When I read the Old Testament, I often feel like I’m mining. A lot of it feels confusing, strange, and irrelevant. And for average joes like you and me, I think that’s okay. Keep reading. Every now and then, we’ll hit gold.
Recently, I came across some gospel-gold. Here’s how it starts:
“When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free.” — Exodus 21:4
In those days, if someone accumulated an exorbitant debt, he could sell himself as a slave to the person whom he owed. He’d live in slavery for six years, and after the seventh year his debt—no matter the amount—would be paid in full. His owner would be required to release him.
Except on one condition.
“But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master . . . I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” — Exodus 21:5-6
So what’s an awl? Well it’s a small pointed tool used for piercing holes in leather. It could pierce through an ear, sure, but only after some forceful pushing and a lot of pain.
Upon the slave’s decision to stay, he would lean his ear beside the door of his master’s house. The master would grab an awl and pierce his ear straight into the door. It was a way of saying, “I choose slavery in the very place I would leave to walk out of it.”
But it’s saying more than that too. Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Isn’t that amazing!? Six centuries before Christ, this passage proclaims Him! The slave was pierced to the door to demonstrate that we must be pierced to Christ.
To be a Christian is to say, “I love my Jesus, and I’m staying right here.” So we lean our ear beside the door, and willingly accept the awl. It hurts, sure, but if the gospel doesn’t hurt we probably aren’t marked by it. We must be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Doesn’t sound pain-free to me.
Here’s some good news, though. Jesus isn’t asking us to go somewhere He’s never been. No, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
We don’t serve a King who stayed where it was cozy and comfortable. He came. And He was pierced for us. Not just in His ear, but in His hands, feet, and side.
Now you might be asking, “Okay, Ryan, how does this affect my life? Why should I care about an awl, a door, and Hebrew slaves? What’s your point?”
Well, let me put it this way: Everybody’s a slave to something.
If you’re like a me, a few examples immediately come to mind. Drug-addicts, sex-addicts, money-addicts, etc. We’d look at them and say, “Well, I’m not one of those people! They’re the slaves. Not me.”
But what about when our new Facebook picture only gets a few likes? Or when someone else gets the award or promotion we were hoping for? Or when we’re in a thoughtful conversation and feel like we don’t have wise things to say?
I think if we gave our lives an honest look, we’d be amazed at all the unfreedom. Paul declares, “we are slaves to the one whom we obey” (Romans 6:16).
Slavery isn’t an option. Your only option is whom you will obey.
So choose Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He’s the only Master who emptied Himself, submitted to death, and accepted the awl. It will be painful, sure, and your life will be permanently affected. But why leave? Beyond the door leads only to more slavery. Here, you will be free indeed.
Look to Him and cry, “I love you, Jesus! I will not go out free.”
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” — Psalm 119:45