Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after he is sold he may be redeemed again. (Leviticus 25:47-48)
As we shared in the previous devotion, the ultimate insult to an Israelite was to be forced into service to someone from the nations. Being a servant to another was degrading enough but the larger issue was the threat of having to honor foreign gods. For this reason, the Torah urged the nearest kinsmen of such a person to step in and redeem them from their foreign master as soon as possible. The point then is that God didn’t want His people to serve others and He certainly didn’t want them to assimilate into a foreign culture. If it was true then, I would argue it is true now.
In seeming sharp contrast to that notion is the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his brothers and made to serve a prominent Egyptian, he had to learn the ways of the Egyptians, and it would seem, this all occurred with God’s approval. However, though made to look like an Egyptian and even speak their language, it is clear that Joseph never abandoned his true identity. Furthermore, because of his faith and righteous actions, his entire family was spared annihilation in a time of universal famine and, beyond that, were given the choicest land in Egypt to tend their flocks and herds.
Unfortunately, after Joseph and that generation died, the people of Israel began to take on more and more of Egypt and less and less of Israel. In short, they began to assimilate into Egyptian culture, take on that persona and eventually bowed to their gods. In the end, there was no man who could redeem them — so God had to step in.
Understanding that God did not want His people to be lost to a foreign culture and its gods, the instruction to redeem the Hebrew from the non-Hebrew explains why the “king who knew not Joseph” came to power. If that had not happened; if they had not been forced into bondage, it is likely that Israel would have continued to assimilate into the Egyptian world to the extent that, in time, Israel would have disappeared into history. God was not going to allow that to happen, and so, it became His goal to redeem them from their taskmasters.
You and I need to understand this principle because we serve that same God. What I mean is, if He wouldn’t allow Israel of old to assimilate and be lost to a godless culture, He will not allow that to happen to us. As followers of Messiah, there will come a time when we will have to determine who we are going to serve — our culture or the God of Israel. So don’t be surprised if those things in our present culture — those things that we love and have admired — begin to crumble beneath us. Don’t be surprised when the gods — the industries and institutions — we have served begin to collapse. Don’t be surprised when the nation we were familiar with and fond of begins to change and not for the better. When that begins to happen, take note: God is about to redeem His people from their foreign masters.
Blessings and Shalom,