Independence Day

Independence Day July 5, 2016

 “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” You’ll probably hear the familiar, stirring words of America’s national anthem often this weekend, and rightly so. It’s an appropriate tribute to a great nation, and it reminds us of inspiring themes: resolve, sacrifice, bravery, and above all, freedom. It’s what Independence Day is all about.

Americans pride themselves on freedom and cherish it as one of their highest values. But the Bible says it’s a façade. No nation is truly free, at least not in any sense that really matters. All people are, biblically speaking, three-fold slaves. We are born slaves. In our earliest days, we all fall into slavery involuntarily by conquest. And we voluntarily surrender ourselves to slavery by incurring a debt we could never pay.

Our master in all three cases is, of course, sin. We are all born in it. We are captive to its dominion. And we choose to serve it and earn the wage it is always eager to pay, namely, death.

We need help! We need a benefactor to pay our debt. We need a liberator to defeat our master. We need a leader to set us free. In a word, we need “redemption.” 

Redemption is essentially an economic transaction, purchasing an item by paying a ransom. It’s a theme that runs through the biblical story from cover to cover. We find it on the lips of the Patriarchs at the beginning (Gen 48:16, Job 19:25) and the worshiping assembly in heaven at the end (Rev 5:9). We see it vividly illustrated again and again, in God’s liberation of Israel from Egypt, in the special offering required for the Hebrews to purchase their firstborn sons from God, in the “Avenger of Blood” who would vindicate a wrongful death in the family, in the “Kinsman Redeemer” who would pay a debt to preserve the family inheritance, and in the tragic and wonderful story of the prophet Hosea and his wayward wife, Gomer.  

The pervasiveness of the theme is meant to convey, implicitly and explicitly, that these stories are our story. Their slavery is our slavery. Their redemption is our redemption. We are ancient Israel, in need of liberation from Egypt. We are the firstborn son, in need of redemption from death. We are the person who has fallen into poverty, in need of a Kinsman Redeemer to pay our debt. We are even the adulterous wife, Gomer. We are the slave up for auction on the block of sin. We are fallen from the grace of intimacy and the freedom of fellowship with our Creator-husband. We have disgraced ourselves with unfaithfulness and rebellion. Jesus Christ, our faithful groom and master, came into the marketplace of sin to buy us back, bidding on our lives with his own blood. No higher ransom has ever been paid. We became His. He became ours. He paid our debt, clothed us in His garments, brought us into His home, and made us His own.

It’s a great story, enough to make us sing our own anthem of liberty: “Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.”