The Author of Redemption

“Redemption” is a concept that Hollywood loves. It has fuelled countless westerns. Think about the lone rider, the sad cowboy riding the plains by himself, masking a deep seated pain, avoiding all emotional entanglements until that one fateful day he encounters a young mother and her son. She’s a widow, her husband killed by band of nomadic bank robbers. The lone rider makes it his mission in life to track down those killers and extract justice at the end of his six shooter. A remarkable thing happens near the end of the movie. The loner, out a sense of mercy or something, decides it’s better to bring in the gang of killers rather than take justice into his own hands. When he turns them over to the local sheriff, he realizes he has not only helped the young widow and her son, but he has somehow redeemed himself in the process. His pain has gone. He’s no longer lonely or alone. Roll credits.

“Redemption” is also the major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the story of redemption is played out in the relationship of Israel with Yahweh. The Hebrew word often associated with “redemption” is padah, and refers to the payments required for redeeming firstborn children or for purchasing the freedom of slaves. It can also mean deliverance of enslaved individuals, groups of people, or nations. But there is another Hebrews sometimes translated “redeem,” and it’s gaal, which is a legal-type word referring to the recovery of property, as in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Both padah and gaal are words that foreshadow the amazing redemption God promised through His Son.

1. God’s promise of redemption, Exodus 6:2—8; Isaiah 43:1—7

a. The promise of redemption, Ex. 6:2—8

This group of verses is God’s indirect answer to Moses’ very direct question of the previous chapter:

Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22, 23)

The heart of God’s response was a new revelation of His character and nature. The phrase, “I am the Lord” is not only a statement of fact, it is also part of the promise of deliverance. It is seen four times in these verses:

  • It begins the message of a promised redemption to come;

  • It introduces a series of promises which will result from God’s intervention of deliverance;

  • It stresses the fact of adoption, something that will happen after Israel’s deliverance;

  • It validates even more promises; of a new land and home for Israel.

Clearly, the phrase, “I am the Lord,” is God’s guarantee that He will fulfill all of those promises. It’s like His “signature” at the bottom of a contract! God’s character and nature is the basis of His dependability. God has never failed in the past; it is inconceivable that He would fail His people now!

b. The promise of preservation, Isaiah 43:1—7

God’s deliverance of His people didn’t end when He got them out of Egypt and into their Promised Land! No, indeed! When God rescues His people, He doesn’t then just drop them and leave them up to their own devices. This group of verses serves to illustrate God’s loving promises of preservation.

This comforting message stresses the truth that Israel is His treasured possession, created by Him and for Him and named for Him alone. Some scholars believe that the translation of verse one should read, “I have called you by MY name.” This may be correct, but the point to calling one by any name denotes an individual, deliberate choice and appropriation. Israel belonged to God because He alone created them, He alone calls them to Himself, and He alone keeps them safe.

Israel’s God reminds them that they have been bought and paid for (verse 3). It was a once-in-a-lifetime redemption; it would never need to be repeated. The tense of the Hebrew in verse 3 is perfect; another ransom would never be paid to any other nation. When God redeems a people, it’s a complete redemption!

The real extent of God’s love for Israel is explained in a powerful way in verse 4:

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.

Redemption is the love of God on full display! Knox comments on this verse:

So prized, so honored, so dearly loved, that I am ready to give up mankind in thy place, a world to save thee.

God was willing to sacrifice the whole world for this one, little group of people. Why? Because they—no one else—belonged to Him! Even though circumstances looked otherwise, God’s redemption had not been undone. Regardless of what it looked like, God had not abandoned His people. God could no more leave Israel as orphans than He could orphan His own Son.

Of course, these wonderful verses belong to Israel and to no one else. However, over on the New Testament, we read this:

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

God’s promises—all of them—are “Yes” in Christ! All those promises made to Israel so long ago, while still in effect, are for us as well because we, like the promises, are “in Christ.”

2. God praised for redemption, 2 Samuel 7:22—24; Psalm 34:19—22; 103:1—5

a. Celebrating our redemption, 2 Sam. 7:22—24

Verse 22 is one of those very exciting verses in the Old Testament celebrating God’s uniqueness. The idea that “there are none like” the Lord is a major theme of Hannah’s song of praise (1 Samuel 1) as well as a number of Psalms. The matchless God of Israel has no rivals anywhere. This makes God special, but also the people He chose:

And who is like your people Israel —the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself… (verse 23)

The awesome, unique power of God was roused on behalf of ONE nation: Israel. No other people on earth have benefited from this unique, almighty God like Israel has! These are truly remarkable verses, and verse 24 is stunning:

You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

The ancient covenant God made with Abraham was now channeled through David and his descendants. God always honors His promises; they are as eternal as He is. God’s promised redemption never ends as it relates to Israel, or any of His redeemed people. God never goes back on His promises. Like David, we as redeemed people of God have every right to enjoy and celebrate our redemption in Christ.

b. Praising our deliverer, Ps. 34:19—22

This psalm is a wonderful testimony of praise. Many commentators feel that David is referring to himself in these verses.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (verse 17)

Troubles may come, but even in the midst of them, we, like David and all the righteous, ought to praise God, our deliverer. God loves and delivers the humble and the righteous from all manner of problems. The psalmist gets rather specific, saying that God won’t even let one of their bones break!

God watches over those He delivered. In the ever-changing circumstances of life, one thing never changes: God’s loving concern for His redeemed people.

c. Blessing our redeemer, Ps. 103:1—5

This is really a personal hymn, which has inspired many modern hymns like “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven.” David, the psalmist, has called on “his soul” to praise God. This is a poetic way of saying the whole being must be involved; the soul refers to the intellect, the emotions, and the very spirit of the individual. When we praise God’s name, we are exalting His character, and one good way of doing this is to make note of what God has done for us, for in those things, His character is revealed. Note what David thought was an important aspect of God’s character:

[God] redeems your life from the pit… (verse 4a)

All those whom God has redeemed should never fail to praise God for that singular act!

3. God’s provision for redemption, Luke 1:67—75

The story of God’s redemption didn’t end with Israel or the Old Testament. It’s an eternal story, and it carries on through the New Testament. This group of verses, Zechariah’s song of praise to God, is about that redemption. He had been struck dumb by the Lord, but with his voice restored, the priest shouts praises to God because of the glories of God in the past but also because of the even great glories of God yet to come.

a. Redemption through salvation, verses 67—69

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David… (verses 68, 67)

The three Greek words for “redeemed” used here mean literally,”worked redemption for.” Zechariah sees, not the ministry of his son, John the Baptist, but the ministry of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As a father, Zechariah naturally exalts his own son, but as a priest, he goes far beyond his own to to God’s: he praises Israel’s coming redeemer.

Horns were symbols of strength, and Zechariah, through the prophetic eye, sees a coming Savior, descendant from the line of David. He is the long-awaited Messiah, and He will be Mary’s unborn child.

b. Redemption through mercy, verses 70—73

…to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant… (verse 72)

Zechariah saw the coming birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of a long stream of prophecy from the beginning of the world. This man of God acknowledged that God was at this very moment showing His faithfulness in fulfilling His ageless promises in honoring His oath. God was showing mercy—literally kindness—to Zechariah’s ancestors by being merciful to his generation. Traditionally, when kindness is shown to a child, it is regarded by the child’s parents as a kindness to them.

c. Redemption through service, versus 74, 75

…to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

God’s merciful deliverance includes an obligation on the part of the delivered: to serve Him. Serving God is done without fear on our part because, after all, God has delivered from everything we used to fear! And we have no fear of God. We have been redeemed and reconciled. Our service is rendered in personal holiness and righteousness. These two terms illustrate the Godward and manward aspects of salvation. Our inward holiness and righteousness should mirror aspects of God’s character and nature. And as we serve God with devotion and enthusiasm, we do so with sound ethics, with an eye to our fellow man.

When do we do all this service? Zechariah’s opinion was “all our days.” God never takes a vacation from us, so we, the redeemed, owe Him the same kind of commitment. God enables us to serve Him, He chases away all our fears, gives us opportunities to reflect His holiness and righteousness, thereby making us a blessing to others. How can live our lives in any way other than His way?

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