Picture this. You’re living on the streets, facing harsh conditions, without any of life’s amenities. One morning, you walk into your favorite store [in my dreams I’m in a bakery, oozing with the scent of rising dough, filled with cinnamon, drizzled with glaze… ah! I’m back]. The owner has promised to give you the store, all of its contents and the rights to everything, including the bedroom upstairs. All you have to do is say yes. But rather than taking the owner up on his offer, you go back to the streets. Instead of blessings you choose the old realities you faced of no food, water… nothing.
In my mind I’m thinking, “no way, not a chance. I’d partake of every yummy chocolate eclair, scone and piece of sugar-goodness available!” Maybe you’re thinking the same. But, in a weird way, we do this all the time.
In Nehemiah 9, we see a depiction of the Israelites being led to the Promised Land. After having been delivered from harsh slavery to the Egyptians, they are on their way to their inheritance.
“[God] told [the Israelites] to go in and take possession of the land [God] had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.” But rather than trusting in God’s promise, they became “arrogant and stiff-necked,” disobedient.
As I look at this passage, I imagine God with his hand on his forehead, brows wrinkled, grieved over their lack of trust in His plan and provision for them. The Creator + Lord of the universe has sworn to give them a land “overflowing with milk and honey.”
“… and in their rebellion, [they] appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery.”
Whoa. Hold on. Rewind. The all-powerful, living God of the universe freed them from slavery in Egypt—from starvation, persecution, chains. They witnessed supernatural occurrences continuously—the sea was parted so they could flee from their enemies; they were hungry and bread fell from heaven; thirsty and God brought water from a rock. A ROCK. The list goes on.
And yet after all of that, they decide to appoint someone to go back to handcuffs. Rather than enduring hardships to achieve the ultimate, they settle for bondage and false security in the immediate.
We likely couldn’t imagine ourselves saying, “take me back to slavery,” to physical bondage. But we do it constantly through chains of a different nature. We go back to the old habits, continue feeding addictions, return to the abusive relationship, drink to feel a part of the in crowd, max out credit cards to keep up with the world… we try to manage these things and think we can keep them under control. But we can’t. It’s a slow fade, it happens gradually so that before we know it, it we’re back in the jail cell.
So what now? How do we remain on the other side of slavery? In Galatians 5:1, Paul writes, “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.”
Jesus took our chains and bondage and permanently put an end to them for us. God has given us endless promises when we choose Him (forgiveness of our sins; He’ll never leave us nor forsake us; He’s given us a helper, the Holy Spirit; joy in the midst of chaos, etc.) Cling to those. To the infallible goodness of our Lord, who is forgiving, “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Let him break you free of your bondage, substituting chains for incomparable blessings.