“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 NIV)
One of the brutal realities of Egyptian slavery for the Israelites, and for slavery in our nation’s history, as well as modern-day slavery in the world, is that people are not treated as things good for production, not persons good for relationship.
A Hebrew person’s worth was tied up in how many bricks they could produce and how quickly they could produce them. Commands given by their Egyptian masters basically concerned this purpose of the Hebrew slaves–production. We might say today that they were simply cogs in a machine.
This is yet another reason why it is so important for God to begin a series of commandments in the context of relationship, and the foundation upon which this relationship is built.
Egypt gave commands, but those commands were about what someone could produce.
God gives commands, but his commands are about relationship, character, and community.
Egypt’s commands treated the Hebrews like objects to use. They were demeaning, designed to make the Hebrews’ lives smaller.
God’s commands treated the Hebrews (and treat us) like persons with dignity and worth. They are challenging and distinctive. And they are ennobling, designed to make our lives larger.
We are meant to be servants of God, fully surrendered to him and to his will. Israel knew what it meant to be enslaved to the wrong sort of master. In Christ, our lives are not our own, just as the Israelites’ lives were not their own as slaves in Egypt. But while serving Egpyt meant becoming smaller and less human, serving Christ means becoming larger and more human.
Prayer: God, thank you for your strong hand and your compassionate heart. Help me to love and follow you, and so find life and joy. Amen.