Practical Application of the Word of God
As we come out of Passover, the Night of Vigil, and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are, spiritually, once again, at a crossroad that is similar to the one that Israel was at as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea.
Israel could still see Egypt, while they could not see the promised land. We can still see society, sin, and the influence of Satan, while we cannot yet see the kingdom of God on earth. Israel could still get back to Egypt fairly easily. We can still go back to society, sin, and the influence of Satan as a way of life fairly easily.
As Israel did, we have a choice.
Israel didn’t even make it to the Red Sea before they wanted to go back. To bondage. To slavery. To prison. To the known and the familiar. Why?
The rate of recidivism in the United States is high. Within three years after being released from prison, approximately 68% (over two-thirds) of released prisoners are rearrested. Within five years of release from prison, the rearrest rate for released prisoners jumps to more than 75% (over three-quarters).
In the movie, Shawshank Redemption, the reason why released prisoners, for the most part, can’t make it on the outside is revealed in the sad story of Brooks. Brooks is paroled after being in prison for 50 years. But prison is so much of a part of him that he can’t adjust to and hates freedom. Brooks cannot endure freedom, so he hangs himself from a rafter in the halfway house he has been released to.
The reason why Brooks – and Israel – preferred prison to freedom was, in part, familiarity. But there were underlying reasons in both cases why going back to prison and enslavement seemed more appealing than going forward in freedom.
In prison, like being enslaved, there are very few choices you can make. Life is regimented. You’re told what to do, where to be, and when. There is no room in prison or enslavement for critical thinking, because that will get you into trouble. When critical thinking is shut down, so is accountability and responsibility.
In prison and in slavery, everything can be blamed on someone or something else. A victim mentality emerges. Eventually, the idea that the prisoner or the slave is never wrong, never at fault, and never the problem settles in. The brain dulls with that thought and never gets awakened until freedom comes.
Freedom, by its very nature, requires critical thinking. It also requires being and taking responsibility and being accountable, because no one’s making the decisions for us anymore. Instead, we are responsible for our decisions and our choices. All of them. And whatever comes about as a result of them.
Freedom is hard, and for some people, it’s just not worth the effort. To be responsible and accountable means looking at ourselves to see where our choices lead us. It means not blaming other people and other things for what we are feeling, thinking, and doing (all of those are choices we are responsible for). It means not making excuses for our choices and our decisions. If we mess up, we own it and we change it. That is what freedom demands of each of us.
In Egypt, Israel couldn’t obey God. In freedom, Israel wouldn’t obey God. In Egypt, Israel didn’t have a choice. In freedom, Israel did.
But as we read from Exodus 12 all the way to the end of Deuteronomy, Israel couldn’t handle freedom and, in fact, didn’t really want freedom. It demanded more of them, in their minds, than their Egyptian taskmasters. More importantly, it demanded that they critically think, and having made their choices and their decisions, they were accountable and responsible for the outcomes.
For more than 40 years, Israel never stopped blaming God and Moses for their freedom. On a consistent basis, they expressed their desire – and their thinking that they had it better – to go back to Egypt. Egypt never left them, and they were just as enslaved to it in their minds in freedom as they were when they were back in Egypt.
We, like Israel, also have prison behind us and freedom ahead. Has prison left us or are we still in prison in our minds? Can we handle freedom? Do we want freedom? Do we hate freedom?
These are the spiritual questions we should spend time critically thinking about and meditating on as we come out of the Passover, the Night of Vigil, and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Intense self-examination is not just something we do a few weeks before Passover. It is something we should be doing daily.
The reality is that all of us still have some prison in our thinking, in our feelings, in our responses to what other people do or say or to things that happen in our lives, in our words, and in our actions. But the blood of Jesus Christ has released us from prison and we are now being led by Him – just as He did the Israelites – in freedom, and through our own wilderness, toward the kingdom of God.
His broken body, symbolized by the broken bread we ate at Passover, is applied to us to help remove prison from our minds and replace it with freedom, but only if we want it. God, unlike the prison system or Egypt, won’t force us to take it. It has to be our choice, and the accountability and responsibility that generates in our lives.
Freedom has a high price. But freedom also has benefits and promises, beyond anything our mere human brains can imagine or fathom. It’s the only obvious choice, if our heart’s primary desire, like the faithful who’ve gone before us, is seeking the homeland God has promised us.
Which way are we going to go?