Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, said, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19). As we look at the story of the Israelites receiving the Ten Commandments, some people might say, “This is an interesting historical survey of slavery. Thankfully, I am free, and it does not apply to me.” Yes, it does. The United States of America is supposed to be the land of the free. But sadly, it is the land of the slaves. Like Peter said, anything that overcomes us, overtakes us, rules over us, or reigns above us is like our Pharaoh. It’s our master, and it enslaves us.
We don’t often use this language in our culture because we’re no longer a very biblically literate culture. Instead, we use therapeutic and psychological language like the word addiction, which is secular for the biblical concept of slavery. “I’m addicted to alcohol,” means you’re enslaved to the bottle. “I’m addicted to drugs” means you’re enslaved to substances. “I’m addicted to gambling,” means you’re enslaved to the high and the potential windfall you pursue. Many are enslaved to the god in the mirror every morning. We worship appearance, income, GPA, social media likes, reputation, and affirmation like slaves.
Some people might say, “I’m free to choose my own master.” But this is not freedom at all. Choosing to serve any worldly master leads to slavery, not freedom. When we are tempted to sin and we hear the Holy Spirit convicting our consciences of the laws that the Father gives us, we must acknowledge that breaking God’s law is also breaking God’s heart. God grieves when his children sin and choose slavery over freedom. We see this in Genesis in the account of the Flood, when God looked down on the sinfulness on earth. He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (6:5–6).
This grief resonates in the souls of fathers and mothers. When the children we love break our laws—the life-giving, life-protecting laws we have given them—and cause themselves and others to suffer, they break our hearts. When a disobedient child looks into their loving parent’s eyes and sees the parent broken, weeping, and devastated because they’ve sinned, they not only know the parent’s laws but they know the parent’s heart.
So when we are tempted to sin, we must remember this: Choosing to sin is choosing to suffer. Our Father does not want us to suffer or to cause others to suffer. When we choose sin, we also cause him to suffer. God sets us free, but some of us choose not to live free. We all know Christians like that. They’re stuck. They’re not progressing. They’re not learning. They’re not growing. Their life is a series of laps around a cul-de-sac of folly. They’re not getting anywhere.
The children of God were like that. They were literally walking around in a circle in the wilderness for forty years. God came to speak to them in order to help them obey him and walk with him, so that they might turn from their folly into his faithfulness.
Many of us can relate to their story. We are ashamed, embarrassed, horrified, or mortified about our sin and folly. Maybe there are secrets in our lives that we hope nobody finds out about. We might say we are Christians, that we worship the God of the Bible, but there are parts of our lives where we are in slavery. We could be enslaved to drugs, alcohol, sex, power—whatever the case might be. Every one of us has different shackles that the Holy Spirit can reveal.
The children of God who found themselves free from Egypt but enslaved to sin, waited to hear from God, their Father, at the base of Mount Sinai. As they sat on the proverbial couch for a meeting with their dad, they wondered what he would say to them.
What did God say to them? What does he say to us? We will find out next week.