There’s a peculiar law in the Old Testament regarding slaves…
“Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” [Exodus 21:1-6]
It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that God allowed slavery. What’s also strange to us is that a slave could submit himself to slavery (why would anyone do that?), and if he wanted to leave, the master had to let him go free. Even more strange to our sensibilities is that the slave could decide to remain with a master he loved. We’re most familiar with the brutal history of slavery in our own country where a person was stolen into slavery, or born into slavery and could never leave of his own free will. So, how could it ever be that a slave would ever love his master enough to stay?
As much as we detest the slavery we read about in history (and rightfully so), that slavery bears no resemblance to the master / servant relationship we read about in scripture. Some will say that any form of slavery is detestable, biblical or otherwise. Before you jump to that conclusion, let’s examine why God might use the example of slavery.
Slaves of Christ
The New Testament uses the biblical example of slavery to help us to understand our relationship with Him. Just as in the Exodus 21 passage, we come to Him of our own free will, and He BUYS us. The purchase price being His own blood.
“For ye are bought with a price” [1Corinthians 6:20]
We can choose to leave this arrangement, also of our own free will. While nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39], we can separate ourselves from Him. [Hebrews 2:3, 10:28-29, Galatians 5:4; 2Timothy 4:10].
When we obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, [Believe, Repent, Confess, Baptism & Faithfulness] we are selling ourselves into permanent slavery. We’re essentially saying, “we will never leave Him, we are His slaves forever, and He alone is our Master!”
“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” [1Corinthians 7:23]
Although the thought of becoming a slave holds a very negative meaning in our culture, the Holy Spirit had no trouble using this institution as an example. When you consider the love behind the sacrifice of Christ, you realize that God had placed an incredible value for your life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]
This value wasn’t based upon how good you looked, or how good you were, or how much money you had. No, the cost of buying us was His own life. Additionally, Jesus promises His slaves an incredible and eternal reward. He said to His disciples…
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
When we consider the price paid, and the promises made, it begins to make sense how a slave might Love a Slave Owner. Understanding these things will give us strength to endure this life.
Looking again at Exodus 21, we note verse 6; “and he shall serve him for ever.” Applying the picture of slavery to us, we need to note that by becoming a slave to Jesus, we are placing His will above our own. We will have no other master, including those things that tend to rule in our lives [e.g. sin Romans 6:6; money Luke 16:13]. Thy will be done, becomes our song.
When we truly understand this picture, our entire attitude should shift toward humble appreciation for our Master. Let us not be like those slaves who search for holes by which we can escape, for we serve a Loving Master. Rather, let us strive to serve Him in everything that He has commanded and when we’ve done all that we are commanded, let us say…
“We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
“Pierce My Ear”
By Steve Croft
Pierce my ear O Lord my God
Take me to your door this day
I will serve, no other God
Lord I’m here to stay.
For you have paid
The price for me
With your blood, you ransomed me
I will serve, you eternally
A free man I’ll never be.
So, Pierce my ear, O Lord my God.
Take me to your door this day.
For I will serve no other God.
O Lord I’m here to stay.