by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
When we find ourselves in difficult situations, most of us turn to our families to help extract us out of our tight spot. Such aid between family members is expected by God. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). Friends are wonderful, but we lean on our families when adversity comes (Proverbs 17:17).
In the days of the Old Law, a kinsman had the duty of rescuing his family members from such difficulties as paying off debts, making ransom payments when captured in war, or avenging a relative’s wrongful death. Land in Israel belonged to God who granted portions to various families. At times a person would become so poor that he would have to sell off the family land to meet his debts. When this happened, a relative was expected to buy the land back, so that it would remain in the family (Leviticus 25:23-25). If a man became so poor that he only had himself to sell, his relatives were expected to buy him back from his owner (Leviticus 25:47-49).
When a man was killed, a relative was selected to be the avenger of the murdered man’s blood (Numbers 35:10-12, 15-19). The Hebrew word translated “avenger” is the same word that is translated “redeemer” in other passages. Instead of recovering family land or personal freedom for a relative, the avenger is recovering justice on behalf of his kin.
The whole concept of redemption is beautifully illustrated in the book of Ruth, especially in the fourth chapter when Boaz offers to purchase the family land owned by Naomi and marry Ruth to redeem the family.
It is important that everyone understands the concept of redemption because each of us has gotten ourselves into deep trouble. We have all placed ourselves into a debt which we cannot repay. You see, all of us have sinned (Romans 3:9-20, 23), and those sins have justly earned us the penalty of death (Romans 6:23). Who then can cover our debt? How can we extract ourselves from the bondage into which we have sold our souls (Romans 6:16, 19-21)? You see the redemption of a man’s soul is costly. “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever – that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay.” (Psalms 49:7-9).
Think about it. We have already sold our souls to the devil, so we cannot buy ourselves back. What else do we possess that we could possibly offer in exchange for our souls? Money and worldly possessions cannot follow us across the river of death (Psalms 49:16-17). Besides all that is in the world already belongs to the Almighty Creator. Do you see the mess men get themselves into when they sell themselves into sin? But where we are powerless, God is able to redeem (Psalms 49:15).
Throughout the Scriptures, God is described as our Father. His Son, Jesus, then is our elder brother. God made us in His blessed image (Genesis 1:26-27). As God is spirit, we too are spiritual beings (John 4:24; Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 64:8). As God is righteous, we too were made righteous, though we have squandered our inheritance. “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
No relative would rescue someone who refused to acknowledge his relationship. Imagine rich uncle Harry coming to buy his nephew out of slavery only to be told by his nephew, “I refuse to have anything to do with you!” In a similar manner, Jesus expects us to be appreciative of His efforts on our behalf. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Jesus expects us to acknowledge our relationship to him before others (Matthew 10:32-33).
Still, our Father sent His Son to redeem us from slavery. “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:3-5). Jesus was the only appropriate one to redeem mankind and the only appropriate method was by the giving of His own life (Hebrews 2:9-11). You see we sold ourselves into miserable slavery and our own brother bought us back from our master. What wondrous love is this that was shown to such wretched creatures!
But the price of our release was unimaginably high. “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:17-19). Yes, it was through the blood of Jesus that we have redemption (Ephesians 1:7-8). With His own life, He redeemed us from our sins (Titus 2:11-14).
As awesome as this redemption is, we must not neglect to recognize that Jesus is also our avenger. Since the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the one who leads men into sin is a murderer (John 8:44). Jesus’ death gave Him the opportunity to destroy the destroyer. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus destroyed death because He did not remain dead (II Timothy 1:9-10). He made a public spectacle out of Satan (Colossians 2:15) and thereby avenged our shameful death at the hands of a mass-murderer.
Job foresaw this wonder of a living redeemer. “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:23-27). Job was firmly persuaded that his redeemer lives and he knew that he would see his redeemer even though his body would be dead. The very thought of one day meeting his redeemer made him faint.
Not only was Jesus given life, but he is also able to impart life to others (John 5:21-29). It is this fact, that we too will one day live with Jesus, that forms the very core of Christianity (I Corinthians 15:12-14, 20). It is not merely that a death paid for our sins, but that the one who died was given eternal life, and he will give us eternal life with him one day. “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:54-58).
Let all give thanks to God for our Redeemer and our redemption!