Awake, awake, Zion,
clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust;
rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
Daughter Zion, now a captive.
For this is what the Lord says:
“You were sold for nothing,
and without money you will be redeemed.” Isaiah 52:1-3
Redemption. That sole word encompasses the whole story of Scripture. From the Fall in Genesis to the New Creation in Revelation, the Bible is a redemption story. God establishes a perfect order. Humankind rebels against that order. They become lost and broken. God redeems.
One Hebrew translation of the Old Testament word “redeemed” is more legal than spiritual. It is to buy back something that was once yours, but which has been passed into the hands of another. (Holman Bible Dictionary) The people of Israel and Judah were God’s people. That was where their identity was found. In legal terms, they were the property of the Lord. And yet,because of their rebellion against God, they had been passed into the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. They were, quite literally, slaves in the empires of Assyria and Babylon. So when God says he is going to “redeem” His people, there is an inherent understanding that He is going to buy them back.
And yet, in Isaiah 53, God makes clear that it is not with money that He will buy His people back. God speaks of a faithful servant, one who will bear the iniquities of the people and bring them back to the Lord.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6
Reading this ancient prophecy with New Testament eyes, we see the atoning sacrifice of Christ–God’s redemptive tool that went so far beyond anything money could buy. And this is what we should celebrate at Christmas–God’s redemption of His people. God coming into the world as one of us so that we could be brought back to Him.
You see, it’s not enough for God to simply rescue His children–His desire is to bring them fully back–to redeem, and then to restore His perfect order.
As we move into Christmas mania this week, take a moment to reflect on the fact that this season is about honoring the One who has redeemed us. God longs to bring you out of your present darkness and into his great Light of Love. The price has already been paid.
Where are you looking for redemption right now? How can you show someone else God’s redemptive love this week?
Blessings and Peace,