By: Ben Eames
The first time we see Israel as a nation in the Bible, they're not much of a nation. They had no land of their own, no kings or rulers to look after them and no freedom. They were just slaves for Pharaoh's workforce.
It was backbreaking work and Pharaoh was a relentless taskmaster. Make more bricks! There was no time off, no weekend, just every day the same, with an impossible quota to reach, baking bricks under the scorching Egyptian sun. Make more bricks! When Moses came along to plead for their freedom, Pharaoh told the slave drivers to whip them harder. Like they would with cattle. Make more bricks! And the poor slaves were so broken that they asked Moses not to talk to Pharaoh again.
But God has a soft spot for the little people, and he rescued those Israelites. Like a shepherd defending his flock from wild animals and leading them to water, God freed them and brought them out of Egypt. That was the birth of Israel as a nation, a story they retold over and over again through their history. The Jews still remember it every year at Passover. The Exodus became part of their national identity.
But when they first walked out of Egypt they had no identity at all. What kind of nation would they be? What would define their culture? How would they see the world? All they knew was Egypt, slavery, the soul-destroying work of making bricks. They had no order or purpose or vision. They were still beaten, broken and powerless. Like a psychologically-abused partner, some of them even thought, "Maybe we should go back to Egypt. At least it's what we know."
So God rescued them again, this time from themselves. He gave them a purpose and identity, and a whole bunch of guidelines for living. One of the most important was Sabbath. "Work well for your family, community and nation," God said, "But set aside one day every week for NOT working. You are not slaves anymore. I set you free. No more endlessly making bricks. You are people, not animals. Actually on that note, give your animals a day off too. They're not slaves either."
What about you? Are you a slave or a person? Do you have a healthy rhythm of work and rest? Or does your life seem a little like you're always just making more bricks? The modern world is so relentless that it's easy to fall into unsustainable patterns. There's always another demand. Always another notification. Sometimes we even crack the whip ourselves. "If I work more I can earn more, buy more, build more..."
Work is good, but constant work is dehumanizing. Regular rest puts work in its proper place and breathes life back in to us.
Do you feel tired all the time? Do you feel guilty when you rest? Maybe you need to listen again for the shepherd’s voice. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” God didn't intend for us to be slaves. He's the one leading us to freedom.
So step out and leave Egypt behind. Remember, you're a person. You're free. And you're meant to live while you're alive.
This post originally appeared on Ben's Tumblr
Ben is a fully-trained minister, but he's chosen to be the groundsman at a local primary school because it's a great way to bring hope to his local community. He believes everyone can make the world a better place, whoever or wherever you are. Ben also leads a simple alternative-style church in his home in Brisbane, Australia. Online, Ben produces the Facebook page "For Want of a Better World" and works to facilitate safe places for vibrant conversation on faith and life.
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