We are in a sermon series on the Exodus. Exodus is a true story about slavery. The people of Israel had been forcibly enslaved by the King of Egypt called a Pharaoh. This Pharaoh forced them to make bricks out of straw in the hot desert sun.
God began to send plagues (miraculous, terrifying miracles) against the land to get Pharaoh to set his people free. He turned the water of the Nile into blood, covered the land in frogs, gnats, and flies. He struck the livestock with death, the people with boils, and the crops with the worst hailstorm in Egyptian history.
Pharaoh didn’t let them go.
I guess what I’m saying is…
There was not a Fourth of July in Exodus 10.
(And not just because “July” wasn’t a recognized month until the Julian Calendar in 46 B.C.)
The people weren’t free.
They remained slaves.
They couldn’t go on vacation to the lake.
They couldn’t celebrate with fireworks at 11pm.
They couldn’t take an extra-long lunch break to get back to their apartment and check that the “Red, White, and Blue” jello in the fridge was solidifying appropriately.
The people didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July.
Nor any Freedom type holiday.
Because they weren’t free.
I. Freedom for the Future
The Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.” (10:1-2)
We talked about that hardening last time. God had asked Pharaoh to release the captives seven times, but Pharaoh had hardened his heart and refused to listen. In response, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after the 6th plague of boils in hopes that Pharaoh might soften his heart after the 7th plague of hail.
But another reason that God hardened Pharaoh’s already hardened heart was that he might soften the hearts of others: The Egyptian officials, the Egyptian slave driers, the Egyptian everyday citizens.
And since these events were written down in Scripture, another reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was YOU. He loved you and wanted to warn you of whatever kind of hardness you were in danger of.
But Chapter ten reveals another audience for these plagues.
Teaching kids about the LORD teaches them FREEDOM.
There’s a push occurring around classroom to relook at the way that we teach United States history.
To note that George Washington did help remove oppression, but that he also owned slaves.
To note that the first presidential election occurred in 1789, but not everyone was free to vote.
To note that the Emancipation Proclamation occurred in 1865, but not every slave knew about it until 1867.
I’m not a sociological expert on how to teach history.
I don’t fancy myself a moral authority on who should be considered a hero or not.
I do know that historical heroes are sinful because they are human.
Even American heroes are sinful because they are human.
If you want to teach your kids about freedom, worry less about which sinful figures to teach about.
Worry about that you teach them about the one who is FREE from sin.
Because if you teach your kids about the LORD, you teach about …
A God with phenomenal, cosmic, eternal power.
A God who cares deeply about them.
A God who will stop at nothing to free his people.
A God who will keep coming and keep coming and keep coming.
A God who will come to earth and give himself to the slavery of death to set his people free.
A God who will throw off those shackles three days later.
When your kids know God, they know true freedom.
I remember a mom who once told me that she was driving with her toddler in heavy traffic. Suddenly, a heavy storm hit. The kind of storm that was blinding. She had to pull to the side of I-540 to avoid an accident.
She must have sounded a bit scared while she was doing so, because from the back car seat her son asked, “Mommy, are you alright?”
“Yes, son. I’m just a bit scared about the storm.” She replied.
To which the young man calmly replied, “Don’t be. God will take of us.”
That kid was free.
Free from nervousness.
Free from fear.
Free from anxiety.
Free from guilt.
Free from doubt.
Because he knew about his FREEDOM loving God.
II. Locusts & Freedom
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Let my people go…If you refuse to let them go I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow.” (v.3-4)
Do you know what a locust is? It is a large, brown grasshopper with the power of flight. (It’s like the superhero of bugs). They love to feast on plants. Usually, it’s not a big deal. They are solitary. But from time to time there is a population explosion, and the locusts migrate in vast swarms to cause extensive damage.
It’s the XL Pizza principle.
If you buy one for yourself, there’s plenty left over.
If you buy one for a group of 5, it’s gone in a matter of minutes.
God didn’t plan on sending just one locust to Egypt.
Nor did he plan on a group of five.
Nor a militia of 100.
God said, “The locusts will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians!” (v.5-6)
Pharaoh’s officials have been through this before.
They had itched and scratched with the gnats.
They had swatted and hit with the flies.
They had had to get replacement brooms for their homes because of all the frogs guts on the former brooms.
One of them was still reeling from their garden that was destroyed by hail.
Another was wearing long sleeves to cover the scars from the boils.
A third was going through grief counseling over the loss of her pet Betsy the cow.
They told Pharaoh, “Let them go! Egypt is ruined. At least if these people are gone, we’ll catch a break and be able to begin rebuilding.” (v.7)
Pharaoh said, “Go, worship the LORD your God, but tell me who will be going.” (v.8)
All of us?
How dare you!?!
You wicked evil people with your wicked evil God.
You just want your “Freedom?”
And you’ll use it to “worship your God.”
But what about me!?!
I’ll be without a slave force…
And lose wealth.
And go down in the annals of history as the guy that bent his will to some measly “LORD.”
Only the men go.
Or none of you go.
So…Moses decided to go.
He stretched out his staff over Egypt and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land…. By morning the wind had brought locusts that invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. (v.13-14)
In every field.
In every garden.
On every tree.
On every bush.
On ever remaining blade of grass.
God sent an army of locusts to devour every inch of greenery in every part of Egypt.
God wants FREEDOM for ALL his people.
It’s still true! When he came to earth, he died for all people.
When he rose from the dead, he rose for all people.
When he spoke to his disciples, he told them to go and tell this message to ALL people.
First that’s for you.
No matter who you are.
No matter how you’ve been enslaved.
No matter what has been attacking your soul.
Jesus died to set you free!
But that’s also true for other.
Later today, I wonder if you won’t see some people who don’t know about freedom from guilt.
People who are unaware of freedom from sin.
People who have never heard of the freedom that Jesus gives.
In Exodus, God unleashed an army of locusts.
Nowadays, God unleashed another army.
An army of believers.
Let’s take his Gospel to every part of Raleigh.
Every part of Durham
Every part of the triangle.
To the rich parts.
To the poor parts.
To the east parts.
To the west parts.
To the north parts.
To the south parts.
To the parts with Trump hats.
To the parts with BLM bumper stickers.
To the parts with American flags.
To the parts with Mexican flags.
To the parts with Canadian flags.
To the parts with rainbow flags.
To all people.
God is calling us to bring the Gospel to all people.
Because God wants to set all people FREE!
III. Darkness and Freedom
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the Israelites go. (v.20)
Moses stretched out his hand towards the sky and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. (v.22-23)
We’re talking real total darkness.
As in nobody could go light a lantern…
Because it got so dark so quickly…
They weren’t able to navigate in the dark to find a candle and a light!
Nothing but darkness.
And no way out.
And just your thoughts.
Darkness that even Pharaoh couldn’t get out of.
Sounds kinda like slavery.
When it was over, Pharaoh summoned Moses and said,
“Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” (v.24)
That’s the only way I know you’re coming back.
We need collateral.
Moses shook his head, “Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD. (v.25-27)
What do you think we are going to use our freedom to do?
We aren’t going to play disc golf.
We aren’t going to the pool.
We’re not having a BBQ.
We are going to worship God.
Because God is the one who freed us.
God’s people use freedom to WORSHIP God.
Friends, our God has set us free!
He set us free from guilt.
He set us free from sin.
He set us free from shame.
In fact, that was the very first thing that the people of Israel were going to do with their freedom.
We’ve been in COVID for a while.
It’s been kinda like slavery.
As you are experiencing more and more freedom, when are you going to worship?
After going to restaurants?
After kids birthday parties, the gym, and the community pool?
Remember – those things did not set you free.
Not from COVID.
And not from sin.
But worship is more than just being at church.
Thousands of years after the Exodus, one of Jesus’ disciples named Peter wrote this,
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil… (1 Peter 2:16)
This verse seems tailor-made for America, doesn’t it?
Cause we love our freedoms.
Freedom of Speech means I can call you a “jerk” on Facebook if I want.
It’s my body. I’m free to do what I want with it – even if the thing I want to do with it is something God calls evil.
It’s a free market. I’m free to use my money however I want. And I just want to use it on me.
We could go on.
But what God’s Word is saying is this.
Don’t call freedom what God calls evil.
Because evil is never free.
Evil always enslaves.
It always hurts.
It enslaves us in shame.
It leads to more sin.
Doing evil isn’t a sign that you’re free.
But a sign that you’re enslaved.
Live as free people… live as God’s slaves. (1 Peter 2:16)
What a strange thing to read about on July 4th.
What a strange thing to read in the middle of the Exodus.
Read it carefully.
It doesn’t say, “You ARE God’s slaves.”
It says, “Live as God’s slaves.”
Because we are free.
And what better way to live free,
Than to serve the God of freedom.
There is no better master than God.
God isn’t harsh; he is kind.
God isn’t hateful; he is loving.
God doesn’t whip us; he was whipped for us.
God doesn’t beat us; he was beat for us.
God didn’t make us do the hard work of our salvation; he slaved over it for us.
God chained himself to our sin, our guilt, our shame, and our death in order to free us to peace, hope, and life.
God wants his people to be free.
God wants those who are free to freely serve Him.
Because in serving Him, there is great freedom.
Praise God for freeing us. Praise God for freedom. Amen!