What do you think of when I say “Polyergus breviceps”? (I asked this last night as I was giving a devotion at a meeting. Someone responded “Oh, I had mine taken out last year.” Ha ha! That cracked me up!) Well, it is not an obscure body part. It is the scientific name of a species of Slave Maker ants. Hunh?
If you haven’t heard of these little creatures, draw near and marvel with me. They are a type of ant that raids other ant colonies and steals their eggs. They bring the eggs back to their own ant bed and after they hatch the unaware babies are literally turned into slaves. These poor slave ants gather food, take care of the Queen, dig tunnels, etc.
These unfortunate insects remind me of the Israelites in Exodus Chapter 2. Their people had been slaves to the Egyptians for so long, 430 yrs (Exodus 12:40), that generations were born into this lifestyle accepting it as normal.
I understand that the Jews are a real part of history but the story of the Jews is too much like my own story. I have to believe that God intends for us to see the Israelites this way, as a representation of how God wants to be in relation to us.
God knows that we are all born into slavery suffering under immense pressures of the world. In Exodus 2:23-25 the people are groaning and crying out to God. Then the Bible says “God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” God sees enslaved people today and He knows. What do I mean? Well, sadly human sex slavery is all too common today. But, also, can we be slaves to things other than people? Sure, just think…can we not be a slave to our job, sexual relationships, cell phones, drugs, cravings for food, alcohol, gangs, TV, Video games…
Get deeper…can we not be slaves to other peoples’ opinions, our appearance, pride, anger problems, jealousy, etc. In short, we are slaves to sin. And, for the sake of brevity, sin is going our own way instead of God’s way.
All this talk of slavery brings me to consider the question, what is salvation? What I usually hear from the Church is that Jesus died for our sins so we can be with him forever and not go to Hell. But, as a wise man asked me once, what did salvation look like to the Israelites?
It is a long drawn out story involving reluctant Jewish leaders, hard-hearted Pharoah and plagues. But in the end the Israelites not only walked away from their slavery but left with abundance of bread dough, livestock, silver and gold jewelry and clothing!!! (Exodus 12:34-36)
It is a bit long to add here, but for a great picture of the nature of salvation, read Psalm 65. Read it out loud! I love the image of God's wagon tracks filled with abundance.
Yes, part of salvation is about spending eternity with Jesus in heaven and not going to Hell. But it is also about experiencing God’s loving salvation from selfishness and sin today, in this life. This concept always reminds me of 2 Corinthians 6:2 where Paul exclaims “now is the day of salvation.” This verse gets the carnival lights put around it. But if we read on through verse 10 we are led to my third point.
The walking out of a life after salvation is full of blessings, wonders and mountain views but it is surely wrought with difficulty, temptations and dark, dark valleys, the things which enslaved us in the beginning. Paul discusses this extensively in 2 Corinthians 6:2-10. And, as Christians, we have to be ready to walk this road.
After Israel walked away from their longstanding enslavement to Egypt, what happened at the first sign of difficulty? They saw the dust clouds of the Egyptian army pursuing them and THEY WANTED TO GO BACK INTO SLAVERY THINKING IT WOULD BE BETTER THAN GOD’S PLAN FOR THEM! We cannot be surprised by this. And we are not immune from it ourselves!
To recap, as ministers (and if you are a Christian then you are one), we must be:
1) Aware that we are BORN into slavery to sin.
2) Aware of what salvation means not only for the next life but also in THIS life.
3) Aware of the difficulties for one who is saved…this includes US.
Now, revisit with me our insect friends. What if you could become and ant yourself and go down to one of those slave-ants and tell him he was designed to be something so much better, to be free, he did not have to be a slave anymore? What would you hope he would do? Experience salvation! But surely this road home would be a difficult road for such a little ant.
That is exactly what Jesus did for us. He became a little ant like us and paid our way back home to our true Father. And Jesus chooses to continue this loving work through you and I.
So, all of our planning, church methods, ministry and program development, etc. is not bad at all. But these things are not the height of Christianity. If we are to endure the ups and downs of ministry, the blessings and disappointments, to help those who have been saved, we must maintain righteousness.
We cannot maintain righteousness in any other way than by reaching the height of Christianity. The pinnacle of Christianity is not working hard for God but simply knowing Christ is with us now. Here I defer to the words of Oswald Chambers in his classic work My Utmost For His Highest.
What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49)-Oswald Chambers