Go'el — The Redeemer
Redemption involves winning back, buying back, or repurchasing something that belongs to you or to someone else. The most dramatic example of this in the Old Testament was the exodus of God’s people from Egypt. The former slaves praised Yahweh for acting as their Redeemer (Exodus 15:13). Subsequently, the prophets often linked redemption with freedom from political oppression.
But redemption also came into play within Israel itself because land, firstborn males, slaves, objects, and animals consecrated to God, all had to be redeemed by means of some kind of payment. In certain instances, such as when land had been sold to pay a debt (Leviticus 25:25–28) or a person had sold himself into slavery, the person’s closest relative, called the “kinsman redeemer,” had the right to step in and pay off the debt so that the land could be returned or the person could be freed.
God is often called “Redeemer” (Go’el; go-EL) in the Old Testament. Though the New Testament never directly refers to Jesus as the Redeemer, it makes it clear that he offered himself as a ransom or as redemption when he died on the cross. Rather than liberating his people from political oppression, as many expected the Messiah to do, Jesus came to free his people from the demonic powers to which sin had enslaved them. By giving his life for them and for us, Jesus didn’t make light of our guilt but lifted us, as one commentator has said, “out of disobedience into his own obedience,” thereby freeing us from the bondage of sin and remaking us in his image.
Praying to Our Go'el
Imagine that you are a slave born to slaves. Though still a child, you work long days in the field. Day after day, hour after hour, you work hard with nothing to show for it. One day, you catch a glimpse of your future stretching out before you. The bleakness of what you see overwhelms you. If only you could buy yourself back with your own money, free yourself from the plague of slavery. But you don’t have any money. Nothing you do—no promise, no sacrifice, no amount of hard work, no heroic action—can change your future. You’ll die a slave. But wait a minute! Suddenly a relative has come forward—a free man. He has money in his hand, money to purchase your freedom, and he does just that. He is your kinsman redeemer.
Most of us find it hard to imagine ourselves in such a position. We are free people living in a free country. We do what we want, when we want, the way we want. We pride ourselves on our independence. We are the consumers not the consumed. But what if we are not quite as free as we think? What if, in fact, our own position is very much like the one described above—at least on a spiritual plane?
Without Christ, you and I are slaves to sin--anger, harsh words, jealousy, greed, cheating, addiction, gossip, meanness, sloth, envy, lust, lies. It’s all right there in front of us. We’ve known for a very long time that we will pay for every word, every deed, every failing. In the end there will be death. All the money in the world can’t save us, can’t ransom us, can’t keep us from paying for the wrong we’ve done and the good we’ve failed to do. The future is bleak beyond imagining.
But wait a minute! Suddenly someone steps forward. He’s the best man you’ve ever known. Instead of money, he offers himself as payment and payment is accepted. You hardly know how to feel. Jubilant because you are finally free or ashamed because another human being had to die because of what you have done? But then you realize, this man who died for you, who loved you in the most extreme way possible, this man is alive, and he is calling your name. Here’s what he is saying: Wherever you go in the world, tell everyone the Good News. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.