Did you ever witness a kidnapping? We think of movies depicting someone forcibly taken against the person’s will and a large cash payment is demanded by the perpetrator. We are relieved when the villain’s plot is foiled and the captured one is brought to safety.
The prophet Hosea described a setting where a specific ransom was predicted that foiled a deadly plot. But here is where things get personal. You and I are in this scene of actual trauma, yet with a beautiful ending! In Hosea 13:14 we find these words, echoed too by the apostle Paul hundreds of years later: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”
At Hosea’s time, the people of the northern kingdom (Israel) had become quite prosperous and powerful. Basking in extravagant living, Israel had forgotten the Lord. Earlier in his book, Hosea presented this unflattering picture of the spiritual corruption: “Israel has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain and the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold–which they used for Baal” (2:8). The prophet’s responsibility was to call the people to repentance. Hosea then foretold the invasion of the Assyrian army on the land, which occurred in 721 B.C.
But Hosea’s message was not just doom and gloom. Hosea wanted his hearers to know they actually had been ransomed – not just from the Assyrian enemy – but from the whole subject matter of death. When the apostle Paul repeats the words of Hosea in I Corinthians 15, he ties in the resurrection of Christ as the reason to have no fear, for death and hell have been conquered for us captive sinners by the redeeming work of our crucified and risen Lord!
Yes, we were in the kidnapping scenario. All of us. Sin, Satan, death and hell had us in a life-crushing grip. To be freed of the captivity that our own sinfulness had brought on, a price would need to be paid – not of money but something far more precious. It would take the holy blood of God’s own Son! That blood was shed for your sins and mine and the sins of all human beings outside Jerusalem at the “place of the skull” (Golgotha). What is most interesting about this ransom payment in the case of our kidnapping is this: it was not paid to the enemy – it was paid to the Heavenly Father! Why is this significant? Only the holy and just God himself holds the power over all things including every enemy, even death itself. So, when his justice demanded that payment be made for our own horrible predicament of sin, death, Satan and hell, only one could (and did) suffice. Isaiah, a contemporary of Hosea, explained it this way: “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him” (Isaiah 59:15,16). So, this is exactly why Hosea says with emphasis, “I (- that is, God himself) will ransom them from the power of the grave…”
That was good news for the people of Hosea’s and Isaiah’s day. Come what may – Assyria or any other foe (even the deadliest) – God’s ransoming promise would stand. What good news this is for you and me today! Come what may – whether a deadly pestilence threatening the world, or forces of evil coming against the church, or our own sins troubling our consciences to death, or even Satan the purveyor of evil – we have not only a ransoming promise but the actual ransom now paid in full! So, no reason at all to fear! “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (I Peter 1:18, 19).
Are you scared? Has the virus talk consumed your thinking? Do you feel like a deadly pall has come over you as an unwanted filthy blanket? Well, take comfort and strength. The ransom from that death has been paid to God Almighty, and he alone has the power to free each of us from any captivity. In fact, he has done so by his own Son! That Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, assures us: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die!” (John 11:25, 26).
Have no fear. Christ is here!
John A. Moldstad