Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Slavery part 2...

     So our question is "How can we profitably and accurately apply Lev. 25's legislation on slavery in Israel for today?"   As mentioned previously, I'm working through John MacArthur's "Slave" weekly with a brother, and at our last meeting I had mentioned the verses in Lev. as a great starting point for understanding slavery.  So of course, this week those same verses were referenced in our chapter in "Slave" and my partner had to ask me if I was cheating and reading ahead!  I replied no, that my personal study (and thus my writing) and our study beautifully coincided.  All to say, I am more excited than ever to share all this online with you.
     So to recap our established points, in ascending order of importance:  1)  all Americans are negatively biased concerning slavery;  2)  slavery had beneficial effects for the poor in Israel; and 3)  God uses slavery to describe our covenant relationship to Him.  It makes sense to me to deal and apply these points as we live and serve God today.

A statue still standing today in Zanzibar
     1)  I was writing my last post at work (I often have free time there; a fringe benefit of bus driving!), and a Christian coworker greeted me and asked what the good word was.  I replied "Slavery!" and after a short pause (which is understandable), he said "Yes, we are God's servants."  I said 'slave', and he heard 'servant'.  Does this happen with you, as you listen to sermons, read Scripture, and/or even as you pray?  I know it does with me;  one piercing side effect of my study recently was the mental admission that I had not escaped the values of our day, that I could not consider slavery without the images of men and women from Africa in chains, being sold on a wooden podium.  I especially have trouble with the analogy of people as property (Lev. 25:45);  all my life, that perspective has been demonized and countered with the doctrine that people can't be owned, that we are born free and endowed (by our Creator? depends on who you talk to...) with rights that can never be taken away.  It's been said that the most effective lie is the one that's mostly true;  what Americans believe about slavery certainly classifies as mostly true.   But exactly what must be corrected falls under point 3, so if you can hold on just a bit longer...
You know who I'm talking about...
     2)  My study partner had a fascinating idea, and I got his permission to publish it...  Can you imagine a study where the homeless are asked about the prospect of being fed, clothed, housed, and given free medical care, if only they would sell themselves to their benefactor and do his bidding?  I would guess that maybe 3% of those asked would seriously consider such an arrangement;  this is due to the simple truth that what's called poverty today is nowhere near the biblical definition (and thus the true definition!) of poverty.  If someone has a cellphone, cable TV, and/or money for beer and cigarettes, they would be thought rich in biblical times, and especially ironic is the relationship in our country between poverty and obesity: " they go together like a horse and carriage" (you gotta see the pics in that second article!).  So in America today, there is no incentive, no benefit, and above all, no need to humble oneself and serve someone else;  we are so tremendously rich (which can be a curse:  Ps 73:17, 92:7) that even our poor would be thought rich in most other countries.  Christians must work extra hard to transcend our milieu, and see God's grace through legislated slavery in O.T. Israel.
     3)  So what's not true about our cultural abhorrence for slavery?  While it is morally dangerous (to say the least!) for most people to own other people, there is one Person (or three Persons, if you're a nitpicker like me!) who has every right to do so:  God.  So not only by His creation of us, but through His mighty work to save us, believers, then and now, are slaves of God.  It is one of the gravest errors of our American brand of Christianity to retort to O.T. truth, "but we're a New Testament church!"  We are owned by God, bought by Him (I Cor 6:19-20) and we are His property (or "possession";  Tit 2:14, I Pet 2:9).  He says "jump!" and it is our highest honor to reply "how high?"  There is a direct, one-to-one correlation to Israel's bond with God and ours.  Be honest:  have you ever thought of God as your Owner?  If so, props to you;  if you're like me however, you're fighting the implications of it all.  But that's exactly how the apostles described themselves, over and over again (Php 1:1, Jam 1:1, Rev 1:1).  So to rehash what we said last time:  unfettered spiritual independence is simply not an option.  Either you belong to God, or what Elijah said of Ahab is true of you:  "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD." (1 Ki 21:20).  The vast majority of our countrymen, even those who claim to follow Christ, claim also to be free, which is another way to describe the deification of ourselves, the most contemporary of false gods.  The only proper, true and useful claim, both for our sanctification and exemplifying the best effects of the gospel, for believers today is to be wholly dedicated to the pleasure of Another, to set our entire being in orbit around His command and revealed will.  Only then can our lost neighbors see their own slavery, and desire the freedom of Christ, the freedom to be enslaved to God:
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  (Jn 8:36)

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