In a few weeks’ time Christians will be celebrating the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which were instituted for the ancient Israelites at a time when they were slaves in Egypt.
A long time ago there was a young man called Joseph, who was one of the sons of Jacob. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He became a slave in the household of a wealthy Egyptian called Potiphar (Genesis 37:36; 39:1). Joseph did well in his work, and Potiphar recognised his abilities and attitude, making Joseph second only to him. But after Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, and Joseph ran away from her, he was then put in prison (Genesis 39:20).
Later we see Joseph interpreting a dream of the Pharoah and eventually being set free. There was going to be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph arranged for much of the surplus food to be stored up, so that there was still food during the famine (Genesis 41:29–41).
Joseph’s family came to Egypt, searching for food. After Joseph revealed himself to them, they settled in Egypt (Genesis 45:4–10).
Joseph had freedom, and so did his extended family. They had enough to eat and live on. The Egyptians gave the Israelites land in the area of Goshen. They multiplied greatly.
Eventually, a later Pharoah and the Egyptian people had forgotten the great things of Joseph and his family, and they saw the Israelites as foreigners who could be turned into a cheap labour force.
So the Israelites were enslaved, to be used in building work. At some point, God decided it was time to set them free. They had retained some knowledge of God, but had lost the Sabbath and other parts of God’s law.
God raised up a Levite called Moses, and had him brought up in the court of Pharoah for 40 years. Moses then had to flee to Midian after killing a man (Exodus 2:11–15).
After some time, God revealed Himself to Moses at Horeb (Exodus 3:1–6). He told him that he should return to Egypt to free the Israelites. By then Moses was already 80.
We then see God perform great miracles and send 10 plagues on Egypt, to encourage the Egyptians to let the Israelites go free from their slavery, but not until after they had been totally worn out by the plagues.
The last plague was the death of the firstborn, and was only going to be on those who did not keep the Passover.
We see the Israelites keeping the Passover. In Exodus 12:5–8, 12–13, we read
12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (NKJV)
God gave them specific instructions for eating the Passover lamb, and when to eat it. They had to eat it at night, while the death angel passed over the land, killing the firstborn of the anyone who did not follow God, which would be the Egyptians.
The blood of the lamb was put on their doorposts as a sign to show that they were keeping the Passover. Thus the firstborn of the Israelites, where the blood was on the doorposts, were not killed.
This was the prelude to the Israelites leaving their slavery.
As Christians, we also keep the Passover. It has a certain symbolism, picturing the death of Jesus Christ. He was crucified on the day of Passover. It was to pay for our sins, so that we can be free from the slavery of sin and this world.
We are called by God to come out of sin, and we leave, as best we can, sinful ways behind us. Egypt was a type of sin, which Israel had to leave. But they had to sacrifice a lamb first, before they could leave.
We, as Christians, have to accept Christ’s sacrifice to cleanse us from sin.
We must continue to come out of slavery continually. It does not happen all at once. When the Israelites left Egypt, they did so by following the pillar of fire and the cloud. They were following God who was leading them.
But they did not enter the Promised Land right away. They were led to the Red Sea, which appeared to be a dead end, but God gave them a way through it. The Israelites were freed from slavery, and the Egyptian army was killed. There was no way that Egypt could have enslaved the Israelites again.
But despite the great miracles that God did for them, the people still complained and murmured and were not grateful for what God did in rescuing them from slavery.
We can turn to Numbers and read their attitude, in Numbers 11:4–6
These people had been set free from slavery, but because their food options were limited, they wanted to return to slavery in Egypt, just so they could have a more varied diet. They did not appreciate that God had given them free food in the wilderness, something miraculous that they did not have to grow, i.e. the manna that was there each morning, which they collected every day, except on the Sabbath.
They did not even have the slavery of trying to grow food in difficult conditions. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they had abundant lovely food. They could eat at any time without having to work for it. But after they sinned, they were cast out of Eden and had to work the ground. They had to work hard to grow food to eat.
But here in the wilderness, the Israelites were given free food. Just imagine if you did not have to work for food. Today we might go to work, earn some money, then go to a shop to buy food. But what if, every morning, food just miraculously appeared outside your front door. All you had to do was open the door, go outside, and gather in the free food.
If God did that for us, that would be a great help. But if you then moaned and complained about it, then would God be happy with that?
The Israelites still had a mental attitude of being in slavery. They wanted to go back to their slave lifestyles and not have the freedom that God was offering them. God offers freedom from slavery to Christians as well. God calls us out of the world and into freedom from sin, and knowing the truth.
But what if we decide to go back to the slavery of the old way of life, because we were missing it? The Israelites had forgotten all the difficulties in being a slave, and how bad it had really been. So we, as Christians, must not forget how bad things were for us before we were released from the slavery of this world.
There are many examples of slavery today. Even though the type of slavery we usually think of has been outlawed in much of the Western world, there are other types of slavery that still hold people in bondage.
Some examples are firstly, the obvious one, sin. Sin holds people in bondage and will eventually kill them unless repented of.
Second, things like fashion, popular music, and the latest gadgets, put people in slavery. Some are slaves to the latest fashions, and feel compelled to spend their money on the latest clothes, or the latest music. Or to watch the latest episodes of their favourite TV show, or to buy a new iPhone, or some other expensive computerised gadget. But do these things bring freedom?
We all need clothes to wear, we can enjoy listening to music, and things like smartphones can help us in practical ways. But we must not become slaves to them. People today, who are unconverted, see their lives as only having value if they have the latest things. They will waste huge resources, both time and money, to obtain something that does not really satisfy.
Or they waste money on food that does not give good health, and is full of toxins, perhaps to be seen to be eating the right food or in the right place, or people are too lazy to prepare proper food or even learn what the proper foods are.
Or they want convenience foods, fast food, being slaves to their own pleasures and laziness, rather than seeking good health.
People are often slaves to the opinions of others, and want to be seen to be in with the “in-crowd” instead of being with the unfashionable people, or looking stupid.
People want to have the right status symbols, or to have the most “Likes” and friends on Facebook, and will set these kind of goals in preference to anything sensible.
Back in the time of Haggai the prophet, the people of Israel then were not following God, so God sent the prophet Haggai to warn them, as we read in Haggai 1:3–8
The people at the time of Haggai were just out to please themselves. They were eating well and living in nice houses. They had all the right status symbols. But they were slaves to those things, and had totally neglected God and the Temple of God.
So God had to warn them to rebuild the Temple which was lying in ruins, and to get their attitude right with God. They had nice clothes but were not warm, they had money but it was disappearing so quick that it was like keeping it in a bag of holes.
Their priorities were all wrong. Instead of putting God first, they put themselves first.
Today, people are much the same. They have money but it soon goes, and people do not have enough to pay for certain essentials. There have even been families who were poor, who could not afford to give their children or themselves all the things they needed. Instead of buying decent food and clothes, still preferred to spend their money on a big-screen TV, cable TV, or satellite TV, everyone with an iPhone, but still they claim to be poor.
And all the while these people are in slavery without even realising it. They have forgotten God, and allowed His Temple to lie in ruins.
The Temple of God today is us, as Christians. Anyone who has received the Holy Spirit in them, is part of the Temple of God. God does not need a physical building to dwell in, but He puts His Spirit in those who will follow Him and have repented of their sins, been baptised and been forgiven of their sins, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
So if we are the Temple of God, we must ensure that it does not lie in ruins. It must be taken care of. We must take care of our physical bodies, as well as the spiritual well-being, so that we can grow spiritually, rather than stagnate or decline.
In the film The Matrix we see a man who was being told that the whole world he had known around him was not real, and that it was just a computer simulation. He was told: “You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”
People are trapped in their minds, like being in a prison. They have a wrong way of thinking, which puts a person into bondage to their wrong thoughts.
In the film, the people were attached to a big computer system, and their minds imprisoned into a virtual reality world which looked like today’s modern world. But some had escaped from the virtual reality and freed their bodies from the pods they had been in.
The idea of the Matrix was that all of humanity had been enslaved to feed the machines. There had been a war between humans and the AI, the intelligent computers. So people stopped the electricity, and even blocked out the sunlight, as the machines needed a power source. The AI then enslaved humanity, and used the electrical charges from people’s bodies to power themselves.
This was the ultimate form of slavery, where the slaves existed only to provide power for their masters, the machines, and at the same time not even be aware of being a slave.
Only when a person was woken up from the virtual reality could they be freed. We see Neo being freed and dumped into water as a form of baptism, and becoming free from his former slavery.
In today’s world most people are still in slavery and do not even realise it. It is not a computerised simulation like the Matrix, but spiritually everyone is deceived by Satan and following the ways of Satan, unless their minds are opened.
We can read Romans 6:16–23
When we become Christians, we come out of the sin of this world, out of spiritual Egypt, and out of slavery to sin and the flesh. That way of life leads to death.
Paul wrote that we become slaves of righteousness instead. We are to be slaves to what is right, to live for God. It is not like the old slavery that we are leaving behind. The Greek word for slaves there can also be translated as servants. We become the servants of God.
So as we approach the Passover this year, remember that we have been called out of slavery of sin, and must never go back to it.
The Passover gives us the opportunity to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us, and just how blessed we are to know the truth.
And we can recognise that most people today are still in slavery and do not even know it, but one day their chance will also come, to be set free from the slavery of sin.
So let us keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread next month, free from sin, and free from the death penalty of sin, and free from our old lives in slavery.
We can live a new life of being a servant of God, as part of the Temple of God.
About the author: David King is a member of Church of God International in the United Kingdom, having attended with the Church of God for over 30 years.
Featured image by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, used under license, CC-BY-SA 3.0