December 16: Freedom
Jeremiah 31:1–40; Romans 6:15–7:6; Proverbs 21:1–12
We like to think of ourselves as autonomous. Our modern culture champions freedom and the right to pursue happiness. But if we apply the concept of rights when we think about faith, following Christ can feel like religion, dogma, rules—a type of bondage that requires us to think and behave in ways that make our autonomous selves bridle.
Paul looks at the issue differently: “Do you not know that to whomever you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whomever you obey, whether sin, leading to death, or obedience, leading to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16). He uses another analogy in his letter to the church in Rome—one that draws on the practice of the slavery within his own culture—to highlight the opposite view. If we live without God, he says, we have a debt that binds us. We are a slave to sin, and it’s the type of bondage that leads to death.
Yet, there is hope. Although we were slaves to sin, we can be redeemed from that slavery. Christ has paid the debt we incurred. He has set us free and brought us into a new bondage—not one that binds to death, but one that binds us to Him in life. If we believe this is true and put our trust in Him, we are no longer slaves.
As redeemed people, we’re called to a new life. While we once charted our own independent path—one that led to death—we can turn and follow a path that leads to sanctification and eternal life, a path that God charts just for us. While our path required a toll—death—Christ has paid that toll so we can walk in new life: “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
How have your old habits and patterns of behavior changed now that you’ve been set free? What still needs to change to reflect your new loyalty to Christ?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- At the same time, saith the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the Lord, The people which escaped the sword, found grace in the wilderness: he walketh before Israel to cause him to rest. The Lord hath appeared unto me of old, say they: Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with mercy I have drawn thee. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin Israel: thou shalt still be adorned with thy timbrels, and shalt go forth in the dance of them that be joyful. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria, and the planters that plant them, shall make them common. For the days shall come, that the watchman upon the mount of Ephraim shall cry, Arise, and let us go up unto Zion to the Lord our God. For thus saith the Lord, Rejoice with gladness for Jacob, and shout for joy among the chief of the Gentiles: publish praise and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the North country, and gather them from the coasts of the world, with the blind and the lame among them, with the woman with child, and her that is delivered also: a great company shall return hither. They shall come weeping, and with mercy will I bring them again: I will lead them by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. Hear the word of the Lord, O ye Gentiles, and declare in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel, will gather him, and will keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him, that was stronger than he. Therefore they shall come, and rejoice in the height of Zion, and shall run to the bountifulness of the Lord, even for the wheat and for the wine, and for the oil, and for the increase of sheep and bullocks, and their soul shall be as a watered garden, and they shall have no more sorrow. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old men together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and give them joy for their sorrows. And I will replenish the soul of the Priests, with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord, Refrain the voice form weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy: And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own borders. I have heard Ephraim lamenting thus, Thou hast corrected me, and I was chastised as an untamed calf: convert thou me, and I shall be converted: for thou art the my God. Surely after that I was converted, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son or a pleasant child? yet since I spake unto him, I still remembered him: therefore my bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have compassion upon him, saith the Lord. Set thee up signs: make thee heaps: set thine heart toward the path and way, that thou hast walked: turn again, O virgin of Israel: turn again to thee thy cities. How long wilt thou go astray, O thou rebellious daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth: A WOMAN shall compass a man. Thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel, Yet shall they say this thing in the land of Judah, and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity, The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice and holy mountain. And Judah shall dwell in it, and all the cities thereof together, the husbandmen and they that go forth with the flock. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Therefore I awaked and beheld, and my sleep was sweet to me. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel, and the house of Judah with the seed of men, and with the seed of beast. And like as I have watched upon them, to pluck up and to root out, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to plague them, so will I watch over them, to build and to plant them, saith the Lord. In those days shall they say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own iniquity, every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, the which my covenant they brake, although I was and husbandman unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sins no more. Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light to the day, and the courses of the moon and of the stars for a light to the night, which breaketh the sea, when the waves thereof roar: his Name is the Lord of hosts. If these ordinances depart out of my sight, saith the Lord, then shall the seed of Israel cease from being a nation before me, forever. Thus saith the Lord, If the heavens can be measured, or the foundations of the earth be searched out beneath, then will I cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith the Lord. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananel, unto the gate of the corner. And the line of the measure shall go forth [in] his presence upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, and unto the corner of the horsegate toward the East, shall be holy unto the Lord, neither shall it be plucked up nor destroyed anymore forever. (Jeremiah 31:1-40)
- What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whomsoever ye give yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye have been the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart unto the form of the doctrine, whereunto ye were delivered. Being then made free from sin, ye are made the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of a man, because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have given your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity, to commit iniquity, so now give your members servants unto righteousness in holiness. For when ye were servants of sin, ye were freed from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being freed from sin, and made servants unto God, ye have your fruit in holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. … But now we are delivered from the Law, he being dead in whom we were holden, that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 6:15-7:6)
- The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of waters: he turneth it whithersoever it pleaseth him. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but he Lord pondereth the hearts. To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. A haughty look, and a proud heart which is the light of the wicked, is sin. The thought of the diligent do surely bring abundance; but whosoever is hasty, cometh surely to poverty. The gatherings of treasures by a deceitful tongue is vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them: for the have refused to execute judgment. The way of some is perverted and strange, but of the pure man, his work is right. It is better to dwell in a corner of the house top, than with a contentious woman in a wide house. The soul of the wicked wisheth evil, and his neighbor hath no favor in his eyes. When the scorner is punished, the foolish is wise, and when one instructeth the wise, he will receive knowledge. The righteous reacheth the house of the wicked; but God overthroweth the wicked for their evil. (Proverbs 21:1-12)