God redeems captives
The children of Abraham lived as slaves in the midst of Egypt’s great wealth.
Perhaps their lot was not quite as awful as that of slaves in other places and times. On their long, hard journey toward the Land of Promise, the Israelites reminisced about the good life in Egypt: Sitting around pots of meat and eating all the food they wanted. An abundance of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, and fish they used to eat “for free.”
But they were slaves nonetheless. Oppressed with back-breaking labor. Treated like animals. Far from their homeland. All their time and energy spent filling someone else’s pocket. Not free to leave. Not free to prosper.
And God said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey.”
When the Jews of Jesus’ time talked about God redeeming them, they weren’t just talking about being saved from the penalty of sin. When Israel thought about God’s salvation, they remembered when Jewish slaves in Egypt cried out for God to deliver them from oppression and the Almighty acted to set them free.
When God set the people free, it was to take them to the Land of Promise, a place of prosperity and security, a place where they could walk in God’s ways and together live the abundant life of shalom peace and justice that God created all people to enjoy.
Today, the good news is that God still hears the cries of broken people in captivity. God stands ready to deliver slaves from the powers that crush them. God’s intention is to restore his children to lives that are full, free, and forever. Not just eternal life in a world to come – as wonderful a promise as that is – but abundant life of peace, prosperity, and purpose in this world.
When God redeems captives, we are saved in every way. God liberates us from all captivity of every kind. Life under God’s shalom is life transformed in every respect. We are free to enjoy the love of our Creator and to experience the joy of living the way he intended us to live.
When God redeems us from captivity and brings us to our Land of Promise, we enjoy the justice God has brought into our lives. And we are free to do justice for other slaves – allowing God to use us so they can be set free from oppression as well, and experience the new life that is full, free, and forever.
Words like that may not resonate with a free people who live in the midst of great wealth, in a country shaped toward justice by Christian heritage. Middle-class American Christians do not readily grasp the significance of abundant life as part of redemption and salvation. What does the Gospel have to do with social justice anyway?
If those privileged Christians, however, enter even a shallow relationship with people who live in extreme poverty, or in a culture unprotected by Christian values, they will quickly understand how much they take for granted. They begin to realize how much they actually know about how a person makes a place for himself in the world and what just social relationships look like. They realize that poverty and oppression thrive when no one has a relationship with a person who knows how to live prosperous and free.
Poverty and oppression have as much to do with the lack of redemptive relationships as anything else. In a community without healthy role models of prosperity, everyone assumes poverty and crime are normal. In a neighborhood where no one truly knows a poor person, everyone assumes abundance is normal and poverty is the result of sin or laziness.
And oppression thrives everywhere.
The economic and moral disintegration of the United States will change everything for convictional American Christians. When we are no longer a privileged people, economically and socially, we will better understand the needs of the poor and oppressed and appreciate how salvation and redemption apply to the realities of everyday life.
And we will realize how much we have to offer a person who simply needs a personal relationship with someone who understands what it means to be redeemed and knows how to be restored to the full, free, and forever life.
When God redeemed the children of Abraham from slavery, he sent a man named Yehoshuah (Joshua – “God is salvation”) to lead them into the Land of Promise.
When, in the Land of Promise, the Israelites stubbornly continued giving themselves over into new captivities, God sent another one named Yehoshuah to save once and for all.
We call him Jesus.
Think about it
What barriers keep middle-class Christians from helping people escape poverty?
What obstacles keep people in poverty from making better lives for themselves?
Helping Wichita’s families in crisis
At-risk children are a key part of the commitment City Life church in Wichita, Kansas, to the more than 600,000 people who live in the metro area. The church sends out “Gospel-driven, city-focused people to declare and demonstrate the Gospel to the people of our city.” City Life members are involved with families in crisis, including personal involvement in the city’s foster care network. Click here to read more.
Next chapter: Lion of Judah, Lamb of God