Let My People Go!

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 0 comments

by David Odegard

You cannot give away what doesn’t belong to you. This seems to be a self-evident truth, doesn’t it? In order to transfer the legitimate ownership of something, you must first be the legitimate owner. If you do not believe that, I would like to sell you my neighbor’s house. The principle of self-ownership is a foundational philosophical truth. No one has a higher claim on your life than you do. Nor can you claim to own anyone else. Please watch this video based on Ken Schoolland's book The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, which you can watch here.

I own myself. Before you say that God owns me, let me provide background to my statement. Although God created every human being, He does not force them to obedience. God has a legitimate claim upon the entire human race because He created them, but God has allowed freedom to choose. God does not usually exercise His sovereignty over people in a way that prevents all evil. He does not choose the evil; He warns against it even. But he does not place a shock-collar on everyone and zap them every time that they displease Him in word, deed, or motive. Life has natural consequences, but God seems to be mostly willing to wait until after we die to judge us for our actions. He has given us freedom, even when that means that other people get hurt. “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).

We can use this freedom to obey him, seek him, or deny him. We can use it to harm others—as everyone has done at some point. Or we can voluntarily surrender ownership of our lives to God. I surrender my life to God, but I cannot give my life to God if I do not own my life in the first place. If the government owns me, as they certainly act like they do, then God would have to convince the government to surrender me.

Pharaoh made this mistake. Moses was sent with God’s message: “Let my people go.” Pharaoh felt that he owned the Hebrews and claimed them as property. But he had no rights of ownership of anyone. He did not heed the will of God, and in response God destroyed him, his army, and the long-term viability of Egypt as a world power for several generations. God was acting in a unique way as it regarded Israel. He did not deliver every slave in the world, or even all the slaves in Egypt. He only freed the Hebrews.

The Hebrews were supposed to be a model of humans voluntarily being ruled by God; they were to be the ‘city on a hill,’ the joy of the whole earth. But in the end, they preferred bondage. They asked to be placed back under bondage to a human king. God warned them that a human king would abuse life, liberty, and property (see 1 Samuel 8:11-18), but they insisted.

God’s perfect plan was that He would directly rule a nation that voluntarily gave itself to God. They would be His people and He would be their God, and in so doing, cause all the nations of the earth to be jealous for the good life in God’s kingdom. Israel was pregnant with that very purpose. But, Isaiah would later admit that the nation of Israel had failed to show the world the ways of God. “We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life” (Isaiah 26:18).

But even so, Isaiah foresees a time when this will no longer be true. In the very next verse (Isaiah 26:19), Isaiah sees that everything will change with the advent of the Messiah. “But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” At that time the barrenness will end and there will be real life.

The purpose of God will be complete: He will have a people of His very own, who voluntarily surrender the ownership of themselves to God. This is the goal of the new covenant according to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33 and 32:38) and Ezekiel (37:27). This idea is the main concept throughout the New Testament, but it is a powerful description of life in the eschaton (the end of the world): Revelation 21:3. This is the end goal of all redemptive history. Where Israel failed, the Messiah will not.

Odd as this seems that governments exercise ownership over people, they have historically acted in this way. National conversions to the leader’s religion were considered normal and valid. Princes acted as though their conversions included all the people in their lands. This concept undergirded many of the religious conflicts in Europe’s history.

But no other person or group of persons, no matter the claim they think they have, can own another person. No one owns you but you. The church does not own you, the government doesn’t own you, and God doesn’t force his ownership on you either, though he would have the right to do so but doesn’t. As Garrett DeWeese once wrote, “If God himself tolerates unbelievers and seeks to persuade them by means of the attractiveness of the loving sacrificial work of Jesus and the loving Christian community (see John 17:20-23 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-20), then it follows that Christians should not embark on a mission to force belief contrary to conscience.”

We appeal to the conscience of individuals with the truth claims of God in Scripture, but we cannot legislate Christianity. No one is ever truly converted by the sword. Rather, God expects individuals to voluntarily submit to His rule and reign and associate themselves with one another in the church in order to carry out God’s will and demonstrate His power and glory on the earth so that all may see and know that He is God. Your dedication of yourself to God and to His kingdom is only valid if the principle of self-ownership is true, and Pharaoh doesn’t have the power to stop you.

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