I have read the account in Exodus of Moses’ dealings with Pharaoh many times. The story is very familiar to me by now—Moses asks Pharaoh to let the people go, and Pharaoh says no. This is followed by plagues, false repentance, and another refusal. The cycle repeats itself until finally, after the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh relents, only to change his mind again almost immediately. The story is so familiar, I no longer expect to see anything new in it.
But during my most recent encounter with this passage, the Lord alerted me to a different perspective on this, which brought new application for me. The message Moses delivers from God is not simply, “Let my people go.” It is, “Let my people go that they may serve me.” Each time we read, “Let my people go,” it is followed by, “that they may serve me.” So God was not just demanding release from bondage. He was telling the purpose for which he wanted them released. It was not primarily for their freedom, or their comfort, or relief of their burdens. It was so that they could serve Him.
So what’s the application for us? It is this: We cannot truly serve God if we are in bondage to anything else. For example, if we are stuck in self-pity because of our pain, we cannot serve God. If we are envious of the seemingly carefree lives of our neighbors, we cannot serve God. If we are consumed with worry, fear, and anxiety, we cannot serve God. Oh, we may do things in service to Him, but that is not the same thing. If we are serving outwardly, but inwardly nursing sinful thoughts, our service is worth about as much as the straw the Hebrew slaves gathered to make their bricks, even as they seethed in anger at Moses for causing all their troubles. We cannot serve and worship God at the same time we are serving and worshipping self.
How about you, friend? Are you in bondage today? Who or what are you serving instead of God? I know that you desire to be released from bondage, but what is the reason for your desire? Are you just weary of pain, tired of depression or exhausted from the sleeplessness of anxiety and worry? Consider a better reason to be released from bondage: That you may serve Him! I will close with the words of Joshua, as he exhorted the Israelites in chapter 24, to choose whom they would serve:
"So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone."