Titles of the Father – The Redeemer

Titles of the Father – The Redeemer

Titles of the Father – The Redeemer.

Then Manoah, father of Samson, asked the Angel of Yahweh, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?’ The Angel of Yahweh replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is a name of wonder. It is unknowable, and too wonderful for you to understand!’” (Judges 13:18).

Trying to determine a list of God’s titles in the Hebrew Bible can be a tricky business, a daunting task. For one thing, the differences between a name and a title are unclear and they often overlap. There are times, too, when one is tempted to consider a common noun or adjective or metaphor to be a title if it happens to reference God. And there are plenty of times when we read of a character description of God, or a unique ability of God, and we find ourselves turning them into titles. So the titles of the Father that I will highlight in this series is a list, not the list. For all I know, there may not even be a definitive list of God’s titles. I aim to provide varied glimpses of God the Father in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament… who He is, what He can do, what He represents, what He has done. Most importantly, I pray the readers of these titles are able to maintain the Jewish tradition of using God’s titles as ways of addressing the Almighty. As we address God in prayer and worship, may we feel free to put a capital letter at the beginning of each title, making the title an aspect of His identity. In that way each title could be another way to honor God and recognize His greatness.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord Yahweh, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).

Redeemer – Hebrew, Go’el – Kinsman Redeemer. To buy back; to restore; to recover by purchase; to perform the obligation of the next of kin; to put something back into its original condition; to repay a debt; to advocate for a relative if wrongly accused; the blood relative who will do what is needed for the kin if that person is unable to do it for himself; the first kinsman obligated to help a relative is the brother. The term Go’el was used more generally to mean to rescue from captivity, to deliver from some type of confinement; to ransom from slavery; to bring justice to a loved one’s unjust situation.

The Kinsman Redeemer was obligated in the Hebrew community to do the following for a blood relative:

(1.)  To purchase a brother’s freedom if serving as a “slave” or an indentured servant. If this brother was in dire poverty and hired himself out to a master as a working servant for an extended time, the Go’el was obligated to buy his brother back from the master’s employment to release him from his obligations.

(2.)  To buy back the brother’s land if the brother had to lease his land to pay off debts. This was done in order to regain what was originally family property to keep it within the family for inheritance.

(3.)  To enact vengeance on a brother’s death if it was the result of a murder. This is called being the “avenger of blood” (Gen. 9:5), which was offset by the establishment of “cities of refuge” throughout Israel. In those cities, vengeance could not be taken, and was a sanctuary protecting those who accidentally killed someone or who acted in self-defense. The Go’el was obligated to kill the murderer of his brother.

(4.)  To marry a brother’s widow if that couple was childless. The go’el, the nearest kinsman brother, was obligated to produce a male heir for his deceased brother’s family. In that culture, they would continue producing children until a son was born, who would then be the guardian and breadwinner of the family.

Father God was considered a Redeemer throughout Hebrew Scripture, a divine Go’el. Jacob was the first Patriarch to use the word Go’el, in Genesis 48:16, during his blessing of Joseph. Jacob spoke of God as “the Redeemer who rescued and delivered him continually from all harm and from all evil.” Job was the next biblical character to speak of a divine Go’el, in Job 19:25-27: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes. How my heart yearns within me!” We also see that in Proverbs 13:11, the Go’el was understood to be the advocate who will powerfully plead the case of the orphan.

The Psalmists used the term Go’el a number of times:

“As for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.”  (Psalm 49:14).

“They recalled that God was their Rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.”  (Psalm 78:35).

“Yahweh redeems your life from the Pit of death.” (Psalm 103:4).

“Defend my cause and redeem me; renew my life according to your promise.”  (Psalm 119:154).

The most extensive use of Go’el in the Hebrew Bible is in Isaiah, where the divine Redeemer is highlighted at least thirteen times: The Redeemer will rescue the helpless (41:14); wreak vengeance on Babylon (43:14); remain as King of Israel (47:4); direct and teach the way to go (48:17); be their Savior (49:26 and 60:16); be their husband (54:5); show compassion (54:8); be their Father forever (63:16). Isaiah had an expansive view of how God was a Redeemer, and his heightened vision of the Lord as Israel’s Redeemer is unequaled.

Redeemer-God. How did the Lord become such an important title for the Lord God?

(1.)  Father God redeemed His children the Israelites from oppression in Egypt. As their Father, God was the closest relative to His Chosen People, He was united with them by a blood covenant, and therefore was the first in line to redeem His children, rescuing them from tyranny and slavery. “This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so he may worship me.” (Ex. 4:22). And then the Lord followed that up with, “I am the Lord Yahweh and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them and will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.” (Ex. 6:6-7).

(2.)  Jewish believers developed the meaning of redeemer to include Yahweh as they understood the parallels between deliverance from Egypt and God’s continual rescue mission of each of them from evil and destruction. What was once a kinsman redeemer evolved into a God-Redeemer.

(3.)  The Father sent the Son to redeem mankind: to deliver us from evil; to rescue us from our captivity to our fallen nature; to remove the penalties of sin in our lives; to save us from our slavery to sin; to regain mankind’s innocence; to avenge the evil done to mankind through judgment of Satan and his demons; to wipe the slate clean and offer eternal life in God’s presence.

(4.)  To redeem mankind, God the Son was required to be a divine Go’el and buy back the human race from sin and sin’s master. In order for this redemption to occur, Jesus purchased our spiritual freedom by offering His own blood as a worthy sacrifice. Jesus saw we were on the slave block, and He ransomed us, giving up His life in the process. We were not able to regain our own salvation from the guilt of sin, we were not able to restore our own innocence by our own efforts, so in the role of kinsman redeemer, Jesus rescued us because of His unfathomable love for us.

(5.)  Among Jesus’ parting words before His Ascension, He declared that His God was our God, and His Father was our Father. So we have the same Father as Jesus, which makes us brothers and sisters with Him. Who was the first relative obligated to redeem a blood relative? The brother. Jesus was our Go’el, our kinsman redeemer, the brother coming to the rescue.

(6.)  In every way possible, Jesus Christ is the biblical fulfillment of the kinsman redeemer. Jesus is the Go’el of the world.

Everyday Redemption. There is a mysterious thread of redemption woven into our lives. Somehow, a person who has had a difficult time of rebellion and disobedience actually becomes a stronger person after turning that part of his life around had he never had that time of rebellion. Something bad transformed into something that is even better than if that bad had never existed. Mistakes made has the potential to mature a person even deeper than if he had never made those mistakes in the first place. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because the truth is the God wants to transform those mistakes into something better than if those mistakes had never happened. God doesn’t waste mistakes, there will be no such thing as lost time. God redeems bad mistakes and lost time to make things even better had they never happened. Sometimes we see redemption, in the cases of healing, deliverance, rescue, restoration, the opportunity to start over. And sometimes we don’t see redemption, in the cases of chronic pain, fatal illness, ongoing suffering, and tragic death. Only our good God has the Big Picture on how redemption fits into a world that is not fully redeemed, freed from the shackles of sin and its consequences. There are no easy answers, of course, and Christians should be careful about blithely throwing around Bible verses when in difficult circumstances with someone who suffers. Some thoughts on everyday redemption:

(1.)  The Bottom Line: We are not capable of understanding how the world works, or even how God works. So it comes down sooner or later to trusting in God’s mercy, regardless of the situation. Trust that God is good and knows best, that He wants what is good even if we don’t see the redemption in the situation. Believe that we will for certain see the fullness of redemption in the next life in God’s kingdom… “I hope in God’s mercy, I trust in God’s faithfulness, forever and ever and unto ages of ages.” (Psalm 52:8).

(2.)  It would be easy to simply explain away the sufferer’s misery by thoughtlessly quoting Romans 8:28: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Does that mean God orchestrates events to produce our suffering? No, God is not a cosmic sadist. Does this mean that our suffering is experienced because we don’t love God enough? No, there is no one ever who has perfectly loved or obeyed God. Does my suffering mean that I am not a part of God’s plan or purpose? No, God’s redemption of the world includes you! Before using Bible verses that might just cause confusion or doubt, offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the sufferer. Join with this person in their misery, through understanding, empathy, compassion. Quick answers that seem to make things simple will not be accepted by the one who is in misery. There is another version of this verse in Romans that is helpful: “We are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives.” But your presence is more important than answers, participating in their misery is more helpful than robotic conversation.

(3.)  Redeemer-God wants to restore and renew us, if not now, then certainly in the next life. In order to see our redemption from suffering, some of us might have to wait, unfortunately. Isaiah 61:1-4 reveals His plan of what has been called “the Great Exchange.” This passage reveals the redemptive plans God has for us, sooner or later. Isaiah declares the word of the Lord as he shouts God’s message, proclaiming spiritual liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners… A clear picture of redemption, for sure. Isaiah goes on to say that God wants to redeem our situation by exchanging our ashes of grief scattered on our heads with a royal crown of utter beauty. God wants to take our spirit of mourning and replace it with a spirit of festive joy. God wants to redeem us by exchanging our burdened spirit of hopelessness with a bright-colored garment of splendor that expresses hope in our Redeemer. The Lord wants to take the difficult things in our life and redeem them by exchanging good things in their place.

(4.)  Jesus redeemed something that was thought to be irredeemable. His Resurrection was a profound act of redemption, by taking our pain, misery and death and turning it into abundant and everlasting life. He took something that was essentially hopeless and gave it new life, which is the ultimate redemption story. He can give us life in the midst of deathly turmoil as well.

(5.)  Redemption, which carries the destiny of good, does not mean that everything that happens is good. This world is not fully redeemed, which is glaringly obvious to everyone that has breath. There is sinfulness, injustice, shame, cruelty, tragedy and death. It is the height of insensitivity to blithely tell a victim of tragedy that it’s okay, don’t worry about, it’s meant for your good. Ignore your suffering, something good will eventually come out of it. God will redeem your suffering sooner or later. If a loved one dies, for example, what is the good of that advice? How will that dead person’s situation be redeemed? He’s dead! And that is where we join our friend and incarnate God’s presence to the sufferer, offering the hopes of eternity. When the time is right, apply God’s principle of redemption to the next life. God offers hope for eternity and will truly redeem those who have suffered. “For our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

(6.) The Gift of Weakness. God redeems human weakness by turning it into a vehicle for His power. Physical hardships are redeemed into spiritual strength. “I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it, and then he told me: ‘My favor and lovingkindness are enough for you; My merciful love is all you need. In fact, my strength comes into its own in your weakness. My power shows itself most effective when you are weak.’ Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weakness and infirmities, so that the strength of Christ Jesus may pitch a tent over me and dwell upon me. Now I take limitations in stride and with good cheer, delighting in opposition, in bad breaks, in insults, in weaknesses, in perplexities, in distresses, and in all kinds of hardships. I just let Christ take over! For when I am weak in human strength, then am I truly powerful in divine strength. The weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

(7.)  Surrounded. So if we find ourselves surrounded in this world by troubles that threaten to undo us,  may we be encouraged by the comforting fact of all the unseen eternal realities that surround us much more effectively: We are surrounded by heavenly angels (Ps. 91:11-12 and Ps. 34:7); by prayerful believers (Ps. 142:7); with God’s favor (Ps. 5:12); by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2); by songs of deliverance and salvation (Ps. 32:7); and by God’s mercy and lovingkindness (Ps. 32:10).

(8.)  Food for Thought on Redemption. I can’t pretend to understand everything Father Reardon is saying here, but this idea is definitely worth pondering. “Among the wonders of our redemption is a mysterious transformation of certain human experiences that are associated in their origin with the Fall. That is to say, the new life in Christ includes His taking hold of and entirely remolding certain components of life that were not part of man’s original, innocent state. Even as He vanquishes sin, God does not simply undo or reverse the effects of man’s Fall… Grace does more than reverse the effects of sin; it transforms the effects of sin. Our new innocence in Christ is not to be identified as simply the earlier innocence of Adam. The effect of sin is not merely removed; it is assumed into a more ample transformation.” (Father Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms). Whoa. When we are redeemed, God’s grace doesn’t merely remove sin, it defeats sin and transforms the effects of sin on us! That is definitely something to think about.