The greatest Biblical story of redemption, of course, is the Exodus (Ex. 7:14-14:30). Most of us are familiar with its gripping components: an enslaved people, a reticent leader, a series of judgments in the form of unusual plagues, the climactic night in which blood protects the Israelites and the lack of it condemns the Egyptians and the dramatic conclusion when the people are led through the Red Sea. That defining event in Israel’s history serves as the backdrop when the prophet Isaiah proclaims a message from “the Lord your Redeemer” in Is. 43:14.
But the Exodus is not the only imagery within this title. In the years to come and once established in the land of Promise, another story emerges from the family line of David. Many of us are familiar with that story as well. Ruth, a daughter-in-law of David’s great-great-grandmother Naomi (Ruth 4:16-22), is the recipient of redemption by the gracious act of Boaz who takes on the role of “kinsmen redeemer” and carries on the family name by marrying Ruth (Ruth 4:1-15). When Isaiah states, “Thus says the Lord your Redeemer” he is using the same term as applied to Boaz. In other words, the Lord is acting as a kinsmen-redeemer when He brings His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. But this act was not “free” from cost. The final judgment on the Egyptians with the death of their first-born son (including the livestock!) was a terrible price to pay (Ex. 12:29).
Israel’s Redeemer is also called “The Holy One of Israel” in this passage. The word kadosh (sometimes pronounced ka-dose) designates something that is sacred and the opposite of anything common or profane. It often refers to God as being inherently set apart from fallen humanity (Ps. 22:3; Is. 6:3; 57:15; Hos. 11:9). There are many passages which ascribe this title to Him (2 Ki. 19:22; Ps. 78:41; Is. 17:7; Jer. 50:29) and it is the Holy One of Israel that commands His covenant people (that is Israel) to be holy like Him (Lev. 11:44; 19:2). When linked with the role of Redeemer in this passage it underscores the fact that the Lord does not operate like anyone else. And looking at the current events surrounding this prophecy, one can see why! Having become established in the land, no one ever assumed there might be a time when they were not in the land. But the disobedience and broken covenant promises performed over the years were about to bring the people into exile (Dt. 28:15, 36). While not as severe as the enslavement in Egypt, the prospect of deportation brought fear into many. However, the Lord assures them He has not only “sent” them to the land of the Chaldeans (Babylon) He will also eventually “bring down” those who will cart them off into captivity. Both of these Hebrew words carry the idea of a providential purpose. Simply put, no matter what the direction, it is God who is the impetus behind it.
It is true there is a high cost factor in redemption. Whether it’s the dollars you spend on a number of items to get a “free” one, or the price that has to be paid in order to free a people, something of value is bestowed upon the recipient when the price has been paid. Old Testament Scriptures make that quite clear (Ex. 6:6; 13:13; 34:20; Lev. 25:48-49; 27:13-31; Num. 18:15-17) but this concept is not exclusive to the Old Testament. It is merely a shadow of the most costly act of redemption in all of human history- Christ’s death on the cross (Rom. 3: 23-25; 8:20-23; Eph. 1:17; Tit. 2:11-14; Heb. 9:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). I don’t know if we really understand the magnitude of what our redemption cost, but the reality of it should sink in every time we participate in Communion or attend an Easter service, and we should never take it lightly (1 Cor. 11:17-34). So when you get something for “free” this week, let it be a reminder of the greatest act of redemption for all time (Col. 1:13-14) and give thanks to your Redeemer.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 10/23/2016