Then the Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh and tell him: Thus says the Lord: Let my people go to serve me.Exodus 7:26 (NABRE; 8:1 in other translations)
For the Israelites belong to me as servants; they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, I, the Lord, your God.Leviticus 25:55
The yoke and rod of Pharaoh, who was regarded as divine, were broken to free the Israelites to worship their God in the wilderness. The journey to freedom proved to be long and difficult, and often even undesirable. Mirages of Egyptian delicacies constantly tempted the former slaves to return to the comforts of servitude.
The riffraff among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, “If only we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now we are famished; we have nothing to look forward to but this manna.”Numbers 11:4-6
External freedom did not free the Israelites from the tyranny of the appetites, ingratitude, or sin. The freedom to worship during the Sabbath and Jubilee years may also have felt more like a burden than a gift to many. Wealthy households had to let go of cheap labor from slaves, and slaves had to work hard from the ground up to make a new start for their families. Watching farmland grow wild for a year without cultivation might have seemed like a waste to merchants and traders. Was the freedom to leave Egypt and serve the Lord worth the cost?
The journey to liberty in the Promised Land, the Jubilee of Jubilees, ends in the human heart where God is enthroned. The cost is indeed very high—count it before you begin, Jesus warned (Luke 14:26-33)—but the reward is sanctification, the eternal gold of being a child of God.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life.Romans 6:22