For the week of August 18, 2007 / 4 Elul 5767
Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12
How Does it Work? - Part 2
For this is what the LORD says: "You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed." (Isaiah 52:3)
Last week I related the occasion of my being asked to explain how God's transforming power in my life actually worked. At the time of the question I had difficulty giving a satisfactory answer, but since then I have had more time to think about it, and I am ready to make another attempt.
The most obvious aspect of my transformation was psychological. I had been struggling emotionally to the point of having panic attacks, which stopped immediately. My outlook on life radically changed. I had become a very self-seeking person, and while I do not claim to have attained absolute selflessness, my world was no longer just about me. Similarly, issues of morality meant little to me, but once Yeshua came into my life, I began to develop a strong sense of right and wrong. Life in general had no meaning. I was always bored except for brief moments of distraction, but in the Messiah God gave me purpose. Up until knowing Yeshua and my embracing of the Scriptures as the Word of God, my being Jewish was without relevance. My Jewish identity was important to me, but without substance. Coming to know the reality of the God of Israel caused me to see myself as part of his eternal plan that had begun centuries before with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
All this has to do with the results of what God did in my life on a September day in 1976. But it doesn't explain exactly what it was that God did to me that day. The best way for me to explain it is through the biblical concept of redemption. In the Scriptures, redemption refers to the act of buying back a person sold into slavery or the restoration of property that has been lost due to extreme poverty. According to the Torah, when this would occur it was the obligation of a near relative to redeem or, in other words, to buy back the person or property (see Vayikra/Leviticus 25 & 27; Bemidbar/Numbers 35).
Redemption as an act of God on behalf of his people is a regular theme throughout the Bible. Jacob refers to God's redemption in his life (Bereshit/Genesis 48:16). The deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt is referred to as an act of redemption (Shemot/Exodus 6:6; 15:13). Hoping in God as the Redeemer of Israel is found several times in the prophets (see Isaiah 41:14; 43:1; 43:14; 52:3; Jeremiah 50:34; Micah 4:10; etc.). The Book of Ruth is a beautiful illustration of redemption. In Tehilim (Psalms) we have references to God as redeemer of both Israel as a nation (74:2; 77:15; 78:35. etc.) and for individuals (19:14; 69:18; 103:4, etc.).
Redemption is the act of rescuing a person or persons from a most dire situation and restoring them to a place of freedom. It brings about a complete transformation of the life situation of the redeemed.
This is what happened to me that day over thirty years ago. God redeemed me.
I was in an oppressive situation, which included several components. The most basic component was the spiritual one in that I had no relationship to God. But it also included a relational component in that my home life was extremely dysfunctional and my friendships were based on selfishness. It had an economic component in that the only parent in my life was no longer able to provide for our needs. It had an intellectual component in that I had no direction for my education. I also had no work ethic, since I thought life was simply about comfort and pleasure.
When I encountered God that day, he redeemed me. Due to what Yeshua did on my behalf by giving his life as the ransom for my sins, God rescued me from my oppression, set me in right relationship with himself and began to direct me in the kind of life he intends for us all.
It was his redemption that significantly alleviated my extreme anxiety. My perspective on life was not simply due to a psychological adjustment. Rather I experienced a psychological adjustment due to the transformation of my life by God.
I remember crossing a particular street not long after asking Yeshua into my life and remarking to myself that everything looked different. While my physical surroundings hadn't really changed, it was as if the realm in which I found myself had.
The fact is I was living in a different realm. This is expressed so well in the New Covenant writings:
What our people experienced through God's redemption in Egypt anticipated an even greater redemption through the Messiah. Moreover, what is available to us today through him is a taste of what he still desires for us as a nation. It is something that is available to all people through trusting in Yeshua. It is not just a frame of mind or a commitment to a religious lifestyle, but a real transforming encounter with the God of Israel.
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