The Search For True Freedom

Freedom and liberty are very dear to our hearts. With a long history of being denied freedoms, there are few people groups who value freedom more than Jews. Israelis sing in their national anthem HaTikvah (“the hope”)the words “to be a free nation in our own land.” But what is freedom? In Israel, there are two prevailing ideas of freedom that bump up awkwardly against one another a lot.

Two Ideas of Freedom 

The first is religious: that the Jewish people have received a religion from their forefathers that must be strictly practiced. Not only with all the commands found in the Torah, but also with the traditions and the judgments passed down by the rabbis. All this is bound up with a desire for hope.

The second is secular: that the Jewish people are finally free from the oppressions and injustices of the Gentiles to pursue their own desires. They are no longer bound by the societal norms of the nominally Christian nations in which they lived. Yet it is without a solid basis for freedom when it neglects the religious framework that provides it with real meaning.

Neither ideology likes the other, yet both are united in their distrust of Christianity. Religious Judaism sees Christianity as taking away the Jewish right to observe the laws of the rabbis. Yet secular Jews, far from having liberty, find themselves in enslavement to their sin.

True Freedom

When you consider what G-d sets out in his law, it isn’t merely the external ceremonies of ritual washings, deeds of charity, and so on. It goes far deeper, reaching into the heart. It is one thing to avoid killing someone, but Jesus Christ actually draws out the true meaning of the Law: that you shouldn’t even hate your brother, for that is murder in your heart.

While this must have seemed shocking to many Jews of Christ’s day, Christ was saying no new thing. He said: “ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Yet the holy patriarch Job said:

Job 31:1

“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

, and the psalmist declared:

Psalm 66:18

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”

Paul, who previously lived as a religious Jew, lamented about how he realized the depth of his sinfulness once he came to Christ:

Romans 7:7-12

“I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good”

Again, as the Psalmist had said centuries earlier, “I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” (Psalm 119:96)

Christ therefore requires a complete heart-purity that we cannot attain naturally. True liberty in Christ, therefore, is the liberty to be able to obey G-d from the heart. Jews and Gentiles both lack this liberty, and instead are in slavery to sin, just like the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. Religious Jews can never attain this liberty because, however sincere their obedience may be, their wills are still enslaved to their lusts, according to their fallen nature. Paul, therefore laments in Romans 10:

Romans 10

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Neither Religious Nor Secular Israelis Have True Freedom

However much a religious Jew might wear the Torah in a box over his forehead, yet if he cannot fully honor G-d’s law in his heart, it is meaningless – and such is the fate of every Jew outside of Christ. As Paul writes in Romans 2:

Romans 2

“he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

But does the secular Israeli – not bound to the law in either a Jewish or Christian understanding – have true freedom? Elsewhere, Paul speaks of those who...

2 Timothy 2:26

“may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will”

This describes those who pursue hedonistic pleasure to a tee.

As Paul describes further in Romans 1: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Paul continues: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Sadly, these words perfectly describe much of society today - and not just in Israel, but in most of the Western world. Yet, as Jews, we ought to know better - we have Moses and the prophets, and ought to heed their call to believe in the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, who came to set us free from our sins. 

How is there freedom for the non-religious Jewish man who firstly is tortured by his lusts, and is compelled by them to satisfy his urges, and afterwards is tormented by his conscience for having done so? And in the same manner, how is there freedom for the religious Jew who goes to great lengths to display his mezuzah and wear his kippah, tallit, and tefillin correctly, yet cannot ever overcome the strength of his own internal lust, and is burdened with the guilt of hypocrisy and disobedience to the law of Moses?

True Freedom Is Found In Christ

Both religious and secular Israelis are looking for a liberator, a Judaic messiah or perhaps a Zionist political savior who will free them from their troubles, but while religious and secular Jew alike are shackled and in bondage to their sins, neither group has liberty. What a heavy burden for all!

Thankfully, Jesus the Messiah declared:

Matthew 11:28-29

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Let us cry with Paul:

Romans 7:24-25

“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of G-d; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Now, when we take our burden to Christ and believe in him, he forgives us our sin, and he comes and makes his abode with us, promising: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). In doing so, the Holy Spirit indwells us, setting us free from guilt and sin – our sin having been imputed to the Messiah on the cross – and gives us power to overcome sin, and the means of grace (the Scriptures, the sacraments, and prayer) in order to do so.

G-d has given us all things we need in Jesus the Messiah, and that is true for any Israeli – secular or religious – who trusts in him today. Now that is true liberty!

START READING

We make it easy for you to compare the Tanakh with the New Testament by providing free access to it on this site, so you can examine these scriptures and decide for yourself.

GET IN TOUCH

If you have any questions, we would love to talk and hopefully discover, together with you, G–d’s good message to us.

More Topics

You might alsoo be interested in these topics.