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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Mary C. Earle

Tuesday, May 12

Sing with joy to God our strength
And raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.
—Psalm 81:1

Psalm 81 is a song of deliverance. The singing and shouting spring from the ebullient release from captivity. The psalm reiterates the acts of God in liberating the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and the stubbornness of those same people as they trekked toward the Promised Land.

These themes of captivity and freedom, slavery and liberation, despair and shouting for joy echo through the psalms and the Hebrew Testament. God is a God who sets the captives free. We know God’s action when we know freedom from what enslaves us.

In June 2006 my husband and I were in Prague with our younger son. We enjoyed visiting with the people of the city, getting to know a bit about daily life. On our way to the airport, we happened to have a taxi driver who spoke English well. He said to us,

We are new to this freedom. When the communists were in charge, we had no bananas, even for Christmas. I could hardly find shoes for my daughter. We could not celebrate Christmas. Now we can. Now I can have Christmas.

He spoke about this transformation in matter-of-fact terms. This is the history of his country, of his city. Prague and the Czech people have lived with the tensions of freedom and repression before. Now they are free to serve without fear (Lk. 1:73), free to worship or not, free to choose.

It's not easy to live with freedom. As the accounts of the exodus tell us, after the first joy of freedom, there comes the temptation to yearn for  slavery. The fact of our responsibility becomes inescapable. We wake up to our own accountability while at the same time receiving God’s gracious gift of freedom—freedom to serve, freedom to respect others, freedom to work for the repair of the world.

In some ways being enslaved is simpler. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to choose. You don’t have to be accountable.

Yet living in the image and likeness of God always draws us into the freedom of the God who creates us. We are invited to move toward freedom and therefore toward love. Love can only happen where there is no coercion. Love can only happen when the captive has been set free.

Notice what enslaves you or holds you captive—it could be anything from overspending to addiction to a political system. And notice what in you would prefer to remain captive than accept the gift and responsibility of increasing freedom in Christ, for the life of the world.

Gracious God, who sets the captives free, grant me this day the wisdom to notice my own captivities and to seek the liberation you offer, so that I may participate in the redemption You work in the world. Amen.

The Signposts for May originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.