Foretold: new covenant, new life (1)

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Isaiah 60:16

Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our junk recycled, our soul and self-worth redeemed

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AS some of us journey with friends through Alpha on Wednesday nights this term, we will be doing a ‘back to basics’ on Bible and Christian fundamentals. That’s a good thing to do. As Christians we need to hear the gospel, too. We need to hear it often. Otherwise ‘the truth that sets us free’ (John 8:32) becomes less and less part of our thinking. Renewed minds start to revert to worldly minds. Putting on the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17) – I think of this as an enabling to think the thoughts that a saved, redeemed person can think – becomes something on too high a hook to reach easily.

In this series we are going to look at a part of Isaiah’s prophetic output that refers to Jesus. In fact, at the start of His ministry, following the Desert Temptation, Jesus quoted a later part of it in his home town synagogue at Nazareth. He asked for the Scripture scroll of Isaiah and to the amazement of other people there, applied to Himself words from Isaiah 61:1-2, here quoted in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because He has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

The poor, prisoners, both literal and figurative, those without sight and those under oppression were classes of people who were without hope. Who could restore their positive expectation and self-esteem? Only the divine Redeemer (“…your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob”) mentioned in the earlier verse, 60:16.

This the word that Isaiah uses as he seeks to put into words what he sees – a vision that reaches 800 years into the future, less than clear with the haze of a telescope image, but significant. A game-changer.

That might be a contemporary word that fits the concept of a redeemer, even if it isn’t a dictionary definition. The act of redeeming takes what is relatively valueless and exchanges it for what is valuable. You probably have some special offer coupons in the colours of your favourite supermarket — valueless on their own but able to be exchanged to add value. Or maybe you have accumulated some air miles as a frequent traveller. Of little or no value on their own, they can be redeemed as part of a flight. You get the idea.

Redeeming also has the meaning of personal turnaround from poor performance or reputation or social standing. Ruth, a hapless, hungry and vulnerable young widow was rescued by Boaz, a distant relative, who acted as her kinsman-redeemer (the same word) and changed her life around.

In our world, a person who has made a poor judgment or committed a crime or been through unemployment or divorce is said to be redeemed by a situation which gives them a second chance. This is exactly what God does for us. Instead of executing His perfect judgment on our poor judgment, His loving mercy hits us in a different way, as grace, treating us far better than we deserve – He is truly ‘God of the second chance’.

Letting His Son Jesus die on the Cross was the big, overarching act of being a Redeemer. As those who are in Christ Jesus, every day brings its own opportunities for us to make a personal visit to that place again.

It’s like a clanking trip to the recycling depot, loaded up with junk that we have acquired. We take it off and leave it there in the skip, to be turned into something valuable again, while we return lighter and freer.

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