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“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south” (Psalm 107:1-3 NRSV).
We are very good at throwing around “Christian” words and phrases without truly understanding what in the world they mean. The word of the week that calls to me is the word “redeemed”. What does the word mean? How does it fit into my life and my faith? When I say that I have been redeemed, what am I really saying about God?
According to my little handy dandy dictionary on my iPhone one of the definitions of redeemed is “to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.” The actual word “redeemed” originated in the late Middle Ages and is used in some combination with the verb “emere” which means “to purchase.” There was a price that needed to be paid in order to release or restore a person from captivity.
It is important to understand from where we draw the understanding of God’s redemptive love. Psalm 107 was written way before the time of Christ and is taken from the Hebrew Bible. The Psalm is one of praise and celebrates the Hebraic understanding of the redemptive power of God. In Jewish theology, the concept of being redeemed was to be set free. One of the prime examples of a release from bondage occurred when the people that were called the “Children of Israel” were delivered out of slavery in Egypt and led by God to the land (Canaan) that was promised to the descendants of Abraham. Another example of the redemptive act of God found in the Hebrew Bible is the return of those exiled in Babylon. God called them back, or redeemed the people. This restorative power of God displayed the covenantal agreement between the Hebrew people and God. In the agreement God pledged that God would never leave His chosen people. “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6 NRSV).
As Christianity began to spread throughout the world, one of the key foundational components of the new faith was the redemptive gift that God offered humanity in the form of Christ, God’s son. The idea of a purchase for something to be set free became a critical portion of the Christian understanding of redemption. To understand the definition through the filter of my own Christian faith, God restored me from a prison in which my very soul was chained and offered Jesus as payment for my release. The concept of redemption further developed as God’s gift to the world (Jesus) became the price for our release from captivity. We see the nature of the Divine flowing through the miracles that Jesus performed, the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings, and the ultimate sacrifice of Divine bloodshed on the cross.
The price that God paid to ensure our freedom was amazing. The sacrificial offering of Jesus proved beyond any doubt that God loved humanity in an incredibly radical and awesome way. Christ’s sacrificial act purchased our freedom from the bondage of sin and renewed our relationship with the All-Mighty. Praise to the one who freed us from captivity!
When I talk about being redeemed I refer to God’s faithful and incredible effort to pay the ultimate price for my heart. I often times am very humbled at such a gift. It is very difficult to understand or comprehend that kind of love. Praise be to God that I don’t have to fully understand it. I simply accept the gift of love.
As we offer our gratitude for life during this Thanksgiving season, let us be grateful for our redemption. Because of God’s gift, we are restored and made new people. The past no longer matters. What matters is that today, here and now, we honor this gift with our lives. We are to share the message of God’s incredible act of mercy with our community and our world. Thanks indeed be to the God who works a mighty act in me!