And it shall be said: 'Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstruction from my people's way.'
For so says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy;
I dwell in the high and holy place,
with those of humble, repentant and lowly spirit,
to revive their hearts.
As expatriates, my family and I still celebrate the 4th of July. We gather around the breakfast table for pain au chocolat and reflect on the lyrics of our national anthem, God Bless America. We sing other chorals too. Battle Hymn of the Republic. This Land is Our Land. We pledge allegiance to the United States of America, and wonder how many years it has been since we last sang this hymn in our own home-nation?
We picnic on a nearby beach and rap the lyrics to Lin Manuel Miranda's Alexander Hamilton. We rest on the rocks and listen to the waves wash ashore in rainshaker sound. But mostly, we let silence weigh our question. What does freedom look like? Especially now. Now, in 2020, a year brimmed with pandemic, displacement and fear.
Exodus 13 speaks to the time when God rescued his people from slavery and persecution. How he led them by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea, called them to clothe themselves for battle (v18). How he went before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire to light their way by night (v21). How he divided the sea in two to protect his beloved from the hardened hearts and illwill of driving Egyptians (14v16).
Before this escape, in the season of their oppression, God called Moses to his side.
Say to [Pharoah], 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me tell you: Let My people go so that they may worship me' (7:16).
And again, before the second plague (8:1), before the fourth plague (8:20), before the fifth plague (9:1), before the seventh plague (9:13), before the eighth plague (10:3), God continued to call Moses to his side: 'Go to Pharaoh and tell him that this is what the Lord says: 'Let My people go so that they may worship me.'
When God rescued the Israelites from bondage, He was calling them to find comfort and freedom in His Way.
When God protected His people ----- led them out of Egypt toward a Promised Land of milk, honey and abudance, He told them how to find peace. In his presence.
Let My people go so that they may worship me.
Worship asks the Messiah to unlock our heart and enter, (and in entering) draw us to his own.
In What Freedom Really Means in 2020, Ann Voskamp reflects on the exodus: "Living in the land of the hardworking brave looks like an exodus," she writes. An exodus out from the land of fear and into the land of the faithful and free.
Real freedom is a worship anthem. Worship is the celebration of covenant------that nothing, not death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not the past, present, or future, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).
Choosing to love and worship God despite oppression in the world (be it racism, physical/mental illness, financial trials, relationship rifts, etc) is what brings us peace (John 13:24). Worship frees us from fear, uncertainty and self-centeredness. It reminds us that we are not alone in this time of solitude and self-isolation. Worship is the key to communion and grace.
My friends, will you pray with me?
Lord, you who dwell in the high and holy places. In grace, you chose to abide with those of humble and lowly spirits, to revive their heart (Isaiah 58:15). Lord, let us be a nation of servitude and sacrifical love; men and women who seek your righteousness and return to your presence again and again. How beautiful is the freedom found in your name. For you were pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities. By your wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Dear Lord, as it is written in Isaiah 27:13, let all in loss and uncertainty find comfort in worshipping you. For behold, you have laid before us a foundation for faith------a precious cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16).
Lord, may our hearts be softened by your holiness so that we may live with courage, conviction and confidence, renewed by who you are in us.
Lord, will you intervene in this pandemic? Move people to respond with respectful urgency. Lord, for the vulnerable nations struggling with the aftermath and increasing coronavirus waves, we ask for your hand of protection and refuge. We pray for the countries where food is scarce and rife with malnutruition. We pray for our world. Lord, COVID-19 has led to unemployment and economic disarray. Would you provide financial stability and medical clarity? We know that your heart is to restore men and women to the likeness of yourself-----in wholeness and health.
Lord, as we celebrate and reflect on the history of a nation we call home, we ask that an anthem of praise arise from our lips in remembrance of the exodus. May we seek you with heart, soul and minds (Mark 12:30). We have this assurance: you are always with us.
In your name,