I found something interesting in Psalm 49 yesterday, something I am sure I have read before but that really resonated with me yesterday…
Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit. (Psalm 49: 5-9)
Money can’t buy you love and it also can’t get you out of the pit. Trusting in your wealth is fine for this life but it will be utterly worthless when the time to deal with your sin is before you. That leaves us in a pickle. If we can’t trust ourselves and certainly not the one thing that we are conditioned to think will bring us security, i.e. money, then where can we hope?
A few verses later we see hope for the believer.
This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts.
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. (Psalm 49: 13-15)
Ah, so God Himself will ransom his soul from Sheol. Lest we think that this only applies to the Psalmist, we see this idea of ransoming souls in the words of Christ:
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
The King of Kings. He came not, as was His due, to be served but instead to be a servant. He came not to rule but to give His life to ransom many from hell.
This idea is repeated later by Paul:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim 2: 5-6)
Also later in the song sung by the four living creatures and the twenty four elders around the throne of the Lamb:
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5: 9-10)
The idea of ransom is a fascinating one. I know I am hampered because I am relying on a particular English translation here but I would imagine that this concept of ransoming captives is consistent in the original. There is such a rich variety of ways that the Bible describes what has been done on our behalf and ransom is an especially interesting phrase. When someone is held hostage or captive and a ransom is demanded, the one being held is helpless and dependent on some outside entity for their rescue. The payment must come from someone else. In the case of sinners what makes it worse is that there is no other person who can pay the ransom for us but what makes grace so amazing is that Jesus paid it all.
Of course, taking this theme a step further, there is the idea of too many people held captive by sin developing Stockholm Syndrome and starting to love the one who holds us captive, i.e. our own sins. The only cure for this universal Stockholm Syndrome toward sin is the new heart that comes when the Holy Spirit regenerates the stony heart of a sinner and makes those who are dead in sin alive in Christ.
The more I look at the Bible, the more I realize just how precarious and hopeless my situation was before God intervened to save me. I was dead and thought I was alive. I was lost but didn’t know it. I thought I was a good person but I was skipping merrily on my way to hell. It gives me chills now to think of where I was and what He has done. How can we remain silent about that, how can we leave the proclamation of the Good News to other people? We must, all of us who have been redeemed must, tell the world how Jesus is and what He did.
Jesus paid the ransom and He sets the captives free!