Of all the Old Testament Laws, perhaps the most difficult one to understand is God's allowance of slavery.
Living today, knowing that slavery is cruel, inhuman and counter to everything we see in the work and teaching of Jesus it’s difficult to comprehend how God could permit such an evil institution.
Why didn’t God ban slavery, at least among His own people? Even though the laws regarding slavery were advanced for their day couldn’t God foresee that these very laws governing slavery would one day be used in churches and from pulpits to justify from the Word of God the ongoing practice of slavery in the United States?
Maybe the answer is found in a question the Pharisees asked Jesus. In Matthew 19:3 they come to Jesus trying to trap him with the question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (NASB®)
To which Jesus replies, “...THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH…What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:5,6 NASB®).
This stunned the Pharisees since it sounded like Jesus was saying, “Divorce is not an option!” So they quickly followed up with a second question, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” (Matthew 19:7 NASB®)
To which Jesus replied, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8 NASB®).
Why Divorce and Slavery is in the Law of Moses
Divorce is only in the law of Moses because of the hardness of our hearts!
Slavery is only in the law of Moses because of the hardness of our hearts!
It was not that way in the beginning! It shouldn’t be that way now! It won’t be that way at the end!
God is not behind the times! We are! The problem is the hardness of our hearts!
If we use the law of Moses as an end point we miss God’s point entirely! The laws given to Moses were a starting point for a group of former slaves coming out of a pagan culture who lived over 3000 years ago and were just beginning to know and understand God.
We come to the time of Jesus and find in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus moves the starting point up by quite a bit!
The real question today should be pointed at us not God and that question is, “What is God allowing today, in us, in our church, in our country because of the hardness of our hearts?”
Slavery to sin is still cruel, inhuman and counter to everything we see in the work and teaching of Jesus. Especially when found among God’s people!
Freedom was to be the default in Israel, slavery the exception. Freedom is to be the default among God’s people but slavery to sin may still exist in our lives. What’s amazing is that God seeks to meet us where we are and grow us up from that point!
The prologue to the Decalogue is still there for us today, “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery" (Exodus 20:2 NLT).
Call to Action
God has brought us up out of Egypt. Will we let Him take Egypt out of our hearts?