“Let My people go, so they can serve Me.” Moses repeatedly uttered this refrain to Pharaoh insisting the Egyptian ruler release the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham. Many modern translations translate Moses’ command as “Let My people go, so they can worship Me,” but the word better translates as “serve.”
Everyone loves a story of freedom; it’s one of our inalienable rights. The Exodus is one of the great stories of freedom in human history—an enslaved people miraculously led by God to freedom from their oppressive masters. It was such a potent story that in the “Slave Bible”—a Bible given to African slaves brought to the Americas—the story of the Exodus was removed being deemed too problematic.
Our love for liberty spills over into our faith and spirituality. We often focus on our “freedom” in Christ, or that Christ has “freed” us. But, freed us for what? The story of the Exodus, Israel’s miraculous deliverance, is not about freedom, but rather about God’s liberating His people so that they can serve Him. The Exodus from Egypt is not so much about the slave going free, but about God redeeming a people from slavery to serve Him. Throughout the Bible, the focus does not fall on freedom and liberty, but rather on service to God.
The Bible mentions God’s kingship for the first time in connection with the deliverance at the sea: “The Lord reigns forever and ever” (Exod. 15:18). A king is to be served. God established Himself as Israel’s deliverer and its king. The people, then, were freed in order to serve: “Let My people go, so they can serve Me.”
The problem, however, is that we don’t want to serve. We want our freedom, our liberty. The Bible views things differently: God is king; we are His servants. He makes the rules; we follow them. Jesus spoke far more about service and servanthood than he ever did about freedom and liberty. He understood that we either serve God or something else, (Matt. 6:24) but we have to serve somebody.
God delivered Israel to serve Him. They were freed to serve. He still frees people to serve Him.
Father, today I submit my will and my life into Your hands. You are the King; may I follow You today as Your faithful servant. Amen.