the movie is about. William Wallace is leading the Scots to be free from the English. “Freedom!” is a very Western, American way to put it.
But if you want to tell the story biblically, the guttural cry is, “Redemption!” We’re redeemed—transferred from one lord to another. It’s not to some kind of absolute autonomy, but to finally having a Lord and a master—one who loves you and leads you to say, just like this slave in verse 5, “I don’t want to go. I love my master, and he loves me.”
Did you ever wonder what David was talking about in Psalm 40?
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:6-8
David’s thinking like a slave who wants to stay with his master: “You don’t desire sacrifice and offering. That’s not ultimately what you’re about, Lord. You want my obedience. You want my heart. You want my ears pierced through with that awl onto the doorpost, to say, ‘I’ll listen to my master. I am his and he is mine.’”
Brothers and sisters, what is your only comfort in life and in death? That you are not your own. That’s anti-everything-in-the-world. The world tells you that your battle cry of freedom is, “I am my own.” But the gospel says that your greatest freedom is found when you realize that you are not your own, and you can say from the depths of your heart, “God, I’m yours.” It’s that simple and that radical. Of all the competing allegiances, all sins that want to entangle us, all the temptations, and all the snares, we say, “No, God. I’m yours. I love my master, and I want to stay forever.”
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, thank you for your kindness to us. Thank you for all of Scripture, which was breathed out for our edification (though some passages are harder than others). Teach us, Lord. Show us your heart. Show us our sins, and bring us again and again to our great Redeemer. In his name, amen.
Transcription and editing provided by 10:17 Transcription
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