Theme: God’s Saving Work of Redemption
In this week’s lessons, we see that God’s goodness is shown by his works, and that true wisdom comes from knowing and fearing him.
Scripture: Psalm 111:1-10
Yesterday we read about the past events in Canaan and their present application. When we consider how good God has been to us and continues to be, can we not say with the psalmist, “I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly”? We have a similar parallel between God’s past and present saving work in verse 9, which refers specifically to redemption. Redemption from what? From Egypt, of course, and perhaps also from the Babylonian captivity if this psalm has been written late, as most commentators believe. But how can we read verse 9—“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name”—without thinking of the redemption from sin and its power that Jesus has achieved for us by his death on the cross? We cannot, for he is the one who has become for us “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
“Redemption” is a term borrowed from the ancient world of business, just as “propitiation” is borrowed from the language of religion, and “justification” from the ancient world of law. It refers to buying something in the market place, and also to buying it out of the market place so it will not have to be sold there again. This means little if we think of it in regard to mere objects, but it means a great deal if we think of it in regard to people, especially slaves. To redeem a slave was to buy the slave out of the slave market so that he or she might be set free. This is what Jesus did for us. Paul touches on it in Romans 8 when he says that “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (v. 2). He means that he was a slave to sin and death once, but Jesus had freed him from all that, as he has all who have been saved by him.
We have a splendid illustration of redemption in the Old Testament in the life story of Hosea, one of the Minor Prophets. Hosea’s wife had been unfaithful to him, had fallen into slavery, and was eventually sold as a slave in the city of Samaria. God sent Hosea to buy her out of slavery, which he did for “fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley” (Hos. 3:2). However, in the matter of our emancipation from sin’s slavery, the cost of redemption was Jesus’ life.
When we were looking at the section of Psalm 111 dealing with God’s general works in nature (vv. 2-4), I pointed out that the adjectives begin by describing the works but soon pass over into describing God himself. We have exactly the same thing in verses 5-9. Here the works of God are called “faithful,” “just” and “trustworthy” (v. 7), “steadfast,” “faithful” and “upright” (v. 8). But these words even more aptly describe God himself, and the section ends with “holy and awesome is his [God’s] name” (v. 9).
Psalm 111 has been a practical psalm exhorting us to praise God for his general and specific works, those seen in nature, in the salvation history of his people, and in redemption. So we are not surprised to find that this practical psalm also has a practical conclusion: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”
This first part of this verse is the widely known theme of the Bible’s wisdom literature, found in various places: Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13. Derek Kidner says it is the key to what life is about,” namely that “from him, to him and through him are all things.”1
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity, 1975), p. 398.
What did redemption mean to the Israelites? What does it mean to Christians?
How are the works of God described in verses 5-9? What does that say about God?
Application: How is having fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Where do you get wisdom? What happens when you don’t seek true wisdom?
Key Point: In the matter of our emancipation from sin’s slavery, the cost of redemption was Jesus’ life.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message from Ephesians 2, “God’s Workmanship.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)