Exodus 21:1-11. “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
Up on Mount Sinai God gave Moses a whole lot of information. Moses didn’t just walk down with the Ten Commandments. He also received the Book of the Law. What is the Book of the Law? It is the rules that God gave the Hebrews for living. Sort of like case law or examples of what to do in certain situations. Above, in Exodus 21:1-11, you see the first section of the Book of the Law.
Maybe you noticed that the very first topic God chooses to cover with the Israelites is slavery. Of course they used to be slaves, so that’s a bit awkward. And as Christians we would love to just avoid the verses that talk about God allowing slavery.
The big question is why would God even allow slavery? If you’re forming a brand new nation, why not just abolish it from the get go?
First, let’s make it clear that this slavery is very different from the chattel slavery of the New World transatlantic slave trade. And it’s very different from the slavery they suffered in Egypt. There is no perpetual slavery in God’s system – in the seventh year he shall go free (v2). When a slave was set free they were to be given a financial boost of flocks, wine, and grain (see Deut. 15:12-15). Slave families were never torn apart. And kidnapping and selling someone into slavery was punishable by death (21:16).
God allowed slavery in his brand new nation because, for some, slavery was an opportunity for financial stability.
But more importantly (and to the point of this blog) this slavery is a picture of Christ and his church.
The servant marries the master.
Jesus the slave-king.
Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus took upon himself the form of a slave. He went from ruling the universe to serving the universe. He lived a slave’s life, healing people, meeting needs, washing feet. And then, despised and rejected, he died a slave’s death on the cross.
Jesus is the slave of Exodus 21:5-6. Jesus is the slave that said “I love my master. I love my wife and children. I WILL NOT GO FREE.” I will stay with you forever. I will work for your good forever. I will not abandon those I serve.
In Exodus this commitment was signified by the piercing of the ear – And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever. In Christ’s life his commitment was signified with the piercing of his hands and feet. His choice to go to the cross as our slave, to die as a slave, to be resurrected as a slave forever sealed his courageous and merciful commitment to serve humanity. Jesus is our slave-king. Our master is our servant. Our servant is our master. Forever ruling our hearts and forever serving our hearts.
Christ the forever slave indwells you. So what does that make us?
The Church the slave-bride
When you read Exodus 21:7 you immediately cringe. When a man sells his daughter as a slave. Wait what? But trust me God is protecting women here. Back then an unmarried woman is an unprotected woman. She is even a despised woman. For the time and place, this passage is actually very pro-woman.
We the church are the slave-wife of Christ. The women of Exodus 21:7 were brought out of slavery in Egypt and sold back into slavery to be the wife of a new master-husband. We too were brought out to be brought back in. Out from slavery to Pharaoh and into slavery to God. Redeemed by God (v8). Never sold off to foreigners by God (v8).
In Christ we have become the daughters of God – If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. God took us as a slave-bride for his son. Now he deals with us as with a daughter. His own beloved child.
Christian, you are the slave-bride of Jesus and the protected daughter of God. Jesus your husband and God your father will never, ever let you go. Christ has been pierced through to prove it. See Christ’s hands. Touch his side. Hear him say “I will not go out free.” Not today. Not ever.
“To live is Christ” is to be the bride of Christ and the daughter of God. It is to have the life of the slave-king in you. The one who has made an eternal commitment to sacrificially give his life for the world. It is also to be the slave-bride of the king. To be forever loved and served by the one who has been pierced. The one who will never leave you or forsake you. Never sell you. Never stop caring for you. The one who is preparing a place for you in Dad’s house, and will return to make you his love forever.
And they lived happily ever after.
This is the story of a bride in white waiting for her wedding day.