by Rayola Kelley
As some of you may know, I have struggled with the English language most of my life. Because of how I have heard words in my formative years, I had to receive speech therapy in the fourth grade. This struggle was also greatly evident when trying to communicate my thoughts and ideas on paper.
Since English rules change and many of its words or terms came from other languages, I used to blame my challenges on the language itself. However, after working with some different cultures, I began to appreciate the English language. I could see how it provided various words to best express the meaning or intent of ideas, while some of the other languages did not always separate different words with similar points of identification as a means to bring distinction or clarity. For example, the words redemption and consecration would be lumped with the word salvation.
As I found myself defining words in order to bring clarity when teaching non-English speaking people, I began to appreciate my native tongue. Although considered by some a garbage language, I learned that if presented in the proper light, the English language is a language that can paint powerful pictures when bringing distinction and meaning to a word.
One of the words that fascinated me in my studies is the word, “redemption.” Granted, I had my assumed notions about what I thought redemption meant, but after studying the word, I found my notions or assumptions to be vague. Such discoveries often challenge me to consider what I really do understand when it came to the words that are consistently found in Scripture.
When considering what other subject I needed to address in our monthly newsletter, the word, “redemption” came to my attention. As believers who are facing the uncertainty of the days in which we live, it would serve us well to come to terms with what it means to be redeemed. We may sing about it, hear the word mentioned occasionally in some sermon or teaching, and we may even read about it once in awhile, but how many of us understand what it really means to be redeemed?
As I began to consider the concepts about redemption, I started to see the outline for another series. Redemption is not just a one-time subject. It is the main theme running throughout the Bible. The references to it are many, and the implications far reaching. Obviously, it is not a word that should be vague to us as believers. We need to know what it means to understand our relationship to God and our rights in His kingdom.
To understand redemption, we must come to terms with the environment that requires redemption. The main environment that requires such intervention has to do with someone being taken captive by circumstances or by captors who are seeking means to control, blackmail, or seek ransom. Such an environment points to some type of captivity or oppression. Clearly, people who are not in captivity or oppressed do not have any need to be redeemed.
The idea of redemption points to repurchasing, ransoming, rescuing, procuring, attaining, and possessing something that is held in some type of captivity or bondage. When you study the concept of redemption in the Old Testament, the first promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 had to do with redeeming man. Because of man sinning in the Garden of Eden, all mankind has been taken into captivity by sin. People are slaves to sin, under the harsh taskmaster of Satan, facing the bondage of hopelessness in this dark world, and the consequences of death. Clearly, Satan has become the god over man in his fallen condition, sin has become his master, the world his prison and tormentor, and death his unbearable chains that hold him steadfast in his spiritual plight.
Obviously, mankind needed to be redeemed. He had fallen from his original state of innocence before his Maker into a state of oppression and bondage. For him to be restored back to his original place before his Creator, God would have to repurchase or ransom him. After all, who would put any type of value on man other than the one who created him for a specific purpose?
Praise God, He did pay the ultimate ransom for His people. However, before He repurchased humanity, He began to present a mosaic of what this ransom would entail in the Old Testament. We are about to consider this incredible thread that God cleverly weaved throughout His presentation. To me, it is a wondrous picture that is void of any confusion, debate or misunderstanding. Let us now summarize this presentation.
Redeeming a people: The first great example of redemption happened when God redeemed the people of Israel from under the tyrannical bondage of Pharaoh. God did not redeem ideas, buildings, or lands, but a nation of people. After all, what became lost in the garden was man. It was man’s lost state that caused creation to spin out of control, doomed to groan under a fallen state.
To acquire a people, God first had to choose and call a man named Abraham to journey to a land He would promise to his descendants. Out of Abraham would come a great nation. This nation would eventually be enslaved. It would be in this captivity that God would actually claim and win this nation for Himself. He would have a people that would become His possession in which He could bring forth the actual payment to buy back humanity.
In their slavery, the descendants of Abraham would understand that they needed to be redeemed. They were slaves in a harsh land. The whips of oppressive man served as their bitter cup, the endless drudgery as their hopeless despair, and the threat of death to their future generations their promise. There was no escape from their oppressive lot. They were born into slavery and from all appearances, they would die slaves, paupers in a land that they were considered foreigners in.
However, God had chosen them to be His people. He not only knew what it would take to win their release, but He had the means to do so. It is vital we understand the steps He took to procure their release.
He first claimed them as His own. It must be pointed out that the people of Israel did not belong to Pharaoh. He had not gained them in any battle, he had simply enslaved them because they were considered foreigners. This is why there is no purchase mentioned at this point.
Before people claim something as belonging to them, they must first have a former claim on it. To God, these people were to be His heritage. His claim on them went back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is from this premise that a price would begin to formulate. It is amazing what price God put on the children of Israel. It was not a price He would pay; rather, Pharaoh would end up dictating the amount of the payment as he failed to win the battle with Jehovah God for the people of Israel.
The example of Israel also revealed that the payment would come from outside of those who are held captive. People who are enslaved have no means in which to redeem themselves. Pharaoh and all of Egypt would end up paying most of the price for the release of the children of Israel. Let us consider this price.
Vengeance: Vengeance is associated with redemption. Often, captives have been unfairly or violently taken for some type of gain. Sometimes, in order to rescue captives, it takes acts of vengeance. God would exact ten judgments on Egypt to procure the release of the children of Israel. Each price exacted from Pharaoh proved to be more devastating. It is the final judgment that would not only cause the children of Israel to be released, but it would point to the payment God would make on our behalf.
Death of the first born: Pharaoh was trying to control and eventually wipe out any record of the people of Israel’s existence by trying to kill all their male babies. However, the final judgment that was leveled at Pharaoh caused all of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s household, to lose their first-born sons along with the first-born males of their flocks. What a price to pay, but we get a small glimpse into the price God would pay when His only begotten Son died on our behalf.
The Passover Lamb: Every aspect of this lamb had to be utilized by the people of Israel in their deliverance. The blood of the lamb identified and separated the children of Israel from the judgment of death. The lamb took the vengeance of death in the place of every Hebrew. Its blood pointed to the payment for sin. After all, only the blood can remit or provide pardon from sin. The meat was used as food. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He became God’s payment for our sin. Vengeance fell upon Him as He took the judgment of sin upon Himself. His blood established a new covenant, His life became the bread we must partake of to live, His will, word, and purpose would serve as the meat that would bring spiritual maturity, and His Spirit would empower us to walk in this new life according to God’s will.
As you can see, the concept of redemption is far reaching. The question we must ask is, “are we marked by redemption?” We all need to be redeemed because of sin. Sin has wreaked a vengeance on each of us, but we have been given a way out of such bondage through the provision of the Lamb of God.
As we embark into a new year, let us above all else resolve the matter of Jesus’ redemption.