Why The Slave Refused His Freedom
The Lord pierced my heart seven years ago with a little bit of scripture of a pierced ear. It was one of those occasions that God took me completely by surprise. I was just reading my way through Exodus and had just read the ten commandments when it happened. The Lord suddenly pierced my heart and soul with a bit of scripture that I’d never really noticed before. Such is His way, is it not?
I dropped to my knees before the Lord, using the scripture as my humble prayer.
“I love You, my Lord, my Master and I will not go free.
My ear is pinned to Your door. I am Your willing servant forever.”
The passage was about Hebrews keeping fellow Hebrew servants or slaves. It appears that God allowed them to do this but only for a set period of time, and then the servant/slave was to be genuinely offered his or her freedom. I found it in Exodus 21 (but it is also in Deuteronomy 15) so let’s now look at these passages.
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing…
But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” Exodus 21:2, 5-6
And also in Deuteronomy 15:12-17
“If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I command you this thing today.
And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also, to your female servant you shall do likewise.”
These passages are not about self-decoration (or mutilation) but are much more about LOVE. They are about such a depth of love of a servant/slave for a master/owner. Such love that willingly gives up ones own right to freedom in place of a humble servanthood for life. Wow!
What could elicit such a response from someone who had been in enforced service for six years? The door is now wide open, the master has even prepared the best lamb, bread and wine to help you on your way in a liberal and generous resettlement package for you. And yet, you turn to him and say, “Because I love you, I prefer to stay with you, as your servant for my whole life.” Wow and wow again!
Who does this make you think of? Yes, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ. He became the perfect servant in submission to the will of His Father because of love. He was pierced for our transgressions and sins because He loved both His Father and us.
We too are now called to become perfect servants to and for Him also because of love. We read the following in the wonderful letter of 1 John: –
We love Him because He first loved us
1 John 4:19
So, the Hebrew servant loved his master because the master had shown him kindness and love in the first instance. In fact, it says, “he prospers with you”. He was cared for and supplied with all his needs in his work as a servant. So, this servant chose a “job for life” and simply signed on the dotted line of his contract, right? Sorry, no; it wasn’t so painless in those days.
He was taken to the judges to check if he wasn’t being coerced into this decision and the contract of his freewill decision to remain a life-long servant was instituted by putting his ear against the owner’s door or doorframe and letting the owner thrust a sharp tool right through his ear (I am assuming his ear-lobe) into the door. The actual bodily attachment of the servant to the house being symbolic of his decision of his will to remain attached to his master’s household.
Whether an earring was inserted as a sign of his ownership, isn’t written in this passage, but I am thinking most likely that was the case.
Remember, You Were Slaves in Egypt
So, the Hebrews were taught to treat their fellow servants well; bearing in mind that they were to be set free in the seventh year (as debts or loans between fellow Hebrews were also to be written off – called the Lord’s release). They were always to hold in their minds their previous release from Egyptian slavery. This is often repeated throughout scripture and is in the above passage also.
“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you…”
So, although when their fellow Hebrews fell into financial hardship, or some other reason for them needing to be sold into servitude, it was not to be of a harsh nature and was only for the set period of time. God, in His mercy, set limitations for His people in such impoverished conditions.
What did Jesus Have to Say?
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9
So we see that the door we need to be fixed firmly to is the Lord Jesus Himself.
We also come across the concept of servants and slaves in the following gospel account.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant (DIAKONOS).
And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave (DOULOS) – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV
DIAKONOS – NT Greek (Strong’s 1249) translated as “minister” in KJV. This word focuses on the servant in his activity for the work.
DOULOS – NT Greek (Strong’s 1401) meaning “slave”. This word focuses on the relationship to the master, as one who gives himself up to the will of another.
It appears to me that the greatest example of servanthood is found in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Firstly He wants us to be in relationship with Him, not merely involved in works of service for Him (however good they may be). From there He wants us to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ both in a “diakonos” type way and also in a “doulos” type way. That is we are to both do good deeds for them and be in a humble, loving relationship with them. This ties in with the two greatest commandments that Jesus taught:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Essentially we can see the picture of our life in Christ being like the Hebrew slave who espoused his own freedom willingly in order to serve the one who loved him and he loved in return. This became a life-time arrangement for him, and so too it is offered for you and I.
Let me encourage you therefore, to consider carefully your “walk with God” today. Where is your ear? Is it fixed to the world and its ways or is it firmly fixed to the door of the Lord, pierced with life-long loyalty of humble servanthood to Him? Are you “earmarked” for His service for life or still sitting on the fence considering your options?
I have written a short poem based on my musings of this matter of the slave that wouldn’t go free.
Pierce My Ear
I Know I could walk free right now.
I’ve served six years but don’t know how
I could leave so kind a place,
I’ve found such love and so much grace.
I know I could walk through that door
With arms bowed down with gifts galore.
The Law allows for me to go,
But my heart and mind still cry out, “No”!
So, I will stay here with my owner,
Not wander off to be a loner.
I lay my ear against his door,
I’ll be his slave forevermore.
I have also found a short song written in the 1980s based upon these scriptures.
(By Steve Croft)
Pierce my ear, O Lord, my God
Take me to Your door this day.
I will serve no other gods,
Lord, I’m here to stay.
For You have paid the price for me
With Your blood You ransomed me.
I will serve You eternally,
A free man I’ll never be.
(Please note some “modernised” versions have changed the last line to “a free man I will be”! Hmmm!)
A Prayer to finish
Oh Lord, reveal the dross in my life that prevents my whole-hearted, ear-to-the-door willingness in Your service.
Oh Lord, help me to give my ear more fully to hearing Your voice, with a heart more faithfully committed to Your will being done on earth, as it is in heaven.
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