“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Like most of you, for the last several weeks I’ve felt somewhat chained at home. My frequent roaming habits have drastically changed.
I spent January driving to and from the white, sugar-sand beaches and crystal-clear springs of Florida; now my travels consist of walking to and from the brown creek running along the back edge of my great aunt’s 100-acre depression-era farm.
These walks are special because this is time I spend alone with God. I expect to learn something new, and each day I’m richly rewarded.
During my walk yesterday, something sticking out of the ground caught my eye: a rusty chain.
Sensing this wasn’t merely coincidence, I asked, “What do you want to teach me?” After all, I came looking for lessons.
“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:2)
I hadn’t given much thought to being a captive, but the message was clear. That chain lying in the dust symbolized my own captivity.
I paused to reflect and lament my ignorance to my own condition. I let myself become a captive without realizing it.
I thought about my weekly screen time notifications. How could I possibly spend seven to nine hours a week on my phone? I thought about the early mornings and late nights reading and writing, and the time between that was wasted.
I thought about relationships I neglected so I could spend more time working. But what was I working towards? I believed I was working towards freedom, which to this point proved an elusive dream.
What had I to show for the precious time God gave me?
I was held captive by vanity.
My life lacked balance and the type of order that brings fulfillment.
Then excitement began to build. I sensed God telling me it is time- God’s time- to set me free and restore order in my life.
My mind became fixed on understanding what God was saying to me, and I sensed it had something to do with His timing.
With this being Passion Week, my thoughts turned to Jesus’ mission: to set the captives free.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18)
I know Passover is celebrated to remember God’s deliverance of His people from enslavement.
Before they were freed, though, God exposed the Egyptian idols as false hopes and symbols of vanity. I think he’s doing that in our culture right now. We’ve replaced God with so many things. Think of our vain idols: our careers and wealth, sports and entertainment figures, and whatever else keeps us occupied and away from God.
By the time the ten plagues were over, the newly-freed Hebrews had a good sense of God’s sovereignty, His protection, and His plan for them.
Freedom Found in Uncertain Times
For the Hebrews whom God delivered from Egyptian oppression, what followed was a wilderness experience. Like hearts around the world today, theirs were filled with uncertainty and thoughts of what seemed like certain doom. Yet God delivered them.
If you find yourself without a job, call upon Jehovah-Jireh, which means, “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” (Genesis 22:14). This name calls to mind Jehovah as the God who sees our condition and longs to bless us.
Listen to Him. Maybe you need to change directions and get off the path that keeps you in chains.
God is Faithful to His Covenants
Remember when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac? It seemed completely illogical, but Abraham knew somehow God would do something to keep His promise to bless Abraham and his children.
Are you wondering how God will provide for you and your family? I don’t think the story of God seeing Abraham’s willingness to be obedient and providing what he needed is insignificant to us.
Instead, God’s covenant promise to Abraham was at stake, and we are heirs to that promise.
Our Moral Rebellion
I don’t think the fact this virus hit during such a morally-rebellious time in history is insignificant, either.
Are we not also heirs to the promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience? Are we not children of God and subject to the discipline of a loving Father?
Deliverance from slavery is inherent to God’s promises to us. Let’s not be surprised our Redeemer is both disciplining us and setting us free.
As bad as this virus is, there are many silver linings, one of which is we’re having a discussion about the proper nature of freedom.
True vs. False Freedom
While Rousseau was right about mankind everywhere being in chains, he erred in advocating freedom from any and all moral constraints.
Like Rousseau, the world tells we should be free from moral judgment. That’s a dangerous snare.
Rousseau’s philosophy led to thousands of morally-good people losing their heads during the French Revolution. Those were the people who dared to speak against the moral abominations among them.
Contrary to Rousseau’s philosophy of unrestrained moral freedom, the prophet Isaiah suggests we ought to exercise moral restraint. Isaiah 24 tells us the earth is cursed because of our morality:
The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. (Isaiah 24:20)
I think we’re dangerously close to that point again.
Where most see the horrors of the coronavirus, I see it as a double-edged sword. Yes, it is terrible; I wish it on no one. However, I see God’s grace and mercy shining like I’ve never seen before.
I believe God Himself is calling us to throw off those rusted chains and be free- free to obey His moral constraints so our chains and this cursed virus might be removed.