September 03, 2020: NCM Day 4 Freedom
* From Seven Days of Compassion: A Devotion Nazarene Compassion Ministries.
Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
EXODUS 3:7-12 (NRSV)
God’s story is one of freedom. From the Exodus story to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God’s compassionate purpose for His people is freedom.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann explains, “Exodus has given us a model to understand that the key problem in human experience is the problem of oppression, embodied here in the Pharaoh. ... And the Passover, our memorial activity of the exodus, centers in the affirmation, ‘Once we were slaves and now we are free.’ ... The Gospel stories may indeed be seen as a new exodus recital, for time after time Jesus leads people out of old, secure oppressions into new wildernesses of freedom.”
In our world today, more than 20 million girls, boys, women, and men are living under the oppression of modern-day slavery through human trafficking. God’s plan for them is freedom and wholeness, not bondage. Hundreds of millions of people are living under the oppression of poverty, unable to experience the fullness of life. God’s plan for them is freedom and wholeness. Tens of millions of people live under the oppression of war, conflict, and persecution. God’s plan for them is freedom and wholeness.
Oppression is found in other circumstances, too. For those who find their sole value in wealth and work, God wants freedom and wholeness. For those living under the weight of busyness and stress, God offers freedom from striving. For those enslaved by sin and guilt, God offers forgiveness and freedom.
When Jesus announced His public ministry in Luke 4:18-19, He chose these words from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus came to bring freedom for all—particularly for those who are poor, those who are captive, those who are blind, and those who are oppressed. This is also the ministry Jesus left to those of us who follow in His ways, those of us who are part of the Body of Christ here on earth. As author Bethany Hoang writes, “Our own personal freedom and reconciliation in Christ is not the end of the story. We are free so that we can be a part of God’s work of setting others free. ... Our lives are meant to proclaim that Jesus has broken our spiritual chains, and in this proclamation we join Jesus in the simultaneous proclamation of good news to the oppressed, breaking literal chains as we do.”
Creator God of freedom, we give thanks that You heard the cries of the oppressed and freed Your people from slavery to Egypt. And through Christ, You have freed us from bondage to sin. Through Christ, You free us from oppression. May our ears be listening for similar cries in our communities around the world, and may our freedom propel us toward compassionate action that leads to the freedom of all people. Amen.
• Pray that God would reveal to you things keeping you in bondage that you may not be aware of, and ask God to release you from those things.
• Thank God for the freedom found through Christ, and pray that God would show specific ways you can offer freedom to others.
• God gave the Sabbath in part as a reminder that God’s people are no longer slaves. Celebrate the Sabbath, thanking God that your value is found not in work but as a child of God.
• Come together as a church to pray for an end to the evil of human trafficking, or host an awareness workshop at your church on human trafficking and the ways your church can engage in the fight for freedom. (Visit ncm.org/trafficking for resources and ideas.)
• As a congregation, ask: How can we bring Your good news to the poor? How can we proclaim release to the captives? How can we proclaim recovery of sight to the blind? How can we let the oppressed go free?