When God gives the law to Moses in Exodus, God first gives the so-called ten commandments (better named “ten words”). Secondly God instructs about idolatry and alters, then follows that with strict rules against indefinite slavery for fellow Hebrews. When Jeremiah calls upon Judah to repent, King Zedekiah calls upon Judah’s people to release fellow Jewish slaves who had been kept in bondage for some time. Obviously, God’s people had been ignoring the covenant before Jeremiah’s prophetic denunciation of the practice. Unfortunately, soon after doing the right thing by releasing brothers and sisters in slavery, former slave owners changed their minds, bringing their former slaves back into captivity. Jeremiah’s harsh words reiterate that because God brought the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt they were never to repeat practices that enslaved.
Since God’s people didn’t want to enjoy the freedom God gives, including the freedom to take care of the family of God, God will give these people a new freedom. This freedom is conveyed with a sarcastic bite, for Jeremiah promises a freedom to, “‘fall by the sword, plague and famine” (Jeremiah 34:17). God offers us similar freedom, to enjoy freedom that comes from loving God and neighbor in faith (Galatians 5:1-6) or the freedom to be enslaved by idols or by the power of the law to condemn (Galatians 4:8-11).
True freedom must liberate us to fulfill our God-given purposes. False freedom invites us to try and enjoy liberation apart from God’s purposes, only to offer us freedom to enjoy the destructive consequences of refusing to be true image bearers of God on earth. Freedom can be ours, but it comes as God’s gift, through God’s will being embraced.