Holy Week Series: Redeemed and Reversed

Note: This series of Holy Week devotions is taken from Dr. Albert Reyes’ upcoming book, The Jesus Agenda: Becoming an Agent of Redemption. All devotionals are posted here.

Tuesday, March 31: Redeemed and Reversed

The concept of redemption was taught to God’s people, the people of Israel, by relating it to everyday life and worship practice. Old Testament writers spoke in terms of financial transactions to explain what God wanted to do in their lives spiritually. In the Old Testament, redemption is used both as a financial and spiritual transaction as an expression of faith. Leviticus 25:24-51 describes redemption in terms of a real estate transaction whereby redemption had to be paid to transfer ownership of land in the context of the year of Jubilee.

The year of Jubilee came every 50 years on the Day of Atonement. In the year of Jubilee, all the inhabitants of Israel were to return to his or her own land and arrange for the redemption of their lands by paying redemption money for the land. The passage describes the procedures and regulations involved in the sale of a plot of land by its original owner. If a land owner was not able to redeem himself from his situation and redeem his land, he and his children were to be released in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:54). Jubilee was a year of celebration when debts were forgiven and people were released from difficult circumstances. The concept of redemption was woven into the fabric of economic life and practice.

In Numbers 3:48-51, redemption is described in terms of a financial transaction to account for firstborn males according to Levite priestly tradition. A census was taken of the Levites with an estimate of 22,000 first-born males. However, when the census was complete, there were 22,273 with a surplus of 273 firstborn individuals. Redemption was based on the surplus of firstborns at a figure of five shekels paid to the priests per firstborn, or 1,365 shekels.

The book of Numbers taught that the firstborn male of each family belonged to God. The needs of the priests in the wilderness were accounted for through redemption of the firstborn males paid to Aaron and his sons. After the period of the exile, the needs of the priesthood were provided for through the redemption for the firstborn.

Leviticus and Numbers show how redemption, as a financial transaction, was woven into the fabric of social and religious aspects of Jewish life. The basic teaching was that provision was made possible through redemption. All the needs we might have are provided for through God’s redeeming work in our lives.

In Psalm 130:7-8, the psalmist writes about God’s redemption not only from sin but also from difficult circumstances. In this passage, redemption refers to deliverance as a visible sign of divine forgiveness, rather than only the forgiveness of sins. The word for redemption in Hebrew is padhah. This word is used to describe redemption beyond sin alone to include deliverance from a tangible and visible menace. The community’s hope was in God’s total reversal of its problems for those who turned to and trusted in him. The story of redemption is just that – a story, or a collection of stories woven together through salvation history to form our understanding of God’s work and purpose, not only in our own lives and personal stories, but throughout the ages.

God’s redeeming work in our lives goes beyond the spiritual to the practical and real menace in our lives that seeks to destroy us. God is able to reverse those situations and turn them into good, for our good, for his glory. The reversal of destructive circumstances and deliverance from a tangible and visible menace can be seen in the stories of Old Testament heroes like Abraham and Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and Ruth, to name a few.

Reflection: Are you facing a destructive circumstance in your life that needs reversal?

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