“And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise.”
Even in ancient times, life was often difficult. Conditions, beyond the control of an individual, would leave him in a place where he could not pay his debts. To address this issue, God set up a system in Israel where a person could become an indentured servant for a period of seven years. During this time the work done by the individual was treated as payment for the debt owed. At the end of seven years his debt was considered as paid-in- full and he was set free. This was called the year of release, and when it arrived the servant was set free and loaded up with provisions to begin a new lease on life.
In addition to writing out the rules for the year of release, Moses also explained a very interesting clause. If a person did not want to be set free, they could willingly offer themselves into continued servitude. He would show his commitment by having his ear pierced with an awl. It might seem odd to us why a person would willingly accept servitude over freedom, but the reason for it is explained in the text;
“If he says I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you. . .”
A person would choose servitude over freedom because of the way they were treated by their master. If they realized they actually had more freedom and a better living by being under their master than they ever would on their own, they would remain a slave.
This is a good example of what is true of the follower of Christ. Living for Jesus demands a surrender of our will. It is actually impossible to follow Jesus, if we do not lay down our will. While that may be a difficult thing for us to do, the result is, we get to pick His will up. God always has better things in mind for us than we do. Paul, quoting Isaiah wrote,
1 Corinthians 2:9
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
To those who knew Him best, it was clear that the height of life would be found, not in keeping our will, but by submitting ourselves, our life, and our ways completely to God.
Let’s drive that figurative awl through our ears, and devote ourselves completely as servants of Christ.