I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave…
This sublime promise of mercy is imbedded among threatenings of judgment. It reminds us, both as it occurs here and in the connection in which the Apostle Paul quotes it (1 Corinthians 15:55), that although in our world "sin hath reigned unto death," it is the prerogative of the Almighty to rescue from the grasp of the grave, and even to abolish death itself. We may profitably consider some of the spheres within which the Lord has chosen to exercise this prerogative. The promise of our text applies to -
I. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL Ever since the two captivities Israel has been, as it were, a dead nation The Jews have been dispersed over the world, and have not yet been able either to recover their national independence or to maintain their national worship But Hosea here assures his countrymen of future restoration and blessing, notwithstanding the final ruin of the kingdom of Ephraim. "The only meaning that the promise had for the Israelites of the prophet's day was that the Lord possessed the power even to redeem from death, and raise Israel from destruction into newness of life; just as Ezekiel (37.) depicts the restoration of Israel as the giving of life to the dry bones that lay scattered about the field" (Keil). But the future thus expressly predicted for Ephraim is more blissful than even Hosea, to whom this oracle was given, could readily, or perhaps possibly, conceive. Israel's restoration shall be spiritual. The captive Hebrews, so far and so long estranged from God, shall return to his favor. The very people who at last crowned their sinful career by "crucifying the Lord of glory" - a sin still more heinous than all the wickedness for which Hosea rebukes them - shall be made the subjects of a glorious future. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and at last accept him as the Messiah. They shall become zealous and successful missionaries of the cross, and shall contribute largely to the bringing in of the world's jubilee (Romans 11:15).
II. THE REDEMPTION-WORK OF CHRIST. Students of the New Testament find a larger and deeper meaning in this glowing promise than that which would limit it to the resuscitation of Israel. To our consciousness the Lord, who is "the Plague of death," is Jehovah-Jesus. "He became incarnate" that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, 15). As the great Teacher, he proclaimed himself to be "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25); and he sealed this testimony by rebuking disease of every kind, and even raising the dead. Most of all, he was himself "obedient unto death;" and by his own decease upon the cross he has "ransomed his people from the power of the grave." Divine justice had put a dart into death's hand to slay us therewith for our sins; but Jesus, in dying for us, satisfied that justice, made adequate atonement for guilt, and received authority to take the dart away. By coming himself under the power of the grave, the Lord Jesus has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). Of this victory his own resurrection upon the third day is an infallible assurance. In emerging from the grave as the risen Savior, Jesus revealed himself as "the Plague of death," and as the Source of spiritual life and Author of eternal salvation to his people. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
III. THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. Jehovah-Jesus is the Savior of the soul, and of the body also.
1. He redeems the soul from death. Is not the world of mankind like a vast graveyard, where men are lying "dead in trespasses and sins"? Sinful man is naturally destitute of the Spirit of life, and insensible to the beauties of holiness. He is unable to raise himself from the unclean tomb of his own evil lusts and passions. But, so soon as the voice of the Son of God speaks the word, "I will ransom them," the same almighty energy which gave life to Jesus himself, when dead, breathes new spiritual vitality into those for whom he died (John 5:21-27). "Because he lives, they shall live also" (John 14:19).
2. He shall redeem the body from death. The final ruin of the soul is called in Scripture "the second death" (Revelation 21:8); and, if the Lord Jesus can deliver from that, it is no wonder that he is also the Savior of the body. The order of redemption is that he redeems from the "second death" first; and thus the abolition of temporal death at the end of the world shall really be the destruction of" the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26). All men naturally regard "the king of terrors "as the most formidable and cruel of foes. The grave seems to the eye of sense only a despoiler (Proverbs 27:20). But it is the glory of Christianity that the Redeemer has robbed death of its sting, lighted up the under-world with his love, and given us the sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. Faith sees hanging at the girdle of the Son of man "the keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18). The grave is to the saints only an underground pathway to heaven, and "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
"Death, thou wast once an uncouth, hideous thing:
But since our Savior's death Has put some blood into thy face,
Thou hast grown sure a thing to be desired
And full of grace."
(George Herbert.) It is also a great joy to know that the Lord's promise to redeem his people from death is certain to be fulfilled. He has passed his word for it; and, as he here assures us, "repentance shall be hid from his eyes." Multitudes of believers die in perfect peace, and some even in triumph, for they are conscious that he is "with them."
1. The harmony of the Old and New Testaments in teaching that "unto God the Lord belong the issues from death."
2. Christ Jesus is the Lord, who by his Spirit exercises this prerogative, both as regards nations and individuals.
3. The alienation of the soul from God is a state of death - the most awful condition possible to man; and from that state he can only escape by being "born again."
4. The dissolution of the body is not death to the believer, but simply a lulling asleep in Jesus.
5. The doctrine that Christ is "the Resurrection and the Life" brings solid comfort in the hour of bereavement. - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.