Here is the thing about the enemy: we sometimes forget about how sly he is. Remember, Satan showed up as a snake in Genesis, slithering down and deceiving Eve, convincing her that this first sin was her idea, that she made the choice freely, all on her own.
Convincing her that she was free as he bound up her spirit in the shackles of his deception.
And at this first bite, Eve steps over the threshold of her freedom into slavery to sin and to death.
But, praise God, this isn’t the end of the story.
Several hundred years later, we meet Moses and Israel. Israel’s bondage is of the visible variety, a nation of slaves to the Egyptian pharaoh. God uses Moses to set His people free from their bondage and they begin their trek out of Egypt, through the desert, and toward the Promised Land. But out there, wandering the desert, the Israelites start to lose hope because freedom doesn’t look the way they had imagined it would.
Then another several hundred years down the road, along comes this Jesus fellow. In this pivotal story of freedom, this fantastic tale about a God who takes human shape in order to set all of humankind free for the rest of eternity, freedom is yet again misunderstood and nailed up to a cross to die.
Because that snake in that tree is a sneaky bastard. We, in our humanness, contain the snake to the story of Adam and Eve despite the fact that he still whispers deceptions in our ears at every opportunity. He tells us that, if we were really free, we could eat whatever fruit we wanted because freedom means that there are no rules. If we were really free, we wouldn’t be wandering around in a desert. We would just be transported straight to the Promised Land where we would be prosperous and content. If we were really free, this man who claims to be the Son of God and King of the Jews couldn’t just crash into our story and claim to be here to save the world. Because if were really free, we wouldn’t need saving.
And that is just the oppression we need liberation from.
The world tells us that freedom is lawlessness or travel or festivals or wealth. Freedom is the open road or the future or the “right” form of government. But if the story of Israel teaches us anything about freedom, it’s that a lot of the time, it’s far simpler than we make it out to be.
Adam and Eve’s freedom wasn’t infringed by their restriction from the forbidden fruit. It was defined by their uninhibited communion with God and their ability to freely decide whether or not to obey His loving commandments. Their freedom wasn’t compromised until they made the choice to listen to the whispers of the enemy rather than the heart of their Father.
The purpose of the Israelites freedom was never the desert, but neither was it the Promised Land. They believed the lie that the very heart of the reason they were freed from their bondage was the Promise lying ahead of them and missed that the point of their liberation was the freedom itself. At God’s truest and purest communion with His kids lies our freedom from captivity and our uninhibited relationship with Him. God cannot be contained and, as we were created in His image, it is not in our nature to be contained either.
And, most importantly, when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, the participants in this salvation story believed Satan’s lie that they were in control. That they had wrapped their fingers around God and boxed Him into their mind’s comprehensive capacity. And I think that maybe Satan believed that same lie. But in the ultimate expression of freedom, Jesus willingly and freely died an earthly death, only to exercise this powerful freedom by rolling away the tombstone meant to contain Him to show the world that sometimes, freedom looks like being bound up and dying. His freedom—our freedom—is in our righteous and willing dependency on a Father who is far stronger than any government or nails or tombstones.
God is always present in freedom. In the Garden, before the fall, God walked around in all His glory, communing freely with His Adam and His Eve. But Eve was so distracted by His gracious and protective restriction, she took her eyes off Him and lost her way. In the desert, God had a house with walls, a tent in the middle of the camp, and He came out to lead them on their journey in a great pillar of fire. But the Israelites were so enamored with the Promised Land, they fixed their eyes on the future rather than the Father and they missed the greatest story of salvation that had yet been told. And at Golgotha, God was nailed up to a cross for everyone to see and the people were so distracted by their infatuation with rules and regulations and the church was so obsessed with their power and their prosperity that all they could see was a man, dying because He had the audacity to love so freely that sinners were getting saved.