Summary: The theme of redemption runs through the Old Testament leading up to the long-awaited Redeemer.
Exodus 15:1-18 Redemption
5/17/15 D. Marion Clark
We are continuing our walk along the Emmaus Road. The two disciples used a particular word to describe the common Jewish expectation of the Messiah: “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Redeem is the primary term by which the Jews understood the Messiah’s work.
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
Redeemed – the nation of Israel loved to proclaim it and the Jewish people still do today. And the redemption that they love to proclaim is the deliverance from bondage in Egypt. That is the big event. Listen to a couple of recollections:
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 77:14-20).
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left (Psalm 106:9-11).
This is how God himself described his work of deliverance:
Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6).
To be redeemed by God is to be delivered from bondage. It is to be redeemed from the power of the enemy by the power of God. When the people of Judah were sent in exile to Babylon, God again promised to redeem them.
Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself…
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’…
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (Isaiah 44:23-4, 26b-8).
And so, the Jews looked for redemption to come again, this time by the power of God to deliver them from bondage to the Romans, this time through the Messiah himself. God would send his Servant who would be their Redeemer. This was whom the disciples on the Emmaus Road was referring to, whom they had hoped Jesus was. Those hopes were dashed by the crucifixion. No doubt Jesus gave them a lesson on the meaning of the word for redeem.
The Hebrew term for redeem (ga’al) is a specialized word. It does not merely mean to deliver or to rescue. More closely connected to the word is the concept of ransom – paying a ransom to reclaim a person or object. Someone becomes impoverished. He must become a bondservant in order to pay his debts, but his brother pays the debt so that he is released. That brother redeemed him. Or this same man must sell his land to pay his debts. Again, his brother steps forward and buys the land back. This time he redeems the land.
You might notice that each instance that I give refers to a relative redeeming a relative or acting on the part of a relative to redeem something that belonged in the family, such as land. A person could redeem his own house or land or animal, but when he could not, his hope lay in his kinsman-redeemer to come to his deliverance. The primary illustration of the role of a kinsman-redeemer is the book of Ruth. Happy Perkins tells me that one law professor described the story of Ruth as about a property transaction. There is truth in that.