The group of people had escaped from a country where they'd been used as forced labor. They had been promised a life of freedom by their leaders, but, having escaped the pursuing army, they now found themselves in a desert. They were frequently hungry and sometimes without water. Even though these needs were often supplied miraculously, there was a disquiet and disorder that did not bode well for the preservation of their freedom.
Willis F. Gross, addressing an Annual Meeting of the Church founded by Mary Baker Eddy, who also founded this newspaper, spoke of these people in the Bible who have come to be called the children of Israel: "An unknown wilderness was before them, and that wilderness must be conquered. The law was given that they might know what was required of them, that they might have a definite rule of action whereby to order aright the affairs of daily life" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 43).
A driving force behind the children of Israel's escape to freedom was their desire to serve the one God that had been revealed to their forefathers. To serve Him meant being obedient to His law, and, as yet, those laws had not been codified. Moses realized that neither he nor his appointees could settle the many controversies brought to them without having a fundamental and coherent foundation of righteous law. It was then that his prayers were answered with God's gift of the Ten Commandments.
Although those Commandments continue today as a basis of Western secular law, their essence is spiritual and of broad interpretation.
An interesting read of the Bible is to discover how the specific, pragmatic laws become more merciful as the nature of a beneficent and universal God becomes more apparent. Attempts to free punishment for a crime from mere revenge resulted in laws that demanded that the punishment duplicate the crime. Eye for eye and tooth for tooth became the law (see Exodus, chap. 21). This was an improvement over harsher existing customs.
Years later, however, the man who thoroughly understood God moved law both upward and inward. He had a higher understanding of God as Love, and a conviction that the hearts of humanity should be obedient to this law. His teaching was the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy that God would put His law "in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jer. 31:33).
Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil." Then he added what is so familiar to us today to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies ..." (Matt. 5: 38, 39, 43, 44). Then he gave specificity to the law of Love, that we should bless, do good to, and pray for those enemies.
This presents a standard higher than the laws of any nation or the motives that any individual consistently achieves. As an ideal to aim toward, this teaching provides for more humane laws and secures greater obedience to them, which is essential to maintain freedom from both oppressive law and debilitating lawlessness.
Obtaining political freedom and democratic governments, as important as that is, is not an end in itself. It is, rather, an impetus and protection for other freedoms freedom from discrimination, limitation, poverty, even freedom from oppressive social and human relationships.
The list is long of those things that enslave humanity, but every enslavement eventually breaks up as we learn what it means that God is Love and pray to have that love of Love in our hearts. As the Bible states, "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). It is this law of Love, progressively obeyed, that ensures continuing freedom.
Stand fast therefore
in the liberty wherewith
Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again
with the yoke of bondage.