Is my hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Isaiah 50:2
Ransom – God asks the rhetorical question, “Did you imagine that I was not able to buy you back?” It is a question much like His query of Abraham. “Is anything too difficult for Me?” (Genesis 18:14 – you better check your Bible’s translation of that one.) The expected answer is a resounding “No!” God is able. Period. If we just let that soak into our souls and infect our minds, life would take a decidedly different course. Job understood. “No plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The circumstances of life are no match whatsoever for the sovereignty of God. If God chooses to rescue us, He will do so.
But now we find a little twist on the subject. In order to understand this twist, we must enter into the Hebrew mindset. You see, the word here comes from the root pdh (padah), not from the root g’l (ga’al – see May 17). Both verbs are translated “to ransom,” but this particular word is used in the payment price needed to redeem the firstborn. Exodus 13:13 and 34:20 give us the legal structure. God owns the firstborn. Animal or child, the first belongs to Him. He chooses to take the first either for holy destruction or for set-apart service. You and I have no legal say in the matter. As Creator, it is His right to take what He makes. Every Hebrew knew this. That’s why every Hebrew woman understood that unless God opened the womb, no child could be born. So, the first was God’s gift and was owned by the Giver.
How does padah enter into this discussion? Padah is the root word used when God graciously allows the parents to buy back the firstborn from Him. The firstborn is ransomed, and brought back into the family. A life is redeemed. What is amazing is that padah is used only once of its 54 times for the ransom of sin (Psalm 130:8). So if you thought this verse in Isaiah was about God’s sacrifice for our transgressions, you missed it. That would have been ga’al. No, what this verse says is that God Himself is ready and willing to pay the ransom under the law to buy back His firstborn – Israel – so that Israel might live. This is not about Israel’s eternal destiny. This is about the very practical, real world need for God’s chosen to keep on living. Dedicated to the Lord by His own sovereign choice, God will pay the ransom to prevent their holy destruction and allow Israel to continue.
If you are a child of Abraham, if you have been adopted into the family, then God has ransomed you. He has paid the price so that the angel of death passes over you. You live because He pays. And if you are a firstborn, like me, you will drop to your knees and thank Him that He was willing. You belong to Him and He still bought you back.