What does freedom mean to you? There are many people around the world who have never experienced freedom. Unfortunately, we often take it for granted. And as we’re seeing in the world right now, people are so focused on how their freedoms or rights are being violated they are forgetting the importance of their own responsibility. They go hand in hand. We need to take responsibility for our actions and be grateful for the blessing of freedom.
In God’s rant here, he is calling out the people of Israel as being stubborn. They are taking God for granted, and that is not pleasing to God. He warned them ahead of time what was going to happen so they wouldn’t be shocked or taken by surprise. I’m sure many chose not to believe because it sounded absurd. God is trying to get their attention in both instances where he uses this phrase, “Listen to me, O family of Jacob.” If you’re a parent, you know how frustrating it is when your children don’t listen!
Isaiah calls it out plain as day. “Look, a righteous king is coming!” Having suffered under power hungry kings who were not focused on God’s will, the idea of a righteous king must sound amazing. Bad things will befall Judah, but they can look forward to the day when God sends Jesus, a king unlike any other king. One who promises to rule with justice.
“In that day” we hear some remarkable things will happen. Evil will be exposed as evil. We can look around today and see how evil is infiltrating our world on many levels. It’s like people are blind to it and even attracted to it. It’s alarming really. Yet this phenomenon is nothing new. Even when Jesus came the first time, the people didn’t recognize him, and evil was allowed to play a role in his death. While we don’t understand, we know God has it under his control.
This may be a passage you want to return to over and over again. It is always great counsel to remember where our power comes from. I love how Paul starts this section. “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” He uses the powerful word “So,” which we know to be like “Therefore.” It tells us to remember everything that comes before it as if it were restated in its entirety before he gives us new counsel. What are we supposed to do now? Let the Holy Spirit guide us. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
We are exchanging the reality of being chained to the law, and the expectations that come with that affliction, for the freedom of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul says, “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Cool. The Spirit is not going to lead us down a path that will be contrary to the law anyway. Since we are sinful creatures, the tendency to sin is inside us. When we let the Holy Spirit guide us, imagine the battle going on inside us between good and evil. The Holy Spirit is definitely stronger. When we rely on our own wisdom, that’s when we make foolish decisions.
The freedom Paul talks about isn’t a commodity you can buy or earn. Freedom isn’t something you get to save for a rainy day. Rather, freedom is a gift from God that increases in value when you use it wisely and can be lost if you misuse or abuse it. This gift is ours because Jesus took on our humanity and sacrificed himself for us.
With all the talk of the law leading up to this short passage, I was surprised that Paul said this. “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” *emphasis added. While it is true that many of the commandments are focused on acting in ways that show our love for others, he is missing the other part of this. We need to love God with our whole heart as well. When we focus on loving God and others, we are living how God intends for us to live. We are thereby following the “law” because of our best practices in the love department.
I loved Paul’s analogy here of an inheritance. Not that I want to see any children left as orphans, but it drives home the image of our Abba Father’s provision for us. As orphans, the children would be under the protection of a guardian until such time that their inheritance became available. I remember writing our own wills when the children were little with instructions on who would be guardians and how they would be cared for until they reached age 25. Would they be ready to handle the money they inherited at that age? There was a much better chance than if they were younger. How much wiser is God to know the right time to share the inheritance he had for his people!
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” At the right time, God acted. God sent his Son so that we could be free. Freedom from the law that was holding us captive is now ours! Paul had to explain it because the Gentiles didn’t share this history. They hadn’t been waiting and anticipating the coming Savior of the world. Yet, God always intended to include them as adopted children.