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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service

By Horatius Bonar


      "Let my people go, that they may serve me." -- Exodus 8:1

      THUS God spoke of Israel in Egypt, commanding deliverance for them. It was a word of power, like, "Let there be light." Reluctant Pharaoh was compelled to let go his grasp. The command was irresistible.

      God adds His reason for the command and its peremptoriness, "that they may serve me." He did not need to give a reason, yet He does so; He justifies His claim upon them and against Pharaoh. God's authority over men is an infinitely reasonable one. He makes no claim in regard to which even our own consciences do not justify Him. He has a claim on us; and no other can compete with this. You must serve me, He says to us; they must serve me, He says to them who held them in bondage. The length, and strength, and apparent justice of other service cannot be taken into account when God puts in His claims.

      'Tis thus Christ speaks respecting His church, His elect; the. Holy One of Israel respecting His Israel. He speaks to His enemies and theirs; to those who hold them in bondage, the Pharaohs of the world, to Satan, "Let my people go, that they may serve me." It is out of earthly bondage into heavenly liberty that He calls us; from the bondage of Satan to the liberty of Christ. It is both to a divine service and a divine liberty that we are called. These are the two things; and they are inseparable. Not liberty for its own sake, but liberty for the sake of service; not service without liberty, but service as the result of liberty. Liberty and service conjoined; not the one without the other, but hand in hand. "Freedom is a noble thing," yet its value consists in the position in which it places us for service.

      But what I specially notice here is the order of the two things,--first liberty, and then service, implying that service is impossible without freedom. There may be Egyptian service,--such service as will satisfy the gods of Egypt, without liberty, but not such as will please the God of Israel. There may be self-righteous service, mechanical service, Pharisaical service, the service of the outer man, without liberty, but not the glad service of the soul.

      I. We are in bondage. Our natural condition is one of bondage. We are born in Egypt, not in Canaan; born in a prison; born with the fetters on our limbs; born slaves. Our wills are in bondage; our faculties are in bondage; our affections are in bondage; our whole souls are in bondage.

      There is no free motion or free action of any part of us. All is constraint. We act under the sense of terror, or for a reward, or in order to obtain pardon. We do nothing freely or purely. Work done in chains is no work at all. Work done in order to purchase liberty is not acceptable work.

      II. We were made for liberty. Israel was not made for Egypt, nor Egypt for him. So we were not created for bondage and the prison-house. God made man both upright and free. His whole being,--faculties, and affections, and will,--were made free, truly free, with nothing of constraint upon them save the glad constraint of love. God did not create us bondslaves. Liberty is the proper, the normal condition of the creature.

      III. We cannot serve God without liberty. We may do some things without. The body can labour in a prison, and with fetters; but the soul must be free in order to serve; free in all its parts, so that nothing may be of constraint but willingly. Other services may be performed in any way,--for wages, or under threat; but God's service must be performed freely in all its parts. We must be free in order that we may serve. It is not service in order to liberty, but liberty in order to service. This is God's order; and he who disregards it, or inverts it, is a servant of whom the Master cannot approve,--whose service He rejects. Nay, his is no service at all. Till we are free, we cannot serve. He that is not free can perform no duty aright, no true work for God.

      IV. Christ calls us to liberty. He came to open our prison doors; to bring us out of the house of Egypt. He came to- break our chains, and to make us wholly free. He has stated the matter thus: (1.) the Son shall make us free, implying that the liberty comes directly from Himself; (2.) the truth shall make you free, teaching us that it is through the truth that He gives us the liberty. He liberates. His truth liberates. His Spirit liberates. With our fetters broken by His touch; our souls receiving His truth; ourselves filled with the spirit of liberty, we go forth as freed men to serve God. In the bondage of unpardoned sin, in the disquietude of uncertainty as to our relationship, we cannot serve God. It is not true service, or happy service, or loving service, or acceptable service. We must be let go that we may serve.

      Have you been set free? Are you walking at liberty? Has the gospel brought its peace in to you? Is the Spirit of adoption teaching you to say, Abba, Father? You say you are endeavouring to serve God. But in what spirit? In love or dread? In gladness or in terror? In light or in gloom?

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See Also:
   Preface
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae

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