The kinsman redeemer

The Israelite community was designed in such a way that families would remain in tact for centuries and ultimately for eternity. When they entered the Promised Land, each of the twelve tribes of Israel was designated a territory that they were to occupy. Every family was to have its own piece of property that would be passed on from generation to generation through an inheritance given to the oldest son. In the event, the family got into debt and had to sell its land, the property could later be redeemed by a close relative referred to as the kinsman redeemer.

It was the responsibility of the kinsman redeemer to preserve “the integrity, life, property, and family name of his close relative or for executing justice upon his murderer” (1350). In the role of executor of justice, the kinsman redeemer was referred to as the avenger or revenger of blood. Isaiah portrayed the arrival of the avenger on the scene as someone waging war on Israel’s enemies. He said, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:1-3).

Isaiah described the day of the Lord as one in which there would be much blood shed. Revelation 19:13 indicates that that day will come at the end of the great tribulation when God’s wrath is poured out on mankind. John the apostle declared, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11-14).

The Messiah’s role as the kinsman redeemer was unique to the Israelites because the kinsman redeemer had to be a blood relative. Although Jesus died for the sins of the world, he only came to redeem the children of Israel. Isaiah declared of Israel’s Messiah, “For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9). Israel’s rejection of its Messiah caused the door to be opened to the Gentiles who received their inheritance as adopted children of Christ. Eventually, the family of God will be integrated and all who are true believers will share equally in Christ’s inheritance (Isaiah 63:17).

Sennacherib

Sennacherib king of Assyria was referred to as “the great king” (2 Kings 18:19), a title often used by the imperial rulers of Assyria, in order to intimidate and break the resistance of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This title was associated with the LORD in Psalms 47 and 95 where it says, “For the LORD most High is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2), and “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:3). It is likely the Assyrian rulers intentionally used the title “great king” to mock God and to elevate themselves above his authority.

Sennacherib sent a message to king Hezekiah in the Hebrew language and made sure it was read publicly so that everyone in Jerusalem would be aware of his contempt toward their God. It said, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria: thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you out of his hand: neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria…Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?” (2 Kings 18:28-30,35).

Sennacherib implied that the LORD was unable to deliver Jerusalem out of his hand. In essence, saying that he was more powerful than God. Sennacherib’s claim revealed his arrogance, and his willingness to say anything in order to intimidate his adversary king Hezekiah. When Hezekiah turned to the LORD for a response, Isaiah told him, “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land: and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (2 Kings 19:6-7).

God wanted to demonstrate not only his ability to deliver his people from Sennacherib’s army, but also his sovereign control over all the kingdoms of the earth. Sennacherib’s position as king of Assyria was subject to God’s will. If he decided to remove Sennacherib from power, God could do it in an instant. It says in 2 Kings 19:36-37, “So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went and returned, and dwelt in Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sherezer his sons smote him with the sword.”

A new thing

The captivity of god’s people provided a short intermission to the playing out of a 2000 year effort to restore fellowship between God and man. While they were in Babylon, God demonstrated his faithfulness to his people by continuing to protect them and by making a way for them to return to the Promised Land (Isaiah 41:3). Ultimately, the goal was for Jerusalem to be rebuilt through a supernatural empowering of those called to be a part of the second stage of God’s  plan of redemption.

Isaiah proclaimed God’s faithfulness and gave his people hope by stating, “Fear  thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). Following the destruction of God’s temple and decimation of the city of Jerusalem, the nations that rose up against God’s people would be destroyed (Isaiah 41:15-16) making it possible for the Israelites to return to the land they had been driven out of.

God used the destruction of Israel and its resurrection as an example of his power and ability to recreate the nation that belonged to him. Isaiah testified to this when he said, “That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it” (Isaiah 41:20). The remnant of God’s people that returned to Jerusalem would go back of their own free will, knowing they would be used by God in a different way than they had before.

Isaiah explained God’s plan in the context of spiritual blindness. He said, “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of  the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6’7). Because everyone else in the world had been cut off from their creator for hundreds of years, the Israelites would be used by God to demonstrate the problem of sin and humanity’s need for a savior.

Unlike the rest of the world, God’s people had not been left in the dark. God’s law had been clearly presented to his people and they were fully aware of the consequences of their sin. As they were being transitioned into a new way of relating to their LORD, the Israelites were told not to expect anymore special treatment. Isaiah declared, “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

Invincible

God’s deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib king of Assyria left a remnant of Jews in the Promised Land to continue God’s work (Isaiah 37:31). Psalm 76 was written as a testament to God’s miraculous defeat of an army that most, if not all, people at that time thought was invincible. This psalm begins with the statement, “In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel” (Psalm 76:1).

God’s demonstration of his power was a result of Hezekiah’s prayer (Isaiah 37:16-20) which concluded with the petition, “Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (Isaiah 37:20). Hezekiah wanted God to show Sennacherib and the rest of the world that there was a God in heaven because Sennacherib had implied there wasn’t (Isaiah 36:18).

The psalmist referred to Sennacherib and his army as being stouthearted when he said, “The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep” (Psalm 76:5). The term stouthearted essentially means that a person has exalted himself above God (47/3820). Sennacherib claimed that no one could deliver a city from his army, not even the God of the Israelites (Isaiah 36:20). The Hebrew word translated spoiled in this verse is shalal, which means to drop or strip, and by implication, to plunder (7997) as one would an enemy that has been overtaken.

Sennacherib’s arrogant attitude was formulated through his empire’s success. For several decades, the Assyrians had been left unchecked. Even the northern kingdom of Israel fell into their hands because no one was willing to ask God for help. The Assyrian kings were known to be tyrants that terrorized their enemies into submission (Assyrian Campaigns against Israel and Judah), and yet, they were still only men who were no match for God. The psalmist declared, “Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).

What is often forgotten or ignored about God is his sovereign control of all circumstances. Men may think they are in control, when in actuality, God is working things out according to his will. God allowed the Assyrian empire to expand and to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel, but when Sennacherib approached Jerusalem, God said no and sent him back to Nineveh (Isaiah 37:37). Psalm 76:12 said of the LORD, “He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”

God’s Territory

The Promised Land and in particular mount Zion was considered to be God’s territory. As much as God was interested in protecting and preserving his people, he was also interested in maintaining possession of the city of Jerusalem. Knowing the Assyrians intended to capture and take possession of Judah’s capital, Isaiah declared, “So shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it” (Isaiah 31:4-5).

The terms defend  and deliver were typically used in connection with God’s people, but in the case of mount Zion, or as it was also known as, Jerusalem, God’s resources would be expended to retain a territory dedicated to his Messiah. Zion was mentioned throughout the book of Isaiah appearing in 31 of its 66 chapters. Clearly Isaiah saw Zion as a critical element of his prophecy about Israel’s future. The significance of Zion was both its geographical location and its purpose as a worship center for the entire world. According to Isaiah, the LORD founded Zion (Isaiah 14:32) and would reign there after his judgment of the world for universal sin (Isaiah 24:23).

Although the importance of mount Zion was connected to God’s people, the LORD’s protection of it was independent of their situation. God intended to personally defend his territory (Isaiah 31:4) in spite of his children’s rebellion. In fact, the LORD told Isaiah, “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD” (Isaiah 30:8-9).

Eventually, Jerusalem would fall into enemy hands (2 Kings 25:4), but not to the Assyrians. God would miraculously deliver Jerusalem from king Sennacherib of Assyria in 701 B.C. and delay the city’s destruction for more than a hundred years, allowing the people of Judah to escape Assyrian captivity and end up instead in Babylon. Isaiah described the Assyrian attack as punishment for the Judah’s rebellion.

Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, because ye despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out of a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare. (Isaiah 30:12-14).

Mercy

Psalm 83 may have been written at the time when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah. If so, it is likely an extension of the prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 6 – 12 in which Jehoshaphat asks for the LORD’s help when a great multitude came against Jeshoshaphat to battle (2 Chronicles 20:1). The author of Psalm 83 states that God’s enemies “have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones” (Psalms 83:3).

The psalmist speaks as if God is unaware of what is going on, but really  his prayer is an acknowledgement  of the situation rather than a declaration of the facts. Jehoshaphat had received a visit from Jehu the son of Hanani the seer after he returned from fighting in Ramoth-gilead with king Ahab. Jehu said to king Jehoshaphat, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (2 Chronicles 19:2).

Jehoshaphat may have assumed the attack against Judah was his punishment for helping Ahab and that he would be defeated because God’s wrath was upon him. Instead of accepting defeat, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3). Jehoshaphat showed reverence to the LORD and put himself in a position of receiving God’s mercy rather than judgment.

Jehoshaphat’s justification for receiving God’s mercy was “that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, Art the most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18). If God’s people were destroyed, God’s reputation would be damaged. Even though Jehoshaphat deserved to be punished for fighting in Ramoth-gilead with Ahab, he wasn’t because his enemies were God’s enemies also.

God’s message of deliverance was delivered by a Levite of the sons of Asaph. He told Jehoshaphat, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of the great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). Jehoshaphat was miraculously delivered. After all of his enemies were dead, “when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stript off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much” (2 Chronicles 20:25).

Saint David

“For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psalm 86:13). The default destination of every person that dies is hell. The word translated hell in Psalm 86:13, “Sheol is the abode of the dead” (7585). In the time that David lived, “It was not understood to be a place of punishment, but simply the ultimate resting place of all mankind” (7585).

David’s exclamation about his soul being delivered from hell was probably due to his awareness that as a living , breathing creature, his soul longed to be in the presence of the LORD. In hell, David would be separated from God for all eternity.

In order to demonstrate the difference between being in the LORD’s presence and being separated from God, a tabernacle, or house of God was built, and an ark placed in it, so that the Israelites could experience heaven on earth. David said in Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1).

Today, the transition from earth to heaven or hell takes place instantaneously, the moment a person dies. That was not the case for David because the gates of heaven had not yet been opened to man when he died. David said, “thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psalm 86:13). The word delivered or nâtsal (naw – tsal´) in Hebrew means “to snatch away.” Natsal is also translated as escape, rescue and take out (5337). When David died, he went to hell like everyone else, but when Christ rose from the dead, David ascended into heaven with him.

Although David’s soul didn’t get taken to heaven until hundreds of years later, David’s deliverance was assured the moment he put his trust in God. David prayed, “Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee” (Psalm 86:2).

The word David used to describe himself, holy or chaciyd in Hebrew is typically translated as saint or saints “which must be understood in the sense of sanctification (dependent on grace), not moralistically [of native goodness]” (2623). The term saints is used frequently in the New Testament of the Bible to describe believers in Christ Jesus. In essence a saint is one who patterns his life after God. The word chaciyd is properly translated as kind (2623) and is derived from the word chacad which is “a practical exhibition of lovingkindness toward our fellowman” (2616).

It’s difficult to say if David’s experience with God was any different than Abraham’s or Moses’, but it appears that David clearly understood what it meant to be born again. It is possible that his repentance after killing Uriah did lead to a type of conversion and brought David into a right relationship with God, one that enabled him to behave like a saint.