Truth, Understanding, Insight

Passover: What is freedom?

14th April 2022, hej


The Passover is often called the feast of freedom. But is this correct? No-one is totally free, but some have less responsibility than others. Those who think they are free often have huge responsibility and are bound by things they think they should do as duties to others dependant on them, or to obtain the things they wish for in life. Those who are least free have the least responsibility. But the highest honour is to be the servant of God. There are lessons for the true servants of Christ.

The Passover Freedom

Though it has become ritual to speak of the Pesach (Hebrew: Passover) as the feast of freedom, in fact this is not said directly. Rather Israel are delivered from Egyptian bondage,

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: (Exodus 6:6)

The Egyptians would not let Israel serve the God Israel.

Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.”
And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2)

They were taken out of Egypt not to be free, but to be servants of the God of Israel

Then beware lest you forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shall fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name. (Deuteronomy 6:12-13).

The word 'freedom' is not once used in relation to the Passover.

The word 'freedom' is first used for a Hebrew servant going free. In this context reference is made to Egypt to remind the people not to oppress.

If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shall let him go free from thee. And when thou send him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shall furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God has blessed thee thou shall give unto him.
And thou shall remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise. It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest. (Deuteronomy 15:12-18)

Israel were sent to bondage in Babylon because of the fact they didn't understand that they were to let their brethren go free every seven years, to prove the principle.

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 has been sold unto thee; and when he has served thee six years, thou shall 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.
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)

The whole nation was brought out from Egypt to show how each individual of the nation was to cease serving humans and become wholly a servant of God. They might do work for another, but they could not be made to be a 'serf' or slave. Every person was always at liberty to be God's servant.

For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shall not rule over him with rigour; but shall fear thy God. (Leviticus 25:42-43)

There is no hint at all that Israel were free to do what they wished. They were to be the servant of God.

Slave Trade in Early Medieval Eastern Europe. Sergey Vasilievich Ivanov (1864-1910)

Servant Master, Master Servant: the Christ example

There is none so bound as those who are pursuing wealth. Those people will possibly work harder than a bought slave of the Roman Empire era did. We have terms such as 'they are 'slaving' at their job. In may cases people may think it a great freedom to be able to chose to be such 'slaves' to their job. Many serving 'Mammon' become slaves. They find themselves having fewer and few choices as more and more they feel they 'have to' do 'this' or 'that' to make money. This is an illustration of a modern kind of slavery. It shows how freedom (or choice) might be curtailed by the master that is chosen.

Freedom in Christ might be misunderstood. It has a different outcome to the choice to serve Mammon.

Due to the abolition of slavery by England and then America (and their subsequent global dominance), there are few slaves of the type found in the Bible (there is still slavery in places which is oppression). But just think of it, what if you didn't have to worry about a thing, you were fed, housed in luxury, and all you do is run someone else's house? This is the life of the slave Joseph in the Bible. The only thing is that you are not free to go by law. You are a possession.

Let's look at the master of the house: Potipher. He might be a very worried man. He has to look after all his many business ventures and his many slaves, his wife and family to maintain his position. He has demands on him all day to sort out his affairs. Joseph's wisdom was a bonus, so Potipher didn't need to worry so much and could more and more hand real rule to the foreign slave, Joseph. So how could a slave come to be so powerful?

How is it that servants can rule in practice those who in theory 'rule' them? How is it that an employee may, in practice, guide a business rather than an employer?

How is it that more is required of those who are free to serve God? There is a paradox, which is valuable to us in our lives now,

Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Are you called being a servant? care not for it: but if you may be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. You are bought with a price; be not you the servants of men. (1Corinthians. 7:20-23).

None are to be servants of men, which means placing any man or woman above God or Christ.

But Paul says not to seek to be free if you are a servant. Paul acts on this as in the letter to Philemon he sends an escaped slave Onesimus back to his master, Philemon. The letter is revealing,

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to you unprofitable, but now profitable to you and to me: Whom I have sent again: therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels: Whom I would have retained with me, that in your stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel.. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that you should receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
If he has wronged thee, or owes you ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owe unto me even thine own self besides. (Philemon 1:10-19)

So Paul pleads for this servant/slave whom he calls a 'son' and asks a wealthy man to treat this slave as if he was Paul himself. Onesimus is cared for, and is the free-est of all of those in the account. Though bought, he is the Lord's freeman. We are told this with authority.

Much less is going to be required of those in the modern world who come to know the Bible and seek its salvation, who are bound with all sorts of earthly responsibilities they cannot change, than people who are more free.

Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. (1Titus 6:1-2)
Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:9-10)

Peter backs up Paul,

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. (1Peter 2:13-18)

Slaves (or servants here) as the “Lord's freeman” only had to do what their masters asked (whether good or bad masters) and maintain the faith. Nothing more was asked of them, as they were not free to do much more. A lot more is asked of those free to chose what they do each day.

The Bible did not ask hard things of slaves. But great responsibility is given to masters.

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)

If they fail here, they may fail in obtaining salvation. They are told they are to be exemplar servants to God in terms of being equitable, day to day.

And, you masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. (Ephesians 6:9)

Masters, or rulers, are asked to submit themselves as servants to Christ. In the context of bought slaves, 'servant' here means what we might think of as a 'slave'.

In the modern world none are truly free, having many daily responsibilities. But some are employees at the beck and call of an employer. Just as slaves were bought, so employees may need to meet contract conditions. If you have choice, then it would make sense that one chose to be bound to one that would allow service to God. But sometimes there is little choice.

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

For those who are self employed we can see much will be required in terms of being a servant to God. Such people have most of all the choice of what they do with their time. For such people they may chose to be bound to Mammon or God. And just how this is balanced is a task of great wisdom. An employer with the example of Christ has many issues of being just and equitable and not imposing rule with threats. The 'Master' as an employer, may being just and equitable allow employees, like Joseph, to be valued 'rulers' when they show themselves profitable.

We might not wish to strive to be the boss... we might be best as a good 'servant' like Joseph,

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (James 3:1)

Even as ruler in the land Joseph was a servant to the people working for their good. He was given a wife, just like a servant might be given a wife in the Mosaic law.

This translates also to those who seek power in religious circles. There might be great power to be obtained. If you see one who is trying to rule others by laying down their laws (and it is not uncommon), it might be they missed the point made by Christ,

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12)

This turns on the head the thinking of how we might “get ahead” in the world. We might think it the best thing was to fight a war to free the slaves. But the God of the Bible never asked for that. Let us for a moment ponder why.

The world asks us to strive to reach the top, especially now women. But the God of the Bible never asked it, even of men. So how can we change the world?

The most radical revolution in the world would be for many people to show all the world how to be the best servants. How could it be that the world would run if there were no leaders at all? Ah! But Israel forgot that very point when they asked for a king.

The LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1Samuel 8:7)

This is the greatest point of all. The Bible says that in all that we do to remember that, every day, God seeks to reign over all the world at every level from international relations to the household.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)

We are here to do good things for others, as we may have opportunity, as our freedom may allow whatever that good may be, not to rule them. In another instance, Jesus shows how people gain power by seeming to be a benefactor (either through power or wealth). They forget that the giver of all things of God.

And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves? is not he that sits at meat? but I am among you as he that serves. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me; That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:25-30)

This shows why seeking to be a servant so important. If they are a good servant, like Joseph they make a good 'ruler' of the affairs of the house. If the Apostles were good servants they would be given, like Joseph, rule in the house they had served. Why is being a servant so critical?

The greatest example of Christ, which a Christian is to follow, was not free. Not for one moment. At age 12 he said,

Know you not that I must be about my Father's business? (Luke 2:49)

At age 33 he said,

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

He was an obedient servant and did what was asked of him. And there will be no higher honour given, than that given to Christ.

What does it mean in practice now to be a servant of God? It turns out by being a servant of God we might be a friend of Christ,

This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:12-15)

How do we love one another in such a way as Christ did? We have the words of Christ and more than that the whole Law tells us how to do this. It's not about great things. It's about how we treat others day to day with truth and equity and how we might put first in our thinking God's views, including those of how the world will be in the future.

The God of the Bible gave the Bible to the world so that he might find those people who would willingly seek to submit themselves as servants to his thinking and in so doing make his ways rule on earth. He sent his son to show all people how to be a servant. When Israel left Egypt it was so they ceased to be the servants (and slaves) of a human ruler, so they could be free choose if they wished to become the people of the King of the Universe, and serve him only. This is true liberty,

Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve (Joshua 24:14-15)

For more Passover

and why it's not 'easter'