Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God’s Employment Standards Act: Part 2 -- Exodus 21:5-6


“‘But if the slave plainly says, “I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,” then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost.  And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.’”
 
While God did not prescribe slavery, He still cares about those who are in slavery.  In the passage before this one, God stipulates that no one can be owned as a slave for longer than six years, at which point he becomes a free man, but has to leave his master only with what he came with.   That presented quite a dilemma for those slaves that married and/or perhaps had children while serving their masters as the new additions to the family (wife and/or children) had to be left behind.
I cannot help but think of the fact that leaving one’s master as a slave is akin to leaving this world the way Job described in the book about him (Job 1:21) where we read, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return.”  That is the natural plight of man and woman.  We deserve nothing more.
But God once again provides a way out for the slave or the person who wants something more.  As part of his dignity, the slave has the option to save his family under certain conditions.  The first condition is that he loves his master as well as his wife and children.  The second condition is that he is prepared to give up his freedom permanently.
Once that is decided, and once the master agrees to keep him (and what master would not for had this been a bad slave, I am sure he would have been discarded of long ago), the master than takes “him to God”.  Most commentators take that to mean that somehow the arrangement that is about to be formalized be done so before the judges that had been appointed by Moses to rule the people (Exodus 18) or at the very least before witnesses, as representative of those holding us accountable before God (much like at a marriage ceremony today).
This arrangement was to be an everlasting commitment and thus there needed to be a sign that clearly denoted it as such.  In this case, the sign was a hole pierced through the ear of the slave.
The parallel aspects between this slave to physical bondage and us as slaves to sin are not too difficult to detect here.  Like the slave in this passage, we have a choice to make as to whether we want to go freely into the world and try to profit from it (much like the Prodigal Son parable we read about in the New Testament) or whether we want to remain in the household of our Master and in our case our Creator.  If we choose the latter, then we become His permanently and our confession of faith before others and God, along with how we live in service to Him, become the marks of commitment.
And Christ, the Son of God, is our ultimate role model in this.  He became as a servant who emptied Himself, gave up any personal status (became of no reputation), and humbled Himself to serve, not by law, but by willingness (Philippians 2:6-7).  Thus we can refer to Him as the ‘pierced ear servant’ who freely, by choice, submitted Himself to His Father’s will.
Yes, God provides a way out from our bondage to sin and in so doing we can be saved, provide for our loved ones, and serve our Master.   Are you there yet?
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