The Surprising Secret of Freedom
The Surprising Secret of Freedom
‘I have on my table a violin string,’ wrote Rabindranath Tagore. ‘It is free to move in any direction I like. If I twist one end it responds; it is free. But it is not free to sing. So I take it and fix it into my violin. I bind it and when it is bound, it is free for the first time to sing.’
True freedom comes when we bind ourselves to Jesus and fix our eyes on him. As the violin string comes alive when bound into the violin, so we come alive in Christ. Jesus is the great liberator. He sets us free.
At the heart of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. Jesus died for you. He was raised to life and he is alive today. You cannot see him physically, but you can see him with the eyes of faith.
In today’s passage, the writer of Hebrews says, ‘we see Jesus’ (Hebrews 2:9). Later, he writes, ‘let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (12:2). He is both the author of our faith and the author of our salvation (2:10), described earlier as such a ‘great salvation’ (v.3).
What does this salvation involve? What are we freed from?
Freedom from fearProverbs 26:13–22
As Christians, we should be fearless. We should never allow fear of the enemy to slow us down.
The writer of Proverbs says, ‘A sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”’ (v.13). Every Christian ministry faces ‘fierce lions’. Don’t be put off by fear, which leads to inertia and lack of activity (vv.14–15). Jesus sets us free to advance without fear of the opposition.
Freedom is the antithesis of apathy. The writer goes on to warn against every kind of laziness. He warns us not to get involved with other people’s arguments (v.17). He warns also against jokes that involve telling lies (v.19).
The best way to heal a quarrel is to stop gossiping. Without gossip a quarrel dies down just as without wood a fire goes out (v.20). It is so tempting to listen to gossip because ‘the words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts’ (v.22). But listening to gossip is as bad as gossiping – rather like receiving stolen goods is as bad as theft.
Here is wisdom about how to heal a quarrel: never add fuel to the fire but rather be a peacemaker.
Lord, thank you that through Jesus I can be set free from my fears. Help me to be bold in the face of opposition and never allow fear to slow me down.
Freedom from sin and deathHebrews 2:1–18
The letter of Hebrews is written to warn against drifting away (v.1). Most people do not suddenly give up being Christians, but we can drift. The author of Hebrews includes himself in this warning: ‘We must pay careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?’ (vv.1–3a).
In the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer establishes the divinity of Jesus. In this chapter, he establishes his humanity: ‘he had to enter into every detail of human life’ (v.17, MSG).
Jesus became like us in that he:
- became, for a while, lower than the angels (v.9)
- is of the same family (v.11)
- calls us brothers and sisters (v.11)
- shares in our humanity (v.14)
- was made like us in every way (v.17)
- suffered when he was tempted (v.18).
But, he adds, although Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, he was ‘without sin’ (4:15). This shows that temptation is not sin. Do not allow the devil to condemn you just because you are tempted. The fact that Jesus himself was tempted means that he is able to help you when you are tempted (v.17).
He was like us but different from us in regard to sin. It is so encouraging to know that Jesus has experienced the full range of human experience and emotion – he understands and sympathises with you. Yet it is also important that he was sinless. We do not just need a friend who can sympathise with us; we need a saviour.
Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. This is what made it possible for him to achieve such a great salvation through his death and resurrection. He is able to bridge the gap between you and God.
In this passage, the writer tells us a number of things about the death of Jesus. On the cross, he:
- tasted death for everyone (2:9)
- destroyed the devil (v.14)
- freed us from the fear of death (v.15)
- made atonement for our sins (v.17)
- pioneered our salvation (v.10)
- was made perfect through suffering (v.10).
A free person is not afraid to think about death. It has been suggested that ultimately all our fears are related to the fear of death. In setting you free from death and the fear of death, Jesus has enabled you to be set free from all your other fears.
The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus tasted ‘death for everyone’ (v.9) so that by ‘embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death’ (vv.14–15, MSG).
God testified to what Jesus had done – this great salvation – by ‘signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will’ (v.4). If the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for those other than the apostles, surely signs, wonders and miracles are also. And we should still expect them today to accompany the preaching of the message of Jesus and his great salvation.
Thank you, Jesus, that you were willing to suffer and taste death for me. Thank you for setting me free and making it possible to enjoy freedom from the results of sin and the fear of death.
Freedom from injusticeObadiah 1–21
We live in a world of terrible injustice. To take one example – there are still over 24 million people in forced labour worldwide. 2 million children are trafficked every year. There are more people in slavery today than in the 350-year history of the transatlantic slave trade.
The book of Obadiah promises that the world will not always be like this. One day, when God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, there will be justice for all.
The name Obadiah means ‘one who serves and worships Yahweh’. In this, the shortest Old Testament book, Obadiah, about whom we know virtually nothing, foretells the downfall of one of the enemies of God’s people.
The people of Edom were descended from Esau, Jacob’s twin. They were always felt to have a real kinship with the people of Israel. However, this often showed itself – not so much in mutual assistance – as in hostile recriminations and charges of treachery. The two neighbouring peoples – Israel and Edom – had a long history of war and rivalry.
Pride was the downfall of Edom: ‘You thought you were so great... Thinking to yourself, “Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!”’ (vv.2–3, MSG). Pride is the opposite of love. Love is not proud. It does not boast (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Obadiah suggests that when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC the Edomites did nothing to help and they may even have taken advantage of Judah’s fate.
He writes, ‘You shouldn’t have gloated over your brother when he was down-and-out’ (Obadiah v.12, MSG). He goes on to say, ‘As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head’ (v.15). We should never gloat when an enemy falls. Rather, we should extend the same compassion as God extends to us.
Obadiah speaks of the great deliverance (vv.17,21) that will take place on the day of the Lord (vv.8,15). He writes, ‘The day of the Lord is near’ (v.15). On that day the great deliverance will take place:
‘The remnant of the saved in Mount Zion
will go into the mountains of Esau
And rule justly and fairly,
a rule that honours God's kingdom’ (v.21, MSG).
One day, God’s people will take on the reins of government and administer God’s justice. They will represent God’s rule in God’s kingdom.
With the coming of Jesus the kingdom of God has broken into history. When Jesus returns, we will see the kingdom of God in all its fullness. On that day, all the prophecies of Obadiah and others will be fulfilled. We will be freed from all injustice.
Lord, thank you that, one day, justice will come for all. In the meantime, help us to fight injustice wherever we see it.
‘Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.’
We have a choice each time we hear a piece of gossip either to fuel it or to pour water on it and extinguish it.
Verse of the Day
‘Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down’ (Proverbs 26:20).
Charles Allen, Raj a Scrapbook of British India 1877–1947 (Penguin Books, 1979).
Child Trafficking stats: Accessed via, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/about-human-trafficking/the-scale-of-human-trafficking/ [Last accessed October 2018]
https://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-trafficking/child-trafficking-statistics [Last accessed for research: October 2018]
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.