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Freedom: It’s Harder than You Think


For the past several days I’ve been re-reading the book of Exodus. I’ve always been fascinated by Moses, and thought I would read Exodus through the particular lens of Moses as leader. His story is famous, beginning with the thrilling narrative of his narrow escape from persecution by the bold rescue of the persecutor’s own daughter. Those first four decades would be lived in the comforts of the palace, learning all of the protocol of government and high society. But something is missing in Moses life, chiefly his own God given purpose. As Moses set out on his own quest to find himself, he finds himself on the run from everything he had known. Everything, that is, except his own mother’s faith.

Moses would spend the second four decades of his life in the Midian desert, tending sheep and starting his own family. Everything seemed to be comfortable until one day when God interrupted his life. There was nothing spectacular about a bush spontaneously bursting into flame in the desert. There was something remarkable, however, about a blazing bush that wasn’t consumed. The purpose that seemingly eluded Moses now became evident. He was called by God to emancipate the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Moses was 80 years old.

Deliverance would be no easy task, for Egypt was a formidable foe. God promised Moses that He would bring the deliverance about. After all, God himself had heard the cries of his children, desperate for freedom.

Now the irony of the story is Israel itself. They had cried out to God and pleaded to Him for deliverance from their oppressive bondage. They said they wanted to be free. They had prayed for their freedom. God even provided them a leader. Yet in the story of Exodus, with each and every challenge they immediately defaulted to thinking like slaves, and yes, actually preferring slavery. With each obstacle the chorus rang out, “Were there no graves in Egypt??”

Maybe we’re a lot more like Israel than we’d like to admit. Yes, we say we want to be free…free from sin…from self-destructive patterns of behavior…from codependent relationships…from toxic power structures… you name it. We say we want to be free, but freedom comes with a price. Freedom requires us to be strong individuals, eschewing group think and consensus which values the power of “we” over the power of “right.” Freedom requires us to be willing to take risks, to be open to change, and to let character guide our decisions. Israel illustrates a lesson that we continue to learn throughout history: it’s hard to leave the plantation. One of my favorite quotations comes from John Maxwell, who nearly 30 years ago wrote, “People change when they learn enough they want to, they grow enough they need to, or they hurt enough they have to.” Even though Israel had suffered greatly for four centuries, they remind us how hard it is to actually follow through.

Categories : Exodus, Leadership, Moses

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