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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Sixty-Fourth (Freedom)

I hope you had a great week! Were you able to get done all you needed/planned to? If not, why not? Was it something within your control that caused you not to complete things or something seemingly out of your control?

I think a lot of people believe there are way more things out of their control than there actually are. As a result, they view certain situations as if they are forced to do something with no choice otherwise. There are clearly a wide array of reasons they could feel this way, and even depending on the situation those reasons could vary. What most don't realize however, is that those situations are only the tip of the iceberg, and there are a large number of situations in which they think they are freely making a choice when in fact they are actually being controlled.

Have you ever seen or read those moral scenarios where a situation is presented and you are asked to make a choice? Usually, they involve death of some sort or another, and are designed to force you to weigh what you believe is the worth of the people or group of people that are are projected to die based on your decision. In fact, there's a series of movies that were made which are essentially based on this type of moral dilemma. You may see them played more often this time of year based on what happens the last day of this month.

Putting aside the fact that none of us will likely ever be in that situation, while it seems like this sort of choice is done freely by the individual involved, in actuality, the person is being controlled by whatever sort of moral values they have developed over the course of their life. The same can be said for less morbid scenarios that we encounter in our day to day lives. Paul wrote about these scenarios in his letters using a relevant societal construct of his day: slavery. However, Yeshua was the first to apply this representation in His teachings (Matthew 6:24).

Did you know that there are not a lot of verses in scripture that use the word freedom? One of them uses the Hebrew word חֻפְשָׁ֖ה, spoken chuphshah, and it is used in one of the Levitical laws (Leviticus 19:20). If you're using a King James version of scripture, you may see freedom in another verse, but this is actually a mistranslation (Acts 22:28). The Greek word there is not actually freedom, but citizenship. This is obviously speaking of citizenship in the Roman Empire, and while citizens had a greater number of freedoms in society than non-citizens, they were still under the rule of the empire.

There are certainly more verses that include the word free, but you have to narrow down the search because there are different ideas of free presented depending on the word used. For instance, some refer to being free from a curse or a punishment (Numbers 5:19), and others refer to being free from obligations (Deuteronomy 24:5). Interestingly, that latter verse ties in with the parable Yeshua gave of the great banquet (Luke 14:15-24). Specifically, this law could have been the basis for the newly married man to decline the invitation to the banquet.

Whether this man was focused on following a law or simply not wanting to get in trouble with the wife, he made the decision to not attend the banquet. Was he exercising his freedom? Or was he a slave to the law or his wife? Based on the context of Yeshua's parable, it seems it was one of the two latter cases.

As stated earlier, Paul used slavery as a depiction quite a lot in his writings. When addressing the Corinthian church about their being made to circumcise themselves, he brings up slavery in terms of something you may not expect: being a slave to Yeshua (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). In the context of remaining in the situation you came to Yeshua in, Paul states that a slave that comes to Him is considered free in Him, and those who were free become Christ's slaves. As a side note, he also stated that following YHWH's commandments is what matters (not circumcision). And this was to a group of Jewish AND Gentile Christians.

Apparently this circumcision issue was quite a hot topic around that time, because he wrote in another letter about it and again referenced it to slavery (Galatians 5:1-15). However, this time he states that Yeshua set us free for freedom's sake. This is confusing after you read that we are slaves to Him, isn't it? You see, slavery was different in the time of Yeshua than what we think of slavery today. It was not based on race, and there were a variety of reasons someone may become a slave.

While there were still instances of becoming a slave against your will, sometimes it involved paying off a debt, which was also a historical reason for slavery as well (Deuteronomy 15:12). The biggest difference however, was that in the Roman Empire there was an opportunity for slaves to be freed by their owners, and it actually happened quite a lot. This gave slaves hope, keeping them obedient and hard working.

Paul's point though, was that those practicing circumcision were looking at it as a way to be justified, to be made righteous. They were essentially putting themselves into slavery to pay a debt that was already paid by Yeshua when He was crucified. While this is a situation associated with one aspect of someone's life, Paul also wrote of situations experienced in day to day life as we mentioned earlier.

Again, relating to Yeshua's death, Paul says the symbolic crucifixion of our sinful selves results in our being freed from our slavery to sin (Romans 6:6-7). In other words, as a result of our sinful nature we were slaves to sin, paying off a debt we could never reconcile ourselves. It reigned in our bodies, controlling us without our knowledge, all the while we were thinking we were free. This is the state of those in the majority of the world today, but it can also be us again if we are not careful (Romans 6:12-14).

So, be truly free. Think about what's controlling you without you realizing it, whether it's sin, worldly desires, the thought that you have no other choice, or whatever. Being a slave to Christ is night and day different from being a slave to sin. He will never force you to do anything or try to influence you against your will or to your detriment. You can free yourself from Him any time you wish, but the consequence is that you end up a slave to someone or something that cares nothing about you. He loves you and only wants the best for you!

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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