God calls for kindness to a fellow Israelite when he falls on hard times. I wish that God had forbidden slavery of all men at this time but He didn’t.
There were a few reasons most people wound up in slavery. The first is if they were conquered by and invading army. The losers of the battle would become the spoils for the victors. This happened many times in many different nations.
A second way was a result of financial difficulty. An individual would be unable to pay his debts and end up on the auction block. Or a father would have so many children he couldn’t feed them and instead sell them to gain money and decrease his demand load. Still yet, a man would find himself without means to work his fields and sell himself to another and give the proceeds to his family to carry on in his absence.
The third way someone could wind up as a slave was to be born into slavery. If the child’s parents were slaves the child, as “a product of property” would be a slave too. This was also true of a child born of a relationship between the master and his slave. The child was destined to this role by birth.
The last method I know of was what was used in the early American history of kidnapping people from their home country and bringing them to faraway lands to be sold at auction. Sometimes those being brought were sold by their families, conquered by other tribes or rounded up like cattle.
NONE of these options were any better for the one who stood at in the place of slave. That life held no hope of freedom. It was a life sentence. It also held little protection. Men could, and often did, whatever they wanted with their slaves. God included some restrictions on this behavior but not enough to make the slave’s life comfortable.
The Israelites had occupied the position of slave before and would again in the future. Only the hand of God removed them from the houses of slavery they found themselves in over the course of history. But God forbade them from treating one another in such a fashion. NO MATTER HOW tough it got for an Israelite family God made a way for them to be freed, as long as they stayed within their own people. All bets were off if they chose to go to foreign people for help though.
When a fellow Israelite was faced with the choice of starving to death or servitude he had hope. He could sell himself to his “brother” and KNOW that, 1) He would be treated fairly, 2) He would receive his freedom at the Jubilee, and 3) He was NOT a slave.
He would not be debased by his brother. Hi children would not be born into servitude. He would receive a wage for his services and it would be dependent on the years of service until the next Jubilee. He would amass no possessions of his own during this time but when the time came for his freedom his whole family would be leaving with him. He also wouldn’t be paying interest on the debt he incurred to get himself into this position. That in itself is a GREAT gift as ruthless interest is often worse than the debt itself an makes it impossible to get out of that cycle.
I have often wondered why God didn’t simply call for His people to NOT practice slavery of any people. Was it because it holds a lesson for us? Paul tells us that we were once slaves to sin before Jesus freed us. We are born into the position of “slavery” because of man’s first sin. We knew no different and we could expect no better. We had no hope EXCEPT for the promise God gave Adam and Eve.
Maybe without knowing bondage one can’t fully appreciate freedom. God made a special plan from the beginning to give us our freedom. That freedom is different than what the world calls freedom. The world sees freedom as the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want and however they want. Sounds nice but you will eventually come up against a place where your wants intersect with someone else’s and they won’t match up. Someone’s freedom has to yield to another’s. When this mismatch is between parents and children, in the best of circumstances, it produces learning and shapes how the child sees the world. When done with love and consistency the child learns that there are limits in this world that are important to observe. When done with malice and unpredictability the child learns fear and uncertainty. But ALL learn that there is no such thing as complete freedom to do as you wish without limits or consequences.
God offers us freedom from our bondage to sin. Jesus paid our redemption price. And we are free to accept or reject that offer. Both options come with expectations. If you reject His offer you are agreeing to remain in bondage to sin and remain a slave to this world. You are rejecting hope of freedom. If you accept His offer you are agreeing to become His child. You can expect His loving and consistent guidance and discipline. You get a new kind of freedom that brings hope. Hope for a future with Him and hope for help walking through this world.
Father God, thank You for Your freedom. Thank You I am no longer a slave to sin. I KNOW I don’t always walk in complete freedom from sin and that is when I’m SO glad You offer me forgiveness too. Thank You that I have been able to help others when they fall into difficult situations without making their lives worse. Thank You for the opportunity to give and not lend.
Thank You that slavery isn’t practiced in the US any longer as an institution. I PRAY there will one day be a time when NO FORM of slavery exists. That might have to wait until You rule here instead. Man doesn’t seem to be able to value one another as he should. Help me value my “brothers” and “sisters” like You do. Help me love them like You too. Show me where You would have me lend a hand to others and where to wait patiently on You. Soon Lord soon! End this pain! I know. There is more to come first. In Your time Lord.