Recently when preparing to co-preach on a Freedom Sunday, I was asked, “How have you sustained this work the past twelve years?” In preparation to respond to this during our message, I spent time reflecting on this familiar passage. I’ve known the story for years, since I was a kid. Now, it speaks to me in a deeply profound way; a new way that only comes when God’s Spirit is moving…
In Exodus 14, we find the story of the Israelites, recently freed slaves from Egypt, camping out in the desert. Plague after plague had finally driven Pharoah to free his workforce and allow the Israelites to escape, so they could find their own land, and worship their God. But, right after freeing them, Pharoah changed his mind.
“We have let them get away, and they will no longer be our slaves!” (Exodus 14:5, CEB)
So Pharoah sends all his chariots and all his horses and pursues them relentlessly. He remembered what he’d known all along; the thing that kept him from releasing them sooner: How would they profit as a nation without exploiting the Israelites?
So these people, the Israelites, having been through years of trauma from their slavery in Egypt, were finally free, but it was a fresh, raw, new freedom that hadn’t even really begun to sink in yet. In this moment, they look to their past, back towards the place they were exploited for years, and see their former slaveholders agressively chasing them. With hundreds of the best chariots. With way more wealth and resources than they had. (They had basically nothing. They were camping, completely homeless in the desert…)
The scripture says they were terrified. Understandably so. The word vulnerable almost seems to be an understatement of their situation – following Moses in the desert into an unknown land with no food, no home, and no protection against their enemies. They were so afraid that they blamed Moses (who led them into their freedom) and accused him of bringing them into the desert to die.
“It would have been better for us to stay slaves.“
And what did Moses say in response to this, to these accusations and to them chosing slavery over the risk of true freedom?
“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the Lord’s salvation…”
I think Moses knew this would be a difficult, near impossible journey. I am certain he knew that without God they would never find freedom – they would easily be captured again. They weren’t strong enough on their own to step completely away from their former life into what God was planning for them. Moses’ words to them in Exodus 14:14 is a constant reminder to me that God is the one who ultimately does the fighting. He is the one who leads us into true freedom from whatever it is that keeps us enslaved.
For those of us who are fighting human trafficking, we can work ourselves to exhaustion fighting this global issue. It never stops. Around the clock, people are treated horrifically. If we want to change that and be part of bringing freedom, it takes a level of energy and effort that is supernatural. I believe it only comes from God.
We can sometimes start to think that we are the ones leading the fight, or even that we’re alone in our fight. But God invites us to be still. In that stillness, he reminds us that he calls us by name and loves us with a radical love beyond our comprehension. He invites me to clear space in my life so he can speak and bring true freedom – for those enslaved, for me, for you.
It’s our 6th year inviting people – you! – to join us by giving your own money so we can continue this freedom fight.
When we come together and generously release our own financial resources, we share our freedom. We are part of what the Lord uses to fight for others. He is always doing something, and I believe this year, during #FreedomFund2019, he is inviting us back into the desert, to clear some space, because he’s doing something new….