13 April 2019Isaiah 52:1-10
For thus says the Lord: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.
Psalm: Psalm 144
The theme of this week, ‘The Cost of Redemption’, is clearly traced in this final passage, especially in verse 3. Israel is reminded that just as their exile was not a financial transaction, so their redemption will not be bought with money either. Verse 4 refers firstly back to Genesis 47 and the voluntary migration of Jacob and family to the protection and provision of their estranged son/brother Joseph when Israel suffered famine and then to the later exile under the Assyrians – an oppression described here as being ‘without cause’ (see notes on Wednesday of this week).
What is not made explicit is how the cost of that redemption might be paid. Jerusalem is to dress in finery, to celebrate her restored status, to revel in her freedom. How can this be? Grace, redemption, salvation may all appear free at the point of receipt, but, as we have seen in other sections of Isaiah this week, particularly the Servant Songs, there is always a cost.
Verses 5 to 6 pose two very brief but nonetheless fascinating windows into the apparent thought processes of God; firstly, following the removal of the people through the migration or the exile described above, the Lord muses aloud "What am I doing here?" The question seems immediately to elicit action by God to vindicate the taking away of the people without cause. God acts and is recognised, so now the earlier question can be answered; "Here am I" the Lord now says.
Verses 7 to 10 resemble a hymn of celebration of the reign of God, the return of the Lord to Zion/Jerusalem as the rightful King. Finally the redemption of Jerusalem is achieved. Such verses have many layers of meaning and interpretation; they can be related to events in the fifth to sixth centuries BC, may also sometimes be applied to Jesus and the years of his incarnate life, and are also sometimes thought of as prophecies of an as yet unreached future.
- Reflect on any times in your own experience when an act of grace towards another has been costly for you? Or perhaps it is the other way round, and other people have quietly borne the cost of offering you grace?
- Is it the calling of one particular person or of all of us to "announce peace"? Are there ways today in which you can share in this bringing of good news?
- Tomorrow is Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was acclaimed by some as King. Is it helpful to you to see that event as a fulfilment of this ancient prophecy? Why or why not?