When Jesus initiated His ministry, He stood up in the Synagogue and read Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;
We can easily identify with the afflicted and the brokenhearted, but few of us have ever been captives or prisoners.
Now when Luke recorded this, he used a different word than prisoner. He used the word oppressed. TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, I do have some experience with oppression.
The word means: prolonged, cruel or unjust treatment or control. A sense of being weighed down in body or mind due to the pressure exerted by a person or a group. It could be mental pressure or distress caused by expectations or rules, things said or things done.
The word oppress comes from a Latin word meaning – pressing down.
Hosea gave us a visual: Hos 12:7 A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, He loves to oppress. Pressing down the scales to make people pay more for their purchase.
A variety of things can cause the pressing down of oppression, but the result is the same: we act according to the pressure exerted on us or within us.
Seabiscuit was used to train other racehorses. He’d run hard with them, then, to build up the confidence of the other horse, the jockey would pull him back and let the other horse win. He was pressed down to the role of loser. That oppression shaped his life. He had forgotten the freedom of simply being a racehorse.
There is a simplicity of life within being a Christian. A walk that is natural and fulfilling. Oppression, however, can be like a force of driving clay into a mold, pressing us into a shape different than who we are.
Paul writes in Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world. The word conformed means pressed into a mold. And the shape of that mold is a worldly mindset.
This was Israel’s besetting sin: conforming to her surroundings. God had warned them: Deut 18:9 When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.
He was telling them: Do not pattern your lives from the lives of the godless. What will happen? You will forget who you are and start acting like someone you are not.
What’s this got to do with oppression? Conformity to the wrong shape is the goal of oppression.
The first use of the word oppress or oppression showed up in the story of Israel having gone into Egypt. What began as an amazing example of God rescuing His people from a famine by strategically having Joseph sent down there, ends with slavery.
Ex 3:9 Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.
Deut 26:7 Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression;
Act 7:34 'I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.'
The oppression by the Egyptians and the deliverance led by Moses became the pivotal story of Judaism. From that story they got their identity as the People of God, and their trademark experience. They once were free, then became slaves. They were oppressed, but God set them free. Deut 10:22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. A family went into Egypt, a nation came out.
For this new nation to survive, God had to set up the boundaries for how they lived.
Josh 23:6-8 Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.
Josh 24:15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Judges 2:6-16 When Joshua had dismissed the people, the sons of Israel went each to his inheritance to possess the land. The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110. All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.
The promise was: If they would keep to the things written for them and allow those truths to form their identity, all would be well. But the minute they chose an identity different than the one that said: We are the People of God, oppression came. Then, God would wait until the oppression brought them to their knees and would send a deliverer. That roller coaster became their story from then on.
Isa 30:12-13 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, "Since you have rejected this word and have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied on them, therefore this iniquity will be to you like a breach about to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant,
The security of the wall around them, the hedge of protection, would crumble because they transferred their trust over to what was actually causing their oppression. A steel worker and the wind. The message: Don’t count on life as usual when you choose to trust in something other than our God being Lord of your life.
When Peter described us as the People of God, he used some of the same language God had used telling the Jews who they were: 1Pet 2:9-10 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
He’s establishing our identity. This is who we are. So, when the oppressor comes, and we feel the pressure to conform to a shape inconsistent with this identity, we have a legacy of warnings not to give in. But, more than the warning, we have an advantage Israel didn’t have. We don’t have to wait for God to raise up someone to come help, our help is already here.
John 14:16-17 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Not only did He promise the Holy Spirit, look at what that means to us: 1Jn 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them [those who oppress]; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
1Cor 2:12-13 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit,
The message from the Spirit will fill your life in abundance. The message from the world will steal your joy, kill your hope, destroy your future.
Ecc 7:7 Oppression makes a wise man mad. When? When he tries to live as though what isn’t true is true.
But what if I really do believe what I’ve been told?
· You’re too: what – fat, skinny, short, tall, plain, stupid.
· You can’t: sing, dance, talk, tell jokes, play, belong.
· You’re no good at: sports, music, art, writing, singing.
· You don’t: measure up, act right, have enough talent, fit in.
· You aren’t: attractive, interesting, funny, serious, their type, the right color.
Consider the source: people who tell you those things don’t have the authority to do so.
But what about our spiritual identity? What if we’ve been lied to spiritually.
- God doesn’t care about you.
- What you’re going through doesn’t matter.
- God can’t help you.
- God doesn’t heal anymore.
- You don’t have what it takes to live the Christian life.
- Your life has no plan or purpose.
- You’re the exception to the promises.
What does the Spirit say:
- We’re overcomers – no exceptions.
- No one or no thing can snatch us out of God’s hand – no exceptions.
- God loves us with an everlasting love – no exceptions.
- God heals what hurts us – no exceptions.
Whether the oppression comes from being mislead, mistaken, misdirected, or flat out lied to, whether the oppressor is an illness, a relationship, a heartache, or a spiritual disappointment, the answer is the same: We need to know the Truth.
Jesus: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32
Not knowing what is true, but knowing Who is that truth? Jesus: I am the truth…
Whatever is pressing you down into a mold that makes you think or act like you are without a Heavenly Father who loves you and cares for you and has plans for you and will work all this toward good, rebuke it. Tell that oppression: Jesus is my hope.
I got a knock at the door. It was Satan as a roaring lion with lies to oppress me. I said, “Jesus, it’s for You.”
1. Knowing what is true keeps us from becoming confused when we are lied to.
2. If we respond to life challenges with a secure identity, we may still feel overwhelmed but never oppressed.
3. We become oppressed when we forget we are Children of God, indwelt by the One who overcomes on our behalf.
4. When we feel the pressure to conform to the world’s pattern in dealing with our troubles, refuse it, take that trouble to the Lord and let Him handle it.
5. If we’ve become oppressed, confess it and ask God to heal the damage it is causing.