Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of Hosts is His name. He will fervently plead their case so that He may bring rest to the earth, but turmoil to those who live in Babylon.
I. IT WAS NECESSARY THAT HE SHOULD BE SO.
1. This is true of Israel's Redeemer. See the power ranged against them. Physical, in the might of Babylon and the many hostile nations. Spiritual, in the justice of the sentence under which they were suffering. Moral, in the enfeebling effects of their disobedience, causing despondency, despair, timidity, giving power to evil habits, and making very difficult the acquirement of such as were good. But:
2. It is true of our Redeemer. The powers by which humanity is held in captivity are more terrible and unconquerable than were those by which Israel was held. These powers are commonly classified under the threefold division - a trinity of hell - of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Consider the power:
(1) Of the world, in enslaving the soul of man. The seductiveness of its smile, the terror of its frown, the overpowering force of its rewards, the awfulness of its punishments. And yet all this might is against God and against the soul.
(2) Of the flesh. Yes; it does beat against the spirit, it warreth against the soul. If it once have gained dominion, is that dominion ever entirely destroyed while this life lasts? And in some, yea, many, its dominion is allowed as something that cannot be broken. A moral despair comes over many in regard to it, and they cease to contend against a tyranny which they affirm they are powerless to escape from.
(3) Of the devil. He is no mere imagination, or myth, or invention of a credulous and superstitious age, but a living reality, against whom our Saviour, who knew his strength and terror as none other did - for he had just come away from his encounter with him - bade us in our daily prayer say, "Deliver us from the evil one." Who but he is it that is ever plying us with unhallowed thought and suggestion, causing the will and opportunity to sin so fatally to combine? But who of us is or can be ignorant of his devices? And when the force of all these terrible foes is augmented, as it is by the force of habit, of example, of inherited tendency, of enfeebled power of resistance the result of past defeats, - oh, what need, indeed, is there that our Redeemer should be strong! But -
II. BLESSED BE GOD, HE IS SO. In regard to Israel, he did redeem them in part, and their more complete redemption is yet to come. In regard to humanity at large, he is strong likewise. See in proof of this:
1. His mighty power when here on earth. All those signs and wonders, those glorious miracles, were designed to confirm our faith in our Redeemer as One "mighty to save." Hence diseases fled devils were cast out, nature obeyed, Death gave up her dead, at his word. All these things were, as St. John calls them, "signs."
2. His might displayed in his Church. "I will build my Church," he said; and in spite of the feebleness in numbers, in influence, in intellectual or social power, in adaptation of methods, in selection of men; in spite of all the force that numbers, wealth, power, rank, cruelty, hate, could bring to bear; - still his word was accomplished and is yet being accomplished. Must we not confess, in view of facts like these, that our Redeemer is strong?
3. His power over the individual soul. How he gives strength against the terror of a violated law, the might of an indwelling sin, the crushing power of earthly sorrow, the king of terrors, death itself! "Conversion is the standing miracle of the Church" - the transformations of character, condition, and conduct, which are perpetually being wrought by the power of Christ. All these compel the glad confession that Christ is "mighty to save." Now, note -
III. THAT HIS STRENGTH BECOMES OURS BY MEANS OF OUR FAITH. For faith in him brings to bear the power of:
1. The unseen.
3. The new life. And so these marvels are wrought.
"Mighty Redeemer, set me free
Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name.
I. THE QUALIFICATIONS AND OFFICES OF THE KINSMAN-REDEEMER. The qualifications may be all summed up in one — that he must be the nearest living blood relation of the person whose God he was. He might be brother, or less nearly connected, hut this was essential, that of all living men, he was the most closely connected. That qualification has to be kept well in mind when thinking of the transference of the office to God in His relation to Israel, and through Israel, to us. Such being his qualification, what were his duties? Mainly three. The first was connected with property. One great purpose steadily kept in view in all the Mosaic land laws was the prevention of the alienation of the land from its original holders, and its accumulation in a few hands. The obligation on the next-of-kin to buy back alienated property was quite as much imposed on him for the sake of the family, as of the individual. The second of his duties was to buy back a member of his family fallen into slavery. (Leviticus 25:39). The last of the offices of the kinsman-redeemer was that of avenging the blood of a murdered relative. The law of blood-feud among the Hebrews was all in the direction Of restricting the "wild justice of revenge," and of entrusting it to certain chosen persons out of the kindred, of the. murdered man. The savage vendetta was too deeply engrained in the national habit to be done away with altogether. All that was for the time possible was to check and systematise it, and this was done by the institution in question, which did not so much put the sword into the hand of the next-of-kin as strike it out of the hand of all the rest of the clan.
II. THE GRAND MYSTERIOUS TRANSFERENCE OF THIS OFFICE TO JEHOVAH. This singular institution was gradually discerned to be charged with lofty meaning and to be capable of being turned into a dim shadowing of something greater than itself. You will find that God begins to be spoken of in the later portions of Scripture as the Kinsman-Redeemer. I reckon eighteen instances, of which thirteen are in the second half of Isaiah. The reference is no doubt mainly to the great deliverance from captivity in Egypt and Babylon, but the thought sweeps a much wider circle and goes much deeper down than these historical facts. There was in it some dim thought that though God was separated from them by all the distance between finitude and infinitude yet they were nearer to Him than to anybody else; that the nearest living relation that these poor persecuted Jews had was the Lord of hosts, beneath whose wings they might come to trust. Therefore does the prophet kindle into rapture and triumphant confidence as he thinks that the Lord of hosts, mighty, unspeakable, high above our thoughts, our words, or our praise, is Israel's Kinsman, and, therefore, their Redeemer. How profound a consciousness that man was made in the image of God, and that, in spite of all the gulf between finite and infinite, and the yet deeper gulf between sinful man and righteous God. He was closer to a poor struggling soul than even the dearest were, must have been at all events dawning on the prophet who dared to think of the Holy One in the Heavens as Israel's Kinsman.
III. WE HAVE THE PERFECT FULFILMENT OF THIS DIVINE OFFICE BY THE MAN CHRIST JESUS. He is nearer to each of us than our dearest are. He loves us with the love of kindred, and can fill our hearts and wills, and help our weakness in better, more inward ways than all sympathy and love of human hearts can do. Between the atoms of the densest of material bodies there is an interspace of air, as is shown by the fact that everything is compressible if you can find the force sufficient to compress it. That is to say, no particle touches another in the material universe. And so in the spiritual region there is an awful film of separation between each of us and all others, however closely we may be united. We each live on our own little island in the deep "with echoing straits between us thrown." The solemn consciousness of personality, of responsibility unshared by any, of a separate destiny parting us from our dearest. Arms may be twined, but they must be unlinked some day, and each in turn face the awful solitude of death, as each has really faced that scarcely less awful solitude of life alone. But "he that is joined to the Lord is one flesh," and our kinsman, Christ, will come so near to us, that we shall be in Him, and He in us, one spirit and one life. He is our nearest relation, nearer than husband, wife, parent, brother, sister, or friend. He is nearer to you than your very selves. He is your better self. This is His qualification for His office. Because He is man's kinsman, He buys back His enslaved brethren. The bondage from which "one of his brethren" might "redeem" the Israelite was a voluntary bondage into which he had "sold himself." And such is our slavery. None can rob us of our freedom but ourselves. The world and the flesh and the devil cannot put their chains on us unless our own will hold out our hands for the manacles. And, alas! it is often an unsuspected slavery "How sayest thou ye shall be made free? We were never m bondage to any man," boasted the angry disputants with Christ. And if they had lifted up their-eyes they might have seen from the Temple courts in which they stood, the citadel full of Roman soldiers, and perhaps the golden eagles gleaming in the sunshine on the loftiest battlements. Some of us are just as foolish, and try as desperately to annihilate facts by ignoring them, and to make ourselves free by passionately denying that we are slaves. But "he that committeth sin is the slave of sin." Did you ever try to kill a bad habit, a vice! Did you find it easy work? Was it not your master? You thought it was a chain no stronger than a spider's web that was round your wrist till you tried to break it; and then you found it a chain of adamant. Many men who boast themselves free are tied and bound with the cords of their sins. Dreaming of freedom, you have sold yourself, and that "for nought." Is that not true, tragically true? What have you made out of sin? Is the game worth the candle? Will it continue to be so? — "And ye shall be redeemed without money, for Jesus Christ laid down His life for you and me, that by His death we might receive forgiveness and deliverance from-the power of sin." And so your Kinsman, nearer to you than all else, has bought you back.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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