You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody

You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody

Everyone is either a slave to sin (John 8:34) or a has been freed to be a slave of Christ (John 8:36). Sin is a cruel taskmaster, one that only takes, dehumanizes, and robs people of the joy they seek. Christ is a good master, who is gracious to His servants (Matt 11:28-30), prays for His servants (Rom 8:34), delivered His people with His own blood (1 Peter 1:18-19), and who is not ashamed to call us brother (Hebrews 2:11). 

In the modern spirit of “expressive individualism,” the most important virtues are those of self-determination and liberation. The biblical notion of obedience seems absurd: why would someone submit their will to another? Yet Exodus paints a picture where submission to another is an inevitability. Considering the entire narrative, the story begins with Israel in slavery to Pharaoh. He “ruthlessly made the people work as slaves,” and “made their lives bitter” in hard service (Ex 1:13-14). As a result, the people “groan because of their slavery” and cry out for help (Ex 2:23). What Israel wants is deliverance from bondage to Pharaoh.

What may surprise modern leaders is that release from Pharaoh is not merely liberation for the purpose of autonomy. The Israelites are not rescued so they can decide who they want to be. Rather, deliverance is for the sake of being in submission to another master. Israel is delivered from bondage to Pharaoh that they might become slaves of God.

In His instructions regarding future Passover celebrations, Yahweh says, “and when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service (the Passover meal). And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’” (Ex 12:25-26, emphasis added). The Hebrew word for ‘service’ (aboda) is the same word used for describing the slavery Pharaoh forced upon the Israelites.[1]

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