Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jeremiah 34:13-17 -- On Freedom

"Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,
At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:
But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.
Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth."
Jeremiah 34:13-17

This is a good warning for us about hypocrisy.  God is talking to the Israelites here and says listen, I freed you from slavery, and asked you to free *your* slaves, and you wouldn't listen.  Even now, when you "technically" freed them, you just changed the word from slave to servant, with virtually no change in their actual freedom.  Implied, I think is the fact that the freedom that God gave them was a real freedom and not indentured servitude.  So, he says, well, if that is the kind of freedom that you offer to others, then here is a little extra freedom from me.  Instead of me protecting you, you are free to die by the sword, by pestilence, by famine, and to be scattered throughout the earth.  ... Scary, if that is all that was left that would get his people to truly change and repent.  Because we have the advantage of hindsight, we know that the Israelites were scattered, and we know that there were a lot more things going on in these decisions than a one-time hypocrisy... but the warning here is still loud and quite clear.  We can't fake obedience to God.  Maybe we can fool the neighbors with our pretend piety, but we can never fool God.  In fact, the insincere pretense itself is a glaring sign that we are not at all repentant, and that we won't bother to listen to God.  ... And I'm not saying that we can't fake it a little if we are really trying to learn.  "Fake it till you make it" *can* work, if we are going through the motions of the physical obedience but still learning the mental and spiritual part.  God gives us time to learn wholeness.  In fact, that is what a lot of life is about.  What won't work at all is being outwardly obedient, inwardly rebellious, lying and deceiving to cover our sin, but still outwardly trying to be respected as holy.  And as soon as we start taking God's commandments to fulfill the letter of the law but twisting the spirit of them to our own devices, then that is what we begin to become.
God gives us commandments to help US... they aren't there to restrict our freedom, but to enhance it.  As we learn to live God's way, we learn to see farther, and so many more possibilities and opportunities open up.  And when we are disobedient, we trap ourselves in addictions and habits that restrict us and blind us, and we lose opportunities and blessings.  Today, let's remember the source of true freedom.  Let's avoid hypocrisy and deception.  No matter how far gone we feel we are, let's grasp onto hope.  Let's go to God with our real selves, and tell him exactly how we feel and where we are.  He loves us, and he already knows us.  There is no reason to hide our doubt or fear or resentment, or anything else in us that is ugly.  Let's tell him all of it, and allow him to help us sort it out, and find a way to freedom... freedom from self-hatred.  Freedom from abandonment.  Freedom to find our way to our best selves and let go of our anger and hatred and despair.  God is the way to all that is good.  Instead of twisting his words and pretending, let's honestly give him a chance to change us from who we are into who we want to be.

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