NEW HOPE VERSUS AN OLD CURSE
What happens when people are oppressed all their lives and then suddenly are set free? What happens when abused frightened children suddenly discover they have grown strong enough to stop the abuse? Will revenge rule? Will oppressed people become the oppressors? Will the abused child become an abuser?
When the nation of Israel was set free from Egyptian bondage 400 years of anger against the Egyptians was turned against God in the wilderness. They rejoiced when they saw God destroy Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. They gladly carried away a great spoil of gold, silver, jewels and all manner of rich garments and provision. But they were given no opportunity to pour out their anger in revenge. And why had God taken so long to send a deliverer? Though God had shown His power to destroy their oppressors so thoroughly that Egypt had no power to ever come after them, they murmured and complained in the desert testing God over every detail of provision. Despite His faithfulness and displays of power to protect and lead them, they did not trust Him to defeat the Canaanites and bring them into the Promised Land. They caused their own 40 year misery in the desert and still witnessed God’s miracles of health and provision. Everyone was healthy and the shoes did not wear out on their feet.
The problem was that they were former slaves who did not know how to be free. They could not properly release their anger and suspicion. So God had to raise up a generation of young people who could follow the only two men who had a heart to know the God of liberty – into the Promised Land and conquer all their enemies – large and small.
These two men, Joshua and Caleb, show us the best of human potential despite years of oppression. There is a contrast here to learn and benefit from.
A Prudent Man Learns From Hard Realities
Proverbs 15:5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once,
But a prudent man covers shame.
Proverbs 13:1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
The curse produces the choices of Cain.
Proverbs 19:19 A man of great wrath will suffer punishment;
For if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.
But in Christ we are free.
Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger,
And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
Experience teaches us that there are some people you cannot turn from their anger and/or evil.
Proverbs 9:7, 8
7 “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”
In contrast, there are others the Lord redeems to wisdom.
Proverbs 24:24, 25
24 He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse; nations will abhor him.
25 But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them.
New Hope Versus an Old Curse
Consider the point of these proverbs.
Proverbs 1:32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
21 For three things the earth is perturbed,
Yes, for four it cannot bear up:
22 For a servant when he reigns,
A fool when he is filled with food,
23 A hateful woman when she is married,
And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.
Proverbs 19:10 Luxury is not fitting for a fool,
Much less for a servant to rule over princes.
The history of man reveals that those who come into power from a background of poverty, abuse, slavery or oppression pledge to make things right. But their definition of “right” is the same as their oppressors; “might makes right.” They take revenge on their enemies and oppress those under their rule just as they were oppressed. The only lesson they learn is to do to others what was done to them.
Proverbs 29:9 If a wise man contends with a foolish man,
Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.
This reality causes those who bring deliverance to learn hard lessons as well. Once you release such an oppressed person from bondage, how do you help them to live as powerful people who will not destroy their own lives and others around them?
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
Jesus came as our Deliverer to set us free from our sins, our bondage and our oppressions. He successfully released the man bound with a legion of demons and that man immediately became an evangelist to his country. Jesus released Mary Magdalene and many others bound by demons. He also set a multitude free from the oppressive rule of the religious establishment through the ministry of the disciples.
But we also read reports of many who went back under the control of religious spirits and went about requiring new converts to live under the old oppressive laws (circumcision) Jesus came to deliver them from. They did not know how to live free.
You can see this struggle even in Paul’s writings. He clearly understood by revelation that Christ had defeated the curse for us (Galatians 3:13) so now there is no Jew and Gentile, no slave and master and even no male and female. In Christ we are all equal just as God originally created the race of man in the Garden of Eden.
But Paul knew that thousands of years of living under the curse are not forgotten overnight after we come into God’s kingdom. Though Paul saw these truths and proclaimed them, he did not try to persuade his readers to embrace them all at once. He declared the realities here and there but only pushed his readers to embrace the equality of all races. As a Jew he could declare the middle wall of partition broken down between Jew and Gentile – that we are all now one in Christ and need to learn to walk together. Still, after Constantine became a Christian Emperor, he enforced a purging of all things Jewish from the worship services of the church. It took years to complete this seduction – but it was not that hard, as men love power over others more than humility.
Paul said little to slaves and masters. Still Paul’s letter to Philemon is a cry to his brother in Christ to recognize the reality of Onesimus’ freedom in Christ. Why did Paul send Onesimus back to Philemon? Why not keep him with him?
Paul kept Onesimus with him long enough to ensure he had the heart to be free, yet submit to the prevailing culture and doctrine of that day without fear. The culture of his day could not incorporate all three realities at once – even in the church. Today most free cultures accept racial equality. It is only in the minds of religious legalists that racism prevails to any degree.
Today we also largely accept that slavery is not God’s will and Christ’s work includes deliverance from this darkness. Regarding gender though, we are only starting to see the effect of the curse broken in our ability to accept gender equality before God. And there too, the world seems far ahead of most religions around the world. Jesus truly has set us free from all forms of oppression.
Our struggle is two-fold. How do we unfold this deliverance without chaos? And how do we help former slaves (women) rise into the reality of freedom, equality and destiny without unleashing pent-up anger, hatred, frustration and desire for revenge? For some this will be a great struggle. But I believe the greater struggle will be with men, afraid of what equality may cost them, then what we may find coming out of the hearts of women.
Will it take decades until finally a generation arises with no built in need to oppress others out of fear? Or make previous generations suffer for centuries of oppression? Will we have to walk softly through these mind-fields for years to come? Unless our young people today are ready for radical revolutionary faith, I think we will need the wisdom of the Ancient of Days to progress step-by-step until the day of dramatic breakthrough – like the Berlin Wall coming down.
Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
What about you? Will you step into the full liberty by which Christ has set you free? Or do you require His patient line-upon-line preparation and issue-by-issue leading you out of the mind-fields of old traumas, fearful memories and vows to “make them pay”? In my history with the Lord I have needed the slow approach in some subjects, while being able to follow Him easily in others.
Either way, Jesus has paid the full price for your immediate transport to freedom, or your need for His hand to lead you carefully out of darkness. The Holy Spirit has the power for the one and the patience for the other. Whatever your condition, whatever your need, Jesus is your Savior. Father God will love you through – all the way. And the Spirit is your steadfast comforter, teacher and companion.
But be of good cheer and take comfort in this. The hour of Jesus return grows nearer every day. Things are speeding up all around us. Deliverance is happening in more dramatic ways for more people. The slow processes that some require will not take the long journeys that previous generations endured. The church is stepping into greater understanding of who we are in Christ. Cultural strongholds are coming down and believers all around the world are stepping into greater spiritual authority than ever before. History is being made right now in the church and by the church.
As the Chronicles of Narnia declare, “Aslan is on the move.” Jesus, we wait for you. But we are not idle. By Your Spirit we are preparing the way for Your entrance.
Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!