It is for freedom that Christ set you free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourself be burdened again with the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
“Hey, Mom! D’ya miss me?” Garrett said as he swung open the door and dropped his bags on the floor.
“Of course I did! Did you miss me?” I asked my lanky seventeen-year-old wearing the same clothes he left home in.
“Yes, Mommy,” grinned Garrett. “Give me a hug.”
The kids at our church had just returned from a two-day youth conference in Arkansas. I wondered how much of the gospel Garrett would absorb after a three-hour tour on a bus loaded with 50 teenagers and enough sugar to feed the multitude. “Tell me about the conference,” I said as I motioned Garrett to sit down.
“The speaker was really funny,” Garrett began. “He started out by introducing himself as a mannequin. Before he came onstage, all you saw was this mannequin dressed like him, wearing a t-shirt with refrigerator magnets on it that spelled, I have issues.
“Yeah…don’t we all?”
“Then offstage we heard this voice speak for the mannequin, “Sorry, guys. I’m a little stiff today. It’s hard to move. Apparently…I’m allergic to Botox.”
“That’s funny,” I said. “I may have to use that someday.” It doesn’t get more spiritual than that, I thought. This is what I sent my son to a conference for?
“He talked a lot about the issues youth deal with, but when he was finishing, he took the magnet letters on the mannequin’s t-shirt and changed them around. He said we can’t be free until we remove our flesh from our issues.”
“That’s so true.”
“So, he took the two i’s out of the words on the mannequin’s shirt. And then he changed the remaining letters to spell He saves us.
Garrett saw my face was still processing the visual.
“Get it, Mom…The i’s represent our flesh. When he took those out, I have issues changed into He saves us.”
“Oh, that’s awesome.”
“It was pretty cool. He also talked about how God can’t use us until we remove the i out of other issues like sin, pride and idolatry.”
Issues…As if I needed another reminder! God had been dealing with me all week about some of my own stubborn inclinations. Who knew that my son would come home from a youth trip and initiate a review?
I had been reading in Exodus about how God delivered the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians. After they crossed the Red Sea, God urged them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3). Over and over in scripture, God warned his people about returning to captivity.
God is still warning me today about returning to my own Egypts. He knows how easy it is to go back to bondage even after I’ve been set free. It seems as soon as I surrender an issue or idol to God, the familiarity and false comfort taunts my chance at freedom and beckons me back, and my stubborn feet want to retrace the worn path back to captivity.
In Hebrew, Egypt means “double straits.” (Sounds more like double trouble to me.) The root to this name means “pressed in.” In the physical sense, a strait is a narrow pass or passage, a tight squeeze. Figuratively, a strait is a place of great distress, oppression, anguish and difficulty.
Have you ever been in an Egypt—a deep valley with steep sides where the walls press in, a place where the enemy surrounds you and it feels like there’s no escape? Often when we’re trapped, we think God has abandoned us, but consider this: Sometimes, what we think is an ambush is a divine design. God wants to be our only hope! Why do I think so? It’s a Biblical pattern. He did it with Gideon in his fight against the Midianites (Judges 7), He did it with Joshua at the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6), and He did it with the Israelites.
When the Israelites left Egypt, God didn’t lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was the shorter more obvious route. He was afraid if they faced war or difficulties, they would turn back (Exodus 13:17-18). Once they were out of harm’s way, however, the plan switched and God changed their route. He made them turn back and redirected them so their enemy would think they were wandering around in confusion and were hemmed in by the desert. The trouble was, the Israelites thought the same thing.
I think God still uses the same plan to help us escape our own bondages. At first, He takes us along the peaceful route where the absence of conflict gives us courage to continue. But He knows: In order to gain our freedom, we have to go through the strait places, not around them.
That’s when God reroutes us. He wants to be our “pillar of cloud” to direct our days; He wants to be our “pillar of fire” at night (Exodus 13:21). He wants to be the only option for deliverance, so He takes us along a path where even we may think we are wandering around in confusion and hemmed in by our own deserts. That’s exactly where God wants us—in a place where we are trapped with no choice but to trust Him.
But here’s the deal: When things look the worst, our deliverance is the closest.
This is when we have to focus on His faithfulness. When we’re cornered by adversity, it’s so tempting to go back to our Egypts, but God wants to save us. When our freedom is just around the bend, we often feel more hopeless than ever, but just like He did for Gideon, Joshua and the nation of Israel, He has come to rescue us and set us free.
I admit, I still struggle with issues. As long as I live in this earth suit, I’ll have to surrender myself to Christ daily. But the mannequin at the youth conference is right. When we submit every trace of our flesh to Him, He takes our issues and removes our I’s. He is the message changer. He takes our I-have-issues and gives us a proclamation of hope:
HE SAVES US!
Prayer: May we always look to You for our deliverance and freedom. When we are strangled by the issues of life and feel like there is no hope, let us look to You for our hope. You are faithful to save us and when You do, may Your name be glorified in our lives to give others hope for their own freedom! In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
- Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again (Exodus 13:14).
- A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save (Psalm 33:17).
- It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
- I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts (Psalm 119:45).
Questions to Ponder:
- Read Exodus 13:14 above. What “Egyptians” or difficult issues have you dealt with in your own life? What strait places did you have to go through to get to your freedom?
- Psalm 33:17 says that sometimes we trust in things to save us. What have you used to try to save you before you looked to God?
- There are many cities in Egypt. Some are suitable for day trips and others deceive us into prolonged captivity. With the lure of a luxurious escape to a vacation destination, we often visit the cities of Bitterness, Revenge, Pride, Jealousy, Sexual Impurity, Entitlement, Arrogance, Abortion, Criticism, Hatred, Divorce, Addiction, Rage, Slander and others. What cities have been the most difficult for you to escape?
- How do stories of great deliverance in the Bible give you hope for your own deliverance?
- After you’ve been set free, have you ever returned to a former bondage (Gal 5:1)? If so, how can you prevent that yoke of slavery from returning again? If you have not returned, how can you encourage someone else to walk in continued freedom?