The Celebration of Human Liberty
based on Exodus 12:14-42
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
Exodus 12:14-42 (NIV)
"This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you
shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD -a lasting ordinance.
15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the
first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything
with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off
from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and
another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except
to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do.
"Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very
day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a
lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the
first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of
the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19
For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats
anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel,
whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made
with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."
Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go at
once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover
lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the
basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the
doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until
morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike
down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the
doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the
destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
"Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your
descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the LORD will
give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when
your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' 27
then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed
over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he
struck down the Egyptians.' " Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
28 The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the
firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the
prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock
as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the
Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt,
for there was not a house without someone dead.
During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave
my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have
requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said,
and go. And also bless me."
The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For
otherwise," they said, "we will all die!" 34 So the people
took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their
shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The
Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles
of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the
Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what
they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six
hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38
Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of
livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough they had
brought from Egypt, they baked cakes of unleavened bread. The dough was
without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have
time to prepare food for themselves.
Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430
years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all
the LORD's divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the LORD kept
vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the
Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to
an immigrant and relatively new citizen of the United States I think I
may have some insights to share about Independence Day that are valuable
because they come from an “outside” perspective. Independence Day
offers one of the greatest stories to be celebrated, not just by North
Americans, but by all of humanity. Underneath the cruelty of the North
American Independence war lies a story of God's grace and
liberation--liberation from oppression, and liberation toward a life
filled with opportunity.
The story of the 13 American colonies banding together to cry out
against the English colonialism in the middle of the 18th
century is reminiscent of the story of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
Both groups were curbed in their freedom, exploited, threatened, forced
into submission, and denied voice and vote.
Both people groups pointed out the injustice done to them and both
asserted their independence.
Both groups were in the minority, and had, humanly speaking, no chance
against much more powerful overlords.
Both stories are remarkable stories of God's grace. They affirm us that
God does see the injustice which is going on in the world, and that God
encourages all of us to do something about it while promising to be on
the side of the oppressed.
The theme that stands out in both of these stories is the celebration of
human liberty. Liberty is a God-given human right. That’s why these two
stories are such an inspiration to all people around the world.
The Declaration of Independence states the following at the beginning of
the 2nd paragraph:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Freedom is a the right to choose your own path to happiness; this free
will is something God has endowed us with and it is often described as
the highest and most treasured human property. God didn't make us
slaves, robots, or machines. He made us rational being who can choose
God-given liberty is what has brought scores of people to this north
American nation--people from all over the world and from all walks of
People like the Amish, the Anabaptists, the Quakers, etc. People that
felt their liberty to worship and express their belief was curbed by
their governments. The price these people paid was high--they left
their family and friends behind, their lands, their possessions, they
risked their lives to get here--but they did it for liberty,
freedom--maybe the highest and most treasured human property.
Does that mean that The United States is a perfect nation? Does this
mean there is absolute freedom and equality for all in this nation? Not
really, but perhaps there is a higher degree of freedom and equality as
compared to most other nations. And what makes America special is the
ideal of God-given liberty we hold up by our Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution. But more than an ideal, The United States is
trying hard to put this ideal into reality—for its own citizens as well
as for the rest of the world and fortunately also has some power to work
toward this great ideal.
Conclusion: What we do with our God-given freedom is up to us. Many of
us who have been born in this nation seem to take it for granted. Let
us be reminded on the privilege we have to be able to execute our
freedom of choice.
But a word of caution as well: let us also be reminded that God holds
us responsible for our choices and that having freedom of choice doesn't
mean that all choices we make are good choices. The third point of the
part of the Declaration of Independence I quoted earlier is the “pursuit
of happiness.” I'm glad that the drafters of it included the word
pursuit, because happiness is not guaranteed to us.
We have the freedom to pursue happiness, but not all pursuits of
happiness will lead to happiness. You may pursue happiness by
accumulating material goods, by becoming influential, or rich, and end
up a miserable person. We as Christians should know that the best
things in life aren't things.
Let us also remember on this Day of Independence that God has not given
us this great freedom to make choices that enslave us to things
(materialism), institutions (credit card companies), or addictions. Such
choices lead us into a bondage for which we have nobody to blame but
God is calling us to make choices that draw us closer to him, that
strengthen our family and friendship bonds, that make us loving and
giving people. And God wants to help us get there. He wants to be in
our lives if we let him. We have the opportunity in this country to
choose all of these good and valuable things, and if we do, God promises
us to bless us with a good life. Happy 4th everybody!