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Proclaim Liberty,

sermon, Independence, Mo. April 15, 2009

I didn’t see the movie, “The Ten Commandments” this year, but it must have been playing somewhere.


          I remember seeing the movie in the theater, it would have been 1956 or 57.


          One of the things I remember from the movie was the stentorian voice pronouncing:


                       proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof


          I recall thinking how awkward it was at that point in the film. I think the voice must have been Cecil B DeMille himself.

I knew it was a citation from the Bible.


What I did not know at the time was that the sentence was engraved on the Liberty Bell, cast in 1753.


But I think those writing the script of the movie knew it well enough—and the connection was deliberate.

The dominant theme of the movie was Liberty.


A people who had been in slavery all their lives were freed.


And, while one might not pick up on it at first, it is plain enough: You can’t just free the slaves and guarantee Liberty for them.


It was the Ten Commandments that formed the foundation and pillar stones of Liberty for those newly freed.

(James 1:25 KJV) {25} But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.


          It is utterly asinine to suggest that the Ten Commandments are a yoke of bondage.


                      They were and are the guarantor of Freedom for mankind.

The King James Bible calls it Liberty. The NIV calls it Freedom.


          Whatever you call it, there are few things more fundamental to the purpose of God for Man.


                      And in the exodus story, the days of unleavened bread are inextricably tied to Liberty.


          By today, the Israelites were seven days out on their journey with a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide them


          And they were free.

How important is this? Consider Jesus’ first “sermon” in a synagogue:

(Luke 4:16-21 KJV) And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. {17} And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,


          {18} The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, {19} To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.


          {20} And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down.

                and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

            {21} And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 

There is something we need to understand about this “Acceptable Year of the Lord”


          But some background is necessary.


          When Israel came into the land, it was divided to them by lot.


          And after that, it was secure to the lineage of the original owner.


          This is one of the laws, beyond the Ten Commandments, which secured economic liberty.

Leviticus 25 lays out the principles for this.


          We can only apply these laws in general principle, because we are not in the land, and our land was not granted directly by lot.


          But the principle is still here, and Jesus himself calls upon it.

(Leviticus 25:1-17 NIV) The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, {2} "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. {3} For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.

4} But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. {5} Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. {6} Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you--for yourself, your manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, {7} as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

{8} "'Count off seven sabbaths of years--seven times seven years--so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. {9} Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.

{10} Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

{11} The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. {12} For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

{13} "'In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property. {14} "'If you sell land to one of your countrymen or buy any from him, do not take advantage of each other. {15} You are to buy from your countryman on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And he is to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. {16} When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what he is really selling you is the number of crops. {17} Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the LORD your God.

Now this is what Jesus was referring to on that day in the synagogue when he said:


          {18} The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, {19} To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

In a way, this is Jesus’ mission statement.

And it is a citation from Isaiah:

I honestly don’t think we appreciate the importance of the central idea here.


          The central idea is Liberty, Freedom.


          It is the will of God for mankind. And the answer to most of the troubling questions we face.


          It is why man was put here in the first place.


                      It is the reason Adam and Eve were granted the freedom they were given in the Garden of Eden.

And it underlines the importance of Law.


          The purpose of the law is to guarantee Freedom.


          It only seems otherwise when men take in hand to be the enforcers of the law.

It may seem strange, in a way, for the message of the days of unleavened Bread to be Freedom, and yet, that was the central element in the original Passover and days of UB.

(Exodus 12:31-35 KJV) And [pharaoh] called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. {32} Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. {33} And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. {

34} And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. {35} And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:

Exodus 12:36-39 NIV) The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

{37} 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.


          But they were free. Unleavened bread is a small price to pay for being free, isn’t it?


          and when you are given freedom, you don’t wait around for bread to rise.


          They ate the Passover in haste. They left in a hurry.


          And maybe that is a lesson we should take with us.

Jesus said plainly what he was here for.

{18} The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, {19} To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.


          In spite of this, the early church had a crisis point early on and they had a decision to make.


          (Acts 14:27-28 KJV) And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. {28} And there they abode long time with the disciples.


(Acts 15:1-2 KJV) And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. {2} When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

(Acts 15:4-5 KJV) And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. {5} But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.


          Right here, I learned something not that long ago that I had not known before.

          To Observant Jews, the Law of Moses and the Torah, included both the written and the oral law.

(Acts 15:7-11 KJV) And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. {8} And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; {9} And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. {10} Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

{11} But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.


          It was not long after this that Paul, having delivered the decrees from the conference in Galatia, learned that the believing Pharisees had followed him there, and thus provoked the controversy all over again.


          It is this understanding that opens up the book of Galatians.

(Galatians 2:1-5 NIV) Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. {2} I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. {3} Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. {4} This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. {5} We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

(Galatians 5:1 NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.


          This is an astonishing statement in a way, because it says that Christ’s objective was our freedom.


          And it isn’t the law that enslaves, it is men.

(Galatians 5:13-15 NIV) You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love. {14} The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." {15} If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.


          This is the burden of freedom. We have to struggle for it, we have to watch out for it.


          For the human drive to control is a constant threat to our freedom.


          God commands that we love our neighbor as ourselves. He does not coerce us into it.

(2 Corinthians 3:13-18 NIV) We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. {14} But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. {15} Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. {16} But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. {17} Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


          It isn’t just Paul who has learned this lesson.

(1 Peter 2:13-17 NIV) Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, {14} or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. {15} For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. {16} Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. {17} Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

(2 Peter 2:17-22 NIV) These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. {18} For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. {19} They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. {20} If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."


          When you understand the glory of Freedom in Christ, the freedom of being a man of God.


          Why would anyone want to return to the mud?


          (Isaiah 61:1-4 KJV) The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; {2} To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; {3} To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. {4} And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.


          And they shall do all this as free men and women.


          Not slaves. As people who from the heart gave themselves to God.

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