My five-year-old is absolutely precious, but he’s the kid that makes my stomach draw up in knots when he opens his mouth to speak. I just never know what he’s going to say. He is definitely overflowing with life and mischief.
Our house was too quiet one day last week, so I began to search for him. He suddenly slipped around the corner nonchalantly with his hands in his pocket. When I asked what he was doing, he simply replied, “Oh, you know me, Mama, just living my life trying not to get a whuppin’!”
I laughed and thought of how accurate that is of him. But sadly, that’s also true of many Christians today and the vast majority of people. My children and I have been studying in depth the first five books of the Bible for some time now, and it’s unbelievable how many times the Israelites succumbed to the same pattern of sinful behavior for so many years.
First, their idolatry brought bondage. When the bondage became unbearable or paralyzing fear set in, they would repent. God would bring deliverance then rest. Once they realized they weren’t going to “get a whuppin’” they would repeat the process.
It’s easy for us to be judgmental and think how ignorant they were to turn their back on the God who had rescued them countless times and performed miracles before their very eyes. We’re tempted to call them crazy for choosing man-made idols over a living God. But are we so different?
We live in a nation filled with idols. No, they aren’t made of gold, wood, or stone and we don’t see people bowing to them in the streets. However, we do see the majority of American’s heads bowed to their phones everywhere they go. We see families choose sports over church. We see money rule the hearts of men. We see parents worship their children and children worship their parents. Drug and porn addiction is a sad reality in the lives of many. Toxic relationships poison the hearts of good people, demand their full attention, and lead them astray. Alcohol possesses power over the weak.
God graciously stepped in and gave the Ten Commandments as a gift to the rebellious Israelites and to all who would follow, to ensure peace in the lives of God’s people. The very first command states that we should have “no other gods” and is number one for a reason, but it’s the one we most often overlook. Once this command has been broken and we cast our Savior to the side, we become vulnerable to be broken over the remaining nine when our idols and gods take control of our lives.
We, too, live as Israelites and enjoy our time of idolatry as long as things are going well. We will blindly fall into bondage and never even realize it until we’ve hit rock bottom or become fearful that our sins will find us out. Many will truly repent and seek their Savior with passion and conviction and never return to their chains, but many will casually ask for forgiveness and once our merciful God grants deliverance and rest they will return to their wicked ways.
It has been noted that Abraham Lincoln happened upon a slave auction where he saw a beautiful African-American woman on stage to be sold. The auctioneer paraded her around showing her off as a prized possession. When men began to bid on her, Abraham Lincoln also began to bid. He eventually outbid them all and was handed the young woman as his new property. He could see the anger and distrust in her eyes. As he led her away from the sinful auction and filthy people, he looked at her and said, “You’re free.”
“What does that mean?” She replied.
“It means you’re free,” he gently said.
“Do you mean free to say what I want to say and be what I want to be? I can go where I want to go?”
“Yes,” he said smiling. “You are free. Now, where will you go?”
Tears welled in her grateful eyes as she gazed up at him. “I believe I’ll go with you, sir.”
Though Lincoln was an imperfect man, this illustrates clearly how our perfect Savior rescued us from sin and eternal death. We were bought at a price because He loves us and desires for us to be freed from our slavery to sin.
I believe once a person, truly meets their Deliverer face to face they will no longer be haunted by the thought of escaping a whuppin’. Their focus will fully be on the One who set them free. Their repentance will be genuine and their service will be steadfast.
Mary Magdalene fits this. Most believe that she was a prostitute or an adulteress (though there are no biblical references affirming this). When Jesus found her, she was at her lowest, darkest point. Her life had no quality. She was a slave to demons that had overtaken her body. The Bible says that there were seven demons, in fact. The number seven means “completeness.” This poor woman had been completely enslaved. Her daily suffering and struggle were beyond comprehension.
We are not given the details of Jesus’ first encounter with her; however, I believe once He cast the demons out, He looked into her eyes and called her by name. A moment that she would never forget.
After her Master freed her from her chains, she devoted her life to following Christ and never left His side. She never forgot the day she was rescued. She believed in His ministry because she was living proof of His love. She had no need to turn to other gods because she knew the one, true God. Her deliverance from bondage brought true, lasting freedom and nothing was worth compromising her relationship with Jesus.
Not only was she faithful to Jesus, Jesus was faithful to her. She is listed in all four gospels. Her name is mentioned fourteen times in Scripture, which is unusual for women. Many women were nameless or only known by their sin or affliction, but Mary Magdalene was known by name. She was precious in His sight, and He knew her faith was real. Her name was the first name spoken by our risen Lord.
Are you living your life in the pattern of an Israelite as you serve your gods and live just good enough to escape a whuppin’?
Or as you read the lyrics of this hymn by Nancy Harmon, can you remember the moment your Savior met you at your lowest, called you by name, and deemed you as free?
Once a slave to sin and things that held me pris’ner,
I was bound and doomed to die in misery;
Till I heard that there was One who died to save me,
From those prison doors of sin I’ve been released.
I am free, free, free, I am free! Jesus broke the chains that bound me; I am free!
Life has meaning now for me; I’ve been given liberty, Thru the blood of Calvary I am living;
I am free!
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 (NIV)