BONDAGE OF RELIGION
(The temptation to compromise with false religion -MJS)
By: Pastor Tim James (Tim is a futurist and not a preterist)
Exodus 5: 1-9
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Last week, one of the brethren asked me about a message I had preached from this passage many years ago. I tried to find it for him, but I couldn’t. This week as I was studying to prepare this morning’s Bible Study on Moses by faith seeing Christ and leaving Egypt and all its trappings behind, I began again to think of this passage and all that follows it. Egypt is representative of the religion of world in opposition to the truth of salvation by grace. When John was given the vision of mystery Babylon, the great whore religion of the world, our Lord referred to that false religion in a specific way (Rev. 11: 8). This reference envelops any and all religion that embraces the works of man, the will of man or the deeds of the law for righteousness. Such religion lives and thrives on its ability to enslave and control the lives and the minds of men by controlling their behavior. Whether by threat of wrath of by promise of reward, the idea is to govern men rather than to set them free of to let them go. Such religion disdains freedom and rather opts for that which enslaves, incites and engenders bondage (Isaiah 58: 1-7; Gal. 6: 12-14).
This fact is clearly seen in Pharaoh’s reaction to the word of God from Moses. Moses said to Pharaoh that he must let the people of God go in the wilderness and have a feast. The first reaction of Pharaoh is always the first reaction to the knowledge that the people of God will not worship God in a strange religion. There cannot be and never will be an amalgamation of the false and the true for the people of God. They must leave the confines of false religion in order to give praise and thanks to God. Such an idea is always translated to mean that the religion of the world is false, useless and of no value. Religion cannot tolerate this and will immediately respond that such a God is not their God (v. 2). Part and parcel with their reaction is that they cannot understand the concept of thanksgiving and praise for something that they have no part in. This word “feast” literally means to dance and sing and reel to and fro. All these things suggest unbridled joy in the LORD, a concept that is foreign to religion. When Moses and Aaron said again that they must go into the wilderness to worship (sacrifice) because God had commanded them, they added that if Pharaoh forbade them that the God who had commanded would send pestilence and a sword upon Egypt. The notion that joy and worship without work, labor and guilt could be called religion is anathema to false religion and this is clearly seen in the words of Pharaoh.
False religion cannot imagine worship that does not involve work and burden (v. 4). The Gospel says “Cease from labor and lay your burdens upon the Lord”. False religion cannot imagine the concept of rest (v.5) But the Gospel declares that the work is finished and all that is left it rest (Matt. 11: 28-29; Heb. 4: 9). False religion sees the rest that belongs to the people of God, the worship of God who has finished the work as idleness (v.8) and empty words (v.9). Their answer to such foolishness is more work, increased labor, and without help from religion, as punishment for their persuasion that true worship is resting, without burdens, unbridled joy without labor and dancing and rejoicing in the finished work of Christ.
But the people of God, the true church, true Israel will not be dissuaded from the worship of God outside the purview and restraints of false religion. The people must go. They cannot abide or pretend fellowship with that which is false. Salvation is not changing religions, or converting from one false faith system to another. Salvation is changing Gods and no longer having anything to do with that former idol. I have often been told by religion that we are all in this together and that we worship the same God. To this I generally reply, “Describe your Father”. If your father’s hands are tied, if he wants to save you but can’t unless you let him. If he is dependant on your will to save you then we have different fathers. We worship different Gods and I don’t want to have anything to do with such a sad and puny and feckless fellow that you call you father. The believer must go out, clean out of Egypt or there can be no true worship, rest of joy.
When religion sees that it has lost it influence, represented by the plagues of frogs and flies that did not touch God’s people (8: 22-24; 9: 4-6), Pharaoh relented but not completely. To lose such a labor force cannot be abided. So religion seeks to compromise, to diminish this radical idea of leaving altogether. Religion wants you to stay and is willing to forego certain things in order to get you to do so. Many times I have been told that I don’t need to be so narrow and that the folks believed I was a Christian too and they wanted me to stay with them but just don’t bring up our differences. Just don’t tell what you believe and we will all get along.
This is the tactic of Pharaoh and the tactic of all works, free will, legalistic religion (8: 25). Pharaoh concedes that he is fighting a losing battle. These narrow-minded people are going to leave if he doesn’t act fast. So he comes up with a compromise. He tells Moses that he can sacrifice (worship) his God with the blessing of Egypt but why go out into the wilderness, just stay here in the land and worship to your hearts content. Moses said “no way” (vv. 26-27). Moses is not calling the Egyptian deities abomination, though they clearly were. He declares that the sacrifice that Israel would offer, if offered in the land would be an abomination to the Egyptians and such an action would cost the Israelites their lives. This is true understanding. The sacrifice of Christ, which fully and totally accomplished the salvation of the elect, without any contribution from the elect, is an abomination to religion (Illus. Gideon…free will). The believer worships God in Christ, based upon the successful substitution of Christ by which He saved everyone for whom He died (Matt. 1:21). The Jesus who died and actually saved no one is a false God. The true and living God, Jesus Christ is abomination to religion and will not be worshipped by God’s people or in the place where false religion worships.
When faced with this tenacious attitude of the people of God, Pharaoh relents and seeks another compromise (v. 28). Ok, you can leave the land and sacrifice to your God but don’t go to far. Let’s keep the line of communications open and see if in the end we cannot reach some doctrine or practice that we can agree on. We’re all religious people and surely you don’t have to totally leave us. When the people of God leave the house of Belial, the house of Belial sees that action as a declaration that they are not saved; that their religion is false. If it were true, there would be no reason to depart. Light can have no fellowship with darkness, lest darkness be considered to contain some light. “Oh, they have some truth” I’ve heard many say, but some truth is not truth and if you put a drop of strychnine in a cup of tea, it is no longer tea…it is deadly poison. Any partial truth is an entire lie and is at its heart, deceitful dealing (v. 29).
Though Pharaoh hardened his heart, after more plagues came, he again relented and came up with yet another compromise (10: 8-11). This is the subtlety of religion. You can go and worship your God, but the wilderness is a dangerous place. Leave you children to our care. We will give them a faith based religious education and prepare them for life. It disturbs me to no end that some who declare that they believe the truth will give their children over to false religion to get them educated. This is not giving credence to public education though in reference to what most “so called” religious schools teach, the god they espouse, public education is far better. False religion can live with you believing the truth if they can be the ones who train up you children. The believer says no way…the kids are coming with us and when we worship God they are going to see how it is done.
Finally, the truth comes out. Though Pharaoh relents again, his final compromise reveals the true nature of false religion (10: 24). You can go, you can leave and you can take your little ones, but leave your herds. What is he saying? He is saying leave us the sacrifice. Religion will go to any measure, compromise any principle, if then can still retain the name Christian. Religion says do what you must, leave us if you must, take your children if you must, but don’t say that we are not Christians. But the fact is, when the believer leaves false religion, the sacrifice goes with him and that which is left is without Christ. The believer worships God as God has commanded by giving all glory to Christ for his salvation. He renounces any work or labor of his own and trusts Christ alone as all his righteousness. There is no place for compromise (I Kings. 18:21; Amos 3: 3; Joshua 24: 15).