The Law of Bondservants--Part 2
Feb 18, 2008
A bondservant was to be set free in the Sabbath year on the Hebrew calendar (Ex. 21:2). The master was also to give him liberal provisions, as we read in Deut. 15:12-15, and not send him away empty-handed. One might think of this as a kind of "vacation pay." This is one of the countless ways in which God shows His mercy in the law.
Once the servant has been set free and has had his "Sabbath rest," he may yet remain in need and sell himself once again--that is, he may contract his labor for another six-year period. Keep in mind that if he has lost his land inheritance through debt, he may not yet have enough money to redeem the property. It is only in the Jubilee year that every man may return to his property without any redemption payment.
But the example in Exodus 21 gives us a special case where a man may want to give up his own land inheritance and join with a benevolent master out of sheer love. His motive, as expressed in Ex. 21:5, might be that his master gave him a wife who has borne him children. Such a wife was not a freewoman, but was another one of the bondservants on the master's estate. But whatever the motive, a bondservant who has fulfilled his duty and has been set free in the Sabbath year may wish to remain with his master and under his authority for the rest of his life. In such a case, it is said in Ex. 21:6,
"Then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently [olam, i.e., for the rest of his life, an indefinite period of time] ."
Such bondservants are those who serve their master, not out of compulsion, but out of love. The will of their master is not a drudgery, nor is it an expression of a will contrary to his own. Their wills are one. They are in agreement. The bondservant knows his master's will, for there is no difference between them.
What is truly wonderful about this relationship is that a permanent bondservant is one who does not need to be told what to do, because he already knows his master's will and joyfully does it. Hence, his master never needs to override his servant's will. In fact, the master no longer needs to exercise authority over such a servant, because at that point authority becomes irrelevant.
This is a New Covenant relationship. I wrote of this in my book, Old and New Covenant Marriage. The only difference is that marriage is between man and woman, whereas the perpetual bondservant is normally expressed as man to man. But the underlying principle is the same, and this is ultimately the only kind of relationship that satisfies the heart of God. As long as servants perform the law by compulsion, the relationship is yet immature and incomplete, and God is not satisfied. As long as His Bride remains a bondwoman--that is, a servant who merely obeys the will of her husband out of compulsion--the relationship is yet immature and incomplete, and God is not satisfied.
God is looking for a better relationship with His bride, one that goes beyond obedience into agreement. God already married a bondwoman ("Hagar") at Mount Sinai. That marriage was based upon disagreement and rebellion from the start, and it ended in divorce (Jer. 3:8). God has no intention of remarrying a bondwoman again. This time He is looking for a freewoman so that He might enjoy a New Covenant relationship.
God reveals this truth in more than one situation. For this reason He teaches it in the law of bondservants, where the principle is again applicable. The perpetual bondservant, then, is one who has had opportunity to serve his master for some time and has learned by experience how GOOD he is. Their relationship has progressed from mere servanthood to friendship, from obedience to agreement. That is why, after training His disciples for three years, Jesus told them in John 15:15,
"No longer do I call you slaves; for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for the things that I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you."
One of the chief characteristics of friends is that they share their hearts with one another. God's servants are obedient; but His friends know the plan and purpose--the goal of that which is done. It was therefore said that Israel knew God's acts, but Moses knew His ways (Psalm 103:7). The difference is that Israel was still struggling to be a good servant, while Moses was a friend of God (Ex. 33:11).
The law of bondservants is about how to become a friend of God. A bondservant returns only when he is the master's friend. The master's law is in his heart. Their wills are one. The friend knows the goodness of the plan and wants more than anything to be part of it. That goal is greater than any personal inheritance that a man might have on earth. To such a bondservant, the greatest testimony written on his epitaph under his name would be, "God's Friend."
We have a great example of this in Jesus Christ, as prophesied by David in Psalm 40:6-8,
" (6) Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required, (7) Then I said, 'Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me; (8) I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart'."
The Septuagint translation of this is referenced in Heb. 10:5-9, where it is applied to Jesus Christ as our Example. The ears being "opened" is the significance of boring the ear with an awl (Ex. 21:6). It signifies true hearing. The book of Hebrews put it in the context of the animal sacrifices of "bulls and goats" (10:4). Bulls and goats had to be dragged to the altar against their will, and they were tied to the horns on the altar to await their death. But Jesus came as a Lamb without struggle (Is. 53:7), for it is written "I delight to do Thy will, O my God." The lamb character speaks of willingness, absolute trust, and agreement even unto death.
There is only one way such character can be instilled in us. It is when "Thy Law is within my heart."
As members of His body, we too are growing up into Christ (Eph. 4:15) by speaking the truth in love. As we become more and more like Him, we move from struggle to rest. We then enter His Sabbath, when we are set free in order that we might return as voluntary bondservants, friends of the Master, knowing His will and His plan for all of creation.
The Apostle Paul labored 14 years as a tentmaker, many of those years in Antioch, before God called him out of his own labor and into the work of God (Acts 11:25). In my opinion, this represented the point in time where Paul became "a bondservant of Jesus Christ."
Such bondservants were much more than bondservants, of course. They were friends. But even more than that, they were Sons. When we study the laws of Sonship, we find that these two sets of laws overlay upon each other perfectly. When a person is justified by level-one faith, he then enters into the area of learning obedience (i.e., Pentecost). No believer starts out with the law written on his heart, but this is the goal of Christian maturity. Pentecost takes us from obedience to agreement, which qualifies us for the Feast of Tabernacles.
Tabernacles is the realm of full Sonship, the huiothesia, "the adoption of sons," or "the placement of sons." It is the time of full authority given to the fully mature son who has the same will as the Father, and that will is the law written upon his heart in love.
This is the final part of a series titled "The Law of Bondservants." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones