What is Redemption?

Recently, I stood on top of Mount Nebo where Moses climbed his last mountain and looked out on the Jordan Valley and the Promised Land.

It was surreal to think I was in the same area where one of the greatest Old Testament characters was and died. I’ve always wondered about that. Why did God seem so severe with Moses’ indiscretion?

I certainly don’t want to demur the Lord God or insinuate that He has some questions He needs to answer. God doesn’t give an account of Himself to anyone, much less me. But why was Moses not allowed to enter the promise he labored 40 years to achieve? It does make you pause when you think of his illustrious career as a deliverer. He was 80 years old when God called him to redeem the people of God from Egyptian bondage. Moses resisted God’s call as much as he could. He wanted nothing to do with the task. Repeatedly, the people challenged, contested, and rebelled against Moses personally. On a couple of occasions they would have stoned Moses, had not God intervened. Leading hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more, stubborn and unbelieving ex-slaves in a barren wasteland called ‘wilderness’ was not the dream job of any Hebrew man. Here was a person that withstood and brought to its knees one of the greatest civilizations of history. In one of Israel’s rebellions, God had told Moses that He would make a great nation from his descendants. But Moses argued against that privilege, and as a faithful mediator interceded for the deliverance of the people’s sins.

Mount Nebo, Jordan.

When you examine Moses’ infraction, the sin that kept him from entering the Promise Land, you can’t help but think that it seems the penalty doesn’t match the crime.

It wasn’t that Moses opposed doing what God told him, but in a moment of anger with the people’s unbelief and constant complaining, he forgot the method God had prescribed to fetch water out of the rock.

He was told to speak to the rock, but having done this once before, Moses did as he had done years earlier: he struck the rock. And even though Moses didn’t do it exactly as God prescribed, the Lord did not withhold the blessing. He still gave plenty of water to the nomadic nation as a gushing fountain poured out of the rock.

After all the sacrifice, hardship, and grief, Moses was not allowed into the land flowing with milk and honey. He had not obeyed the specific instruction and thus failed to glorify God before the people. All of this flooded my mind as I stood there that day on the summit of Nebo. Why not let old Moses into the land? Where was the hope of redemption for Moses? Who was there to intercede and mediate for his sin? There seems no deliverance for the great deliverer.

The lawgiver of Israel could not enjoy the thrill of entering the land, for this reason: Moses represented the Law, and by the Law, there is no hope of entering the promise of God’s rest. The Law could not grant access because the Law brings no one salvation, not even Moses. The Law cannot save; only by grace through faith are we delivered. Redemption is not the work of the Law; it is the work of grace.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1:17

Rule keeping or legal compliance does not produce redemption.

The Bible says if you have kept all the commandments but one, you have violated the entire law. Moses simply did not do what God said and, therefore, he was guilty of breaking all the Law. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20).

Redemption is by the blood of another, Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer. But too many of us are not okay with leaving our reclamation totally to someone else. We want Jesus to save us from sin and self and the world. We want Him to rescue us from our problems—sickness, financial ruin, marital storms, rebellious children, stubborn parents, anxiety, and rejection by others. We cry for His help, but His help must come on our terms. Like Moses, we will seek the miracle from the rock, but we will do it our way. Whatever the dilemma we are in, we are not too eager to simply “trust Jesus.” We want Jesus’ power but our control. Yet, the key to redemption, whether the need is liberation from our sin or suffering, is simple faith in our Redeemer.

Once again, Jesus is our Redeemer, or to put it another way, Jesus is our redemption. It is He, and not we, that has done the work of our deliverance. It is not our faith that redeems us but Christ Jesus Himself that redeems His people. Not until we truly believe this can we enjoy the freedom that is ours.

If we could redeem ourselves, then what need was there for Christ to redeem us?

There is only one Redeemer, and He needs no help from us.

What is the essence of redemption? Is it the forgiveness of sin, or is it the prospect of an eternity free of wrath and torment? Surely, both forgiveness and the escape of eternal punishment is involved in redemption; yet redemption exceeds these and takes us to the very heart of God and His presence with us.

If you were kidnapped and held for ransom, then the person who paid your ransom would be your redeemer. The payment would secure not only your freedom from your captors, but it would restore you to the presence of the redeemer. This is the heart of redemption—restoration to the relationships and residence you enjoyed before your abduction.

Sin ripped man away from relationship with holy God and the residence of His glorious presence. While forgiveness is hugely important, it is not the sum of redemption.

The goal of redemption is to be restored to the fellowship and presence of Almighty God in the person of Jesus Christ. 

The Redeemer loved you and desired your presence with Him. But something held us in captivity and kept us reserved for everlasting judgment. That something was God Himself. His pure justice demanded our separation from Him. We stood barred from the life of God. His goodness, which ended up saving us, was the gatekeeper that turned us away as the cherubim’s flaming sword kept Adam and Eve from the garden.

Redeemer Jesus paid not a kidnapper’s ransom but a prison warden’s required payment to set us free and restore us to Himself. No one abducted us; we voluntary were co-conspirators in the vilest coup in human history. We willfully rejected our Creator and Father and renounced His sovereign goodness. To His justice, we were in debt. To His righteousness, we were marked as prisoners eternally incarcerated.

From the portals of Heaven’s throne room, the Son of God came, “born of a woman, born under the law.” He sought us and His pursuit is called the demonstration of love. Unlike the story of the prodigal son, we did not come to our senses and return to the Father. The real Elder Brother found us and carried us away and brought us to the very throne He left, where He robed us with His righteousness, sealed us with His Spirit, and seated us on His throne.

What was His currency? What would He give to ransom the elect bride? What medium of exchange would He use to satisfy Heaven’s integrity? It was “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

For my cleansing this I see—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

His life’s blood was traded for our presence with Him, restored in communion and love. We are free to come to Him in full acceptance. We enjoy access to Him; it’s no longer barred or banned. Indeed friendship with Jesus is fellowship divine!

All our goodness, rule keeping, and religiosity could not bring us into this land of promise.

Only God’s grace in the person of our Lord Jesus could lead us out of our bondage and sever the flooded waters that kept us out. He has led us into the paradise of His spiritual presence and will soon bring us over into His physical reality. The redeemed restored to the Redeemer in the land of eternal milk and honey. Oh, what a Savior!

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