God’s Take On Slavery, It Just Might Change Your Take On God

Slavery is wrong. Let’s just start with that. To force someone routinely against their own will – not OK. Personally, when I think of slavery, I think of the sex trafficking epidemic and I want to spit in someone’s face. (Monsters.) (I will never understand.) But maybe you think of the enslavement of blacks in the pre-Civil War days. Or an experience in your own home that’s left scars – lasting bruises too painful to talk about right now. (I know it doesn’t cut it, but I’m sorry. I wish I could give you a hug.)


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:1-11
Key Verse: “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; 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


That being said, to turn the page after resigning ourselves to obey the Ten Commandments and see the title “Laws About Slaves” at the beginning of Exodus 21, well, it feels a little traitorous. Um, excuse me but, how could He? Is the LORD advocating slavery?

I know, I agree, it doesn’t feel right. But it’s not what the average passerby thinks. It’s actually quite beautiful, so let’s not be the average passerby.

The rules or judgments listed in these first eleven verses are for regulating what was already there. Slavery, or in this case maybe we should say indentured servitude, was a part of life. They knew it well. And actually, many depended on it. To disallow it would have been devastating to the poor community and/or those who found themselves in financially dire times.

Note in verse two it says, “When you buy a Hebrew slave.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words, when a fellow brother comes to you and asks if he can work for you in exchange for room, board, and wages, take him in if you are able. Let him serve you for six years, but in the seventh set him free (v. 3). (Keeping in mind their own redemption from Egypt.) But don’t just send him away empty handed. Provide him with any and every provision he needs for a fresh start (Deut. 15:12-18).

“If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him” (v. 3). However, if his master gave him a wife and she bore him sons and daughters then the wife and children belong to the master.

I know, you’re struggling with that one. I did too. A husband and wife should not have to separate. But they didn’t have to… “If the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; 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” (v. 5-6). (The ear is symbolic of the servant hearing and obeying every word of the master.)

The goal was for the master to treat his hired servants so well, they never wanted to leave. Can you imagine a society wherein servants decided to stay with their masters because life just couldn’t get any better? That’s the kind of slavery God was advocating. The kind that treated people as people. The kind that gave them second chances and warm beds at night and food on the table. The kind that provided comradery instead of condemnation.

It’s what God does for us. Plucking us from the grip of death unto life and provisions and peace and relationship. Offering us mercy and grace in exchange for a life of service unto He who is the most kind and loving master there is.

But this whole set up isn’t primarily to be a picture of us as the servant, but actually a picture of Christ. (Are you sitting down? This might blow your socks off.) Do you know what Isaiah 42 describes Christ as? A servant. (Of all the things, who would have guessed a servant?)

Philippians 2:5b-6 says, “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

Christ lived every minute of his time on earth in perfect obedience to the Father. He served his time and could have gone free. But out of love for his people, his church, his bride, all the precious souls the Father had given him (John 6:39), Christ went to the doorpost (the cross) and didn’t just have his ear pierced, but his entire body, that he might stay with his bride forever.

David said in Psalm 40:6 “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” Which can also be translated “ears you have dug for me.” When the master bore the servants ear through with an awl he was making a hole or opening in the ear.

This same verse is then applied to Christ in Hebrews 10 but instead of saying “open ear” it says, “but a body have you prepared for me.” In full surrender and obedience Christ’s body was opened for us. Holes in his wrists and side, holes that Thomas touched (John 21:27).

All so he could stay with his bride.

Now as we read further in the passage there are a still a few question marks to work through. Like the more stringent laws for women, who were not to be set free every seventh year as the men were (Ex. 21:7). I know it sounds wrong, but we have to keep in mind women had little to no rights in society at that time. So to set a girl free, was not to offer her freedom but more likely cold, hungry nights on the street. With no one to care for her or shelter her or keep her safe

God was not being commandeering towards women, but compassionate. He wanted his girls cared for! Furthermore, the hope of a father who sold his daughter to a man was that eventually the wealthy man might marry or give her as a wife to his son, thus improving her status and giving her the rights of a wealthy land owners daughter.

Much as God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, gave us to His son, improving our status and granting us the rights of an heir. (Did you know you are the daughter of a wealthy land owner now?)

My friend, verse 16 is clear, it’s not slavery God is advocating here, but service and respect and providing for one’s neighbors. But most of all God is advocating love, knowing one day, His own Son would graciously and willingly bore his body through.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What does the servant boring his ear through with an awl picture in this passage?
Have you “bore your ear” by promising to faithfully serve the LORD? Does your life reflect such a commitment?
How is God and good and loving master?

awl to bore a slave

7 Evidences God is Good (Found in the Most Unlikely of Places)

“God is good.” Have you said it? Perhaps on the heels of a promotion or a problem solved or a pleasant night with family or friends, you’ve felt the words swell in your heart until it broke through on your lips.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:13-21
Key Verse: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” Psalm 25:8


Nothing wrong with that! I praise the LORD alongside you for his kindness toward mankind. Though it’s not our circumstances that make God good. It’s not the outcome of a situation that determines God’s virtue. He is good with or without us. He is good whether we’re happy or sad. Whether our dreams come true or crumble to pieces.

All the time, His steadfast goodness pours forth, in ways we can’t even comprehend. Even amid the Ten Commandments, His goodness shines brightly. Though on the surface, it may not seem like it with a list of “you shall not’s” a mile long.

A list that reads like this: “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:13-17).

Phew! And if that isn’t enough, Jesus took each of these rules a step further by making it not just a command of action but of heart.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

And then He went on…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

It’s condemning, isn’t it? How can any man live that perfectly? The answer is, we can’t. It will never happen. It’s impossible to measure up to God’s perfect standards. Which is why salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law (Galatians 2:16).

(Our first evidence that He is good.)

But we should still try. Because God’s law is not just a list of “shall not’s” for the sake of making life hard on us, but as a parent sets rules for a child, they are there for our protection! Take the sixth commandment for example, “You shall not murder.”  Not only is it flat out wrong to unjustly take the life of another, but the hatred that comes first will ruin anyone who embarks on such a path.

And the envy and anger and bitterness that comes before the hatred will eat you alive. Holding you captive. Keeping you from a life of peace and joy. Therefore God said, “Don’t even think about it.” Not because He’s mean but because He’s loving. Caring so much about the life we’re living He gave us the stipulations necessary to live well. Making the sixth commandment more than just a command not to murder, but a protection over life, the very life we’re living right now. (Our second piece of evidence that God is good.)

(Side Note: If it’s not okay for us to do it, then why is it okay for us to watch it on TV? Just a little something to think about.)

But what about the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” can we see God’s goodness there? You better believe it. It’s God who gave us marriage. It’s God who brought the first man and woman together. (Evidence enough in my opinion.) Establishing an intimacy so deep and fragile it’s to be guarded with a valid effort.

An effort that involves not even looking on another with lust. Because if you do – it’s like pouring gasoline all over a dry wheat field and then waiting for the lightning to strike. And God knows the lightning will strike. And it will hurt. And it will leave you scarred and broken. So don’t even look He says. Guard your mind and heart and body. Give it only to the one you’ve pledged your life to because the alternative is crushing.

Then the eighth, “You shall not steal.” With God over everything, there’s no need to take from another. He is the provider. So stealing is not just a sin against a brother, it’s a lack of trust in the Almighty and a pitfall to much worse. Like pride for example. By taking what rightfully belongs to someone else we place ourselves in the seat of God. For if all things are His, is it not His right to determine who they belong to?

Therefore, the eight commandment is not just a protection of property but a protection against pride. Against falling into a pit so deep we’re not sure which way is up. Only a good God would give us such a parameter. (Offering us our fourth piece of evidence.)

But what about the ninth, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Does it declare God’s goodness too? When viewed in light of what it protects, which is truth, relationships and integrity, His goodness regarding the ninth commandment cannot be denied. In reality, it’s a protection against falling prey to the father of lies (John 8:44). It’s a push to live in step with a God who is truth (John 14:6). (Our fifth piece of evidence.)

Then we come to the tenth. “You shall not covet.” Do you know what this really is? It’s the secret to a happy life. Stuff does not bring joy. It does not lead to satisfaction; it leads to emptiness. But “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). To be content with what you have is to possess a peaceful heart. And could there be any greater earthly possession? (Other than the certainty of eternal life of course.)

And you know, God didn’t have to share that secret with us. But He did. Giving us our sixth piece of evidence today that God is indeed good.

As a loving parent does, God set the rules, though he knew we’d break them.  He knew we’d fall short. But instead of punishing us as we deserve, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for us. To bear the iniquity that is ours. And that my friend is our seventh piece of evidence. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) And there is no greater evidence of His goodness than that.

A goodness independent of my circumstances. Independent of my good days and bad. Unchanging in nature. Unyielding. A goodness able to soften even the hardest of hearts. Indeed, God is good my friend. Indeed, He is good.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How do you generally view God’s commands, as parameters with a purpose, or as a bunch of rules that zap all the fun out of life?
Do you truly believe God is good all the time? Why or why not?

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