Then he supervised the entire Babylonian army as they tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side. Then Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, took as exiles the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had declared their allegiance to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population. (2 Kings 25:10-11)
Relate: When I realized what I would be reading in the through the Bible plan today, of all days, I just had to laugh. For those of you reading this who are living somewhere besides the USA, July 4th is Independence Day in the States. It was two hundred some odd years ago today that a document was signed which begins:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The Declaration of Independence then goes on to list all the “horrific” things the UK was doing. The full document can be found all over the internet and is worth reading if you have ten minutes to spare today. It ends reiterating what it said at the beginning, “we’re cutting our ties with you.”
These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to… do all other acts and things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Note that last line. We are willing to sacrifice our lives, our fortune, and our honor to back what we said in declaring ourselves free. Before what I am going to say next, I need to define two words. Using Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, I am defining liberty and freedom:
Liberty – the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely.
Freedom – liberation from slavery, restraint, or the power of another.
React: God took away Judah’s liberty so that they might be set free. Unlike Judah, there is no such thing as a godly king in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were all bad. One after another they all followed Jeroboam in sin and idolatry. That was not the case in the southern kingdom of Judah. The spiritual life of that nation was more like a see-saw or a roller coaster. There would be one or two good kings followed by one or two bad ones and back and forth. For centuries, back and forth, the kings and people consistently struggled to be free from idolatry.
That was only the situation until the fall of Jerusalem. From the point of the exile onward, idolatry was no longer an issue. Yes, there would be other battles to fight. The culture, attitudes, and spirituality of the Jews still were far from perfect. But there is no mention of any sign of struggle with idolatry in any of the exile or post-exile Jewish literature. In taking away their liberty, God had set them free.
So, for the American Independence Day, are we celebrating liberty or are we celebrating freedom? Some of us will be lighting up barbecues, going to beaches, or watching parades and fireworks. Will we be doing so to exult in the fact that we can “do whatever we want” or are we rejoicing in the truth that the taint of bondage to sin holds no power over us? Lets pause and take a moment to examine our lives. The founding fathers were willing to sacrifice life, fortune, and honor to gain independence. Are we willing to sacrifice a little liberty that we might know true freedom?
I thank You for the freedom You offer. It is worth so much more than the imitation of liberty that the world provides. It is worth any price and ultimately, You paid that price Yourself on the cross. For that, I am grateful beyond words. I pray that You would help me to live and walk in the freedom You have provided. If that means I must remove a few choices, take away a little liberty, that I might remain free, then so be it. What You offer is all that I want and so much more than I deserve.