Slavery in Stages

Mesu Andrews Featured Articles 4 Comments


No addict expects to become an addict. When I began drinking alcohol at age fifteen, I didn’t think, “I’m going to get drunk every day and hide bottles in my bedroom.” But by nineteen, I was hooked and could have easily ruined the rest of my life—if Jesus hadn’t rescued me.

Addictions are sneaky. They begin with fun—sometimes even good intentions—and are at first controlled. Addictions say I can stop anytime, and are blind, deaf, and dumb to the concerns voiced by loved ones around us.

But addiction is such a strong word, isn’t it? Let’s not be overly dramatic. Let’s talk about habits instead.

Maybe you snagged a fingernail and bit it off…twenty years ago. You’ve been biting your nails since. Maybe you had an especially demanding job and drank an afternoon cup of coffee to keep you alert until closing. Now you drink a pot a day.

Habits form over time. Addictions choke our ability to choose over time. It is time that transforms a desire into compulsion, and a compulsion holds us in chains.

Chocolate. A glass of wine before bed. A motorcycle. Shopping. Exercise. Fill in the blank _________________, and name your master so you can meet it eye-to-eye when Jesus breaks its chains.

Slavery in Review

In the previous two blog posts, counting down to The Pharaoh’s Daughter, we’ve talked about Jacob and his twelve sons. Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery in Egypt but rose to power as Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Joseph forgave his brothers and moved his father and brothers’ families from Canaan to Egypt during a severe famine in order to provide for them. Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, never left Egypt—and neither did his sons and their families. Time passed, and they forsook God’s Promised Land in Canaan, growing comfortable in Egypt’s land of Goshen.

“Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’ So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor.”            Exodus 1:8-11 (emphasis added)

Joseph Started It

When Joseph came to Egypt, he was a slave, but by the time he died at age 110, he’d become a wealthy, powerful, highly-esteemed official in Pharaoh’s court (you can read his story in Genesis 37-50). His rise to power came through God’s blessing when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, prophesying a devastating famine. Through Joseph’s shrewd business dealing, the Egyptian people slowly but surely became slaves to Pharaoh:

“…Both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine. Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all Egypt came to Joseph and said, ‘Give us food…’

‘Then bring your livestock,’ said Joseph…

So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and…he brought them through that year with food in exchange for all their livestock.

When that year was over, they came to him the following year and said, ‘…since our money is gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord except our bodies and our land…Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.”

So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh…and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other…

Joseph said to the people, ‘Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.’”               Genesis 47:14-21,23-25 (emphasis added)

So, let’s review:

  • Joseph dealt shrewdly with Egypt, and they became slaves to Pharaoh (Gen. 47).
  • Pharaoh dealt shrewdly with Israel, and they became slaves to Egypt (Ex. 1).

Dealing Shrewdly

Is “dealing shrewdly” always a bad thing? Was Joseph wrong to accrue wealth for Pharaoh as vizier of Egypt? I don’t know Joseph’s heart, but I know that when Jesus sent out His disciples to minister, He commanded them to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt.10:16). Obviously, Jesus wouldn’t command us to do something wrong.

So, what’s the difference in Jesus’ kind of shrewd and the evil shrewd that leads to bondage? I believe it’s found in Genesis—way back in the Garden…

Two Kinds of Shrewd

Take a look at these two verses, and see if you can guess which word/words might have come from an original Hebrew word meaning, “shrewd.”

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”       Genesis 2:25

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”’”         Genesis 3:1

  • Genesis 2:25 – NAKED – (‘ărûmmîm )
  • Genesis 3:1 – MORE CRAFTY – (‘ārûm, meaning shrewd)

Do you see the Hebrew word play? I’m not a Hebrew scholar, so I rely on smart people to interpret:

Their nakedness represented the fact that they were oblivious to evil, not knowing where the traps lay, whereas Satan did and would use his craftiness to take advantage of their integrity. [1]

So what does this tell us about two kinds of shrewd?

  • I believe Jesus intended His disciples—and us—to be naked shrewd. Innocent. Forthright. But cautious.
  • I believe Satan and his agents are crafty shrewd, using the same tactics he used in the Garden. Deceit. Confusion. Empty promises.

“You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said…‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”                  Genesis 3:4-6

Get Naked

Before we can minister to others with the kind of shrewd transparency Jesus commands, we must first learn shrewd transparency with our God. We must “get naked” before the Throne of Grace, asking the Lord to strip us of all known and unknown chains that enslave us.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”       Psalm 139:23-24

Whatever you wrote in the blank at the top of this post—addictions, habits, compulsions—you can be free from that master!

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”           Romans 6:18

The war was won on the Cross, but final battles still rage as we await our coming King. Keep advancing against our enemy and living in freedom from chains. He who is faithful has redeemed us!


Today’s Questions:

  • Is it hard for your heart to “get naked” before God? Why or why not? How do you do it—practically? Praying on your knees? With or without music playing? Morning or evening? What tips or hints can you share with the rest of us?

[1] Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (Ge 3:1–7). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Comments 4

  1. In order for me to “get naked” before God I first have to remove the distractions that keep me from really being in His presence. I turn on soft worshipful music to block out the noise in my life. I close off myself from the busyness that I tend to let plague me by creating a place where I am alone with only God. Then I sit quietly often humming a worship song or hymn until I feel myself truly entering His presence. At that point I can really “get naked” before Him and hear Him and commune with Him intimately.

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  2. From the garden to today – HAS GOD SAID? is still penetrating our world. A little doubt – as you say -I can stop anytime-will carry you to the appointed end. Knowing Jesus and what He endured for me makes me wonder in awe at His love and gives strength and the lift I need for every day. Thank You, Jesus.

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