Redeem: ga’al. Verb. (Strong’s 1350).
Sounds like: gaw-all
The word redemption often comes up during the week of Passover or, for some, Passion week. We know we are redeemed, but does that really mean? In Hebrew the word ga’al (to redeem) means to “buy back”. The laws of Leviticus refer to being bought back out of slavery:
[If]…a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family, then he shall have redemption [g’ulah] right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem [yig’alenu] him, or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem [yig’alenu] him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem [yig’alenu] him; or if he prospers, he may redeem [w’nig’al] himself.
As soon as you’re sold there is a chance for redemption. You are not locked in, any family member can buy you back and set you free. When Naomi and Ruth, great grandmother to the future King David, were destitute they looked to their “kinsman-redeemer”, Boaz, to save them from ultimate poverty. He did just that and married Ruth. Together they had a son, Obed:
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is YHWH who has not left you without a redeemer [go’el] today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”
From Ruth to Obed, Obed to Jesse, Jesse to David and down the line to Yeshua (Jesus), this becomes the genealogy of the promised Messiah. The women prophetically tell Naomi that YHWH had not left her without a redeemer. But it was more than just being saved from poverty, the redeemer from this line would save humanity in the most profound and startling way.
However, the first promise of redemption for the Hebrew people, as a nation, came many years before Ruth. The early Hebrew people became slaves to the dynasty of Egypt. After years of hardship and servitude YHWH acknowledged that He had established His covenant with the people and that it was time for Him to save them from slavery. He, as their family member, would buy them back and bring them out from under Egyptian bondage! It was time to put his promise into action. They were going to the land of Canaan!
God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am YHWH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHWH, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am YHWH, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you [w’ga’al-ti] with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am YHWH your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am YHWH.’”
This is the idea of being bought back out of servitude is what YHWH did when He rescued His people from the Egyptians. He bought His people back out of slavery and He set the captives free. And throughout history He continued to do the same, rescuing them from the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and Babylonians. When the Jews were under Babylonian captivity, separated from their homeland, and scattered throughout the land, YHWH promised to bring them back to Jerusalem:
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
For thus says YHWH, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed [ti-ga’elu] without money.” For thus says the Lord YHWH, “My people went down at the first into Egypt to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares YHWH, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?” Again YHWH declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long. Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’”
But after each time of redemption Israel slipped back into disobedience and complacency:
And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer [go’alam].
But they deceived Him with their mouth and lied to Him with their tongue. For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant.
But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger and did not arouse all His wrath. Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.
How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tested God, and pained the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember His power [literal: “His hands”], the day when He ransomed [pa’dam] them from the adversary.
They remembered that YHWH was their Redeemer but they forgot that it was His hands that ransomed them. It’s like remembering the big picture but forgetting the details… and once you forget the details the big picture seems just like an old story not connected to you.
But there were those who did not forget; those who remembered how God rescued them at their most vulnerable.
I called on Your name, O YHWH. Out of the lowest pit, you have heard my voice, “Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.”
You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed [ga’alta] my life.
The Messiah as Redeemer
The Hebrew people were first redeemed from the Egyptians, and then from their time of bondage in Babylon. But YHWH’s covenant promise to provide an Anointed one from the Line of David… a Messiah… would provide a new meaning to the word redemption. The Messiah would become a new kind of Redeemer:
I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of YHWH, the praises of YHWH, according to all that YHWH has granted us.
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has granted them according to His compassion and according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses.
For He said, “Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Saviour.
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them [g’alam], and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
Job makes a few startling statements about his Redeemer:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer [go’ali] lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!
If you say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’ and ‘What pretext for a case against him can we find?’, then be afraid of the sword for yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, so that you may know there is judgment.”
Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah-Redeemer would be persecuted and put on trial. He was found guilty of nothing. Pilate, three times said, ‘I find no guilt in Him’, but he would be executed nonetheless.
During Passover week the Israelites sacrificed lambs as an atonement for their sin. Unatoned sin would lead to death. It was a final ending, with no return. But YHWH provided a redemption from the finality of death. The Messiah, as the sacrificial lamb, would die to conquer death itself:
I will ransom them from the power of Sheol;
From Death I will redeem them [mimawet eg’alem].
Where, O Death, are your plagues? Where, O Sheol, is your sting?
Isaiah 44 draws a picture of two aspects of God: YHWH as King of Israel AND His Redeemer, YHWH of Hosts. Together they were the alpha & the omega, (in Hebrew the aleph & the tav), the first & the last. They would conqueror death and bring humanity back from the snares of extinction. Humans could be eternally free.
Isaiah 44:6, 21-23a
“Thus says YHWH, the King of Israel and His Redeemer [w-go’alow], YHWH of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me…
…Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you [g’al’tika].” Shout for joy, O heavens, for YHWH has done it!
This is a powerful statement: YHWH has done it! YHWH found a way to wipe out the sins of humanity and overcome the finality of death.
When YHWH redeemed the people in Egypt, it was the blood of a Passover lamb, smeared on the door frame of the home, that caused the destroyer to pass-over their home. With Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, it was His blood on the execution rack that allowed the bringer-of-death to pass-over those who put their faith in Him.
Writers of the New Testament letters, understandably, put a great focus on this:
1 Peter 1:17-21
If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Regardless of your faith, this story of Yeshua’s humble sacrifice is compelling and heart-breaking. Without even realizing it humans have come to mirror the cross when physically expressing the feeling of freedom. As I searched for photos using the word freedom, every second to third picture had someone standing with legs straight and arms outstretched. The sign of the cross has become our emblem of freedom.
Paul reminded readers that being redeemed, or bought back, meant that we are not our own and that statement changes how we should live:
1 Corinthian 6:17-20
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Before Jesus, the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah. For centuries they watched and waited… looking for hints and clues to His coming. They were waiting for a redeemer, but more so they were waiting for a King. This was very evident in the age in which Yeshua lived. The Jewish people, living in Israel, were immersed in Greek culture and living under the oppressive authority of the Romans. More than ever they wanted the Messiah King to come, destroy the Romans, and reign victorious over the nations. But Yeshua was not that kind of King. Their understanding of the Messiah was not what God intended it to be. Because they were looking for a triumphant, victorious, King so many people could not connect the dots and see Yeshua as the long-awaited Messiah.
I particularly love the story of the two men, walking to Emmaus, mourning the events of Yeshua’s crucifixion. They didn’t understand what had happened, until the resurrected Yeshua (whom they could not truly see) spelled it out for them:
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.
And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”
And He [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Yeshua showed the two men all the areas in Scripture, beginning with Moses and the prophets, where he could be found. That would be an amazing Bible study to be a part of! But even with this great teaching Cleopas and his companion could not really see who they were speaking with. However, as soon as the man reclined at the table with them and broke bread it dawned on them. At the very moment their eyes and hearts were opened, Yeshua vanished.
And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
The “Last Supper” described in the Gospel accounts was a Passover meal. It occurred during the festival of Unleavened Bread. Leaven, or yeast, was symbolic of sin. To this day Jewish people remove all the leaven out of their houses during this week, symbolically removing sin from their lives.
During the Last Supper of Yeshua broke the unleavened bread, and proclaimed that it was like his own sinless body which would be broken. To buy back humanity from sin and death, a sinless body had to be sacrificed. It was the covenant plan that YHWH had put in motion from the beginning. It’s not surprising, then, that it was this simple act of breaking bread that made Cleopas and his friend suddenly see everything clearly. Like the bread, this man’s body was broken and sacrificed, like the Passover lamb, so we could be redeemed. He bought us back; We are His!
But now, thus says YHWH, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [g’al’tika]; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
For I am YHWH your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.”
Yeshua, whose name literally means “salvation”, became our Saviour, bought us back, and set us free! With arms stretched wide, we should all shout, “Hallelujah, we are redeemed!”
Next week: mountains