1 Sam. 1:21–28
ESV 1 Samuel 1:21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the LORD establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
Samuel’s mother took him to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord and to serve the Lord all his life in his presence. Mary took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord to serve the Lord all his life. Something’s going on here. What is it?
The fact is, every firstborn Hebrew boy belonged to the Lord. For it was by the firstborn sons of the Egyptians that the Lord delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. God said, “…all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.” (Num 3:13). That’s what is going on here. Samuel and Jesus were firstborn sons. They belonged to the Lord. There was no getting around it. God had claimed them as his own. They were God’s possession.
For animals, belonging to the Lord meant they had to be sacrificed to God. Sacrificing human babies was not allowed, so human firstborns had to be redeemed. That is, money was paid to the priest as a ransom price from being sacrificed on the altar.
So let’s first make sure we understand the word “redeem.” We use it all the time in the church. It is one of our buzz words, one of our church language clichés. We talk about redemption, the redeemer, redeeming, and so forth. But what exactly does it mean?
Redemption is the word that was used in the Bible for buying something back. For example, a slave could save enough money to buy himself on the slave market. He would then be his own owner, which meant in effect, he could free himself from slavery. In the same way a slave’s brother or friend could buy him and set him free. This was also called redemption.
Perhaps a more familiar English word is the word ransom. It means essentially the same thing. When your son or daughter is kidnapped, hopefully this is not a common occurrence, you might have the option of paying a ransom price to the kidnappers to get him back. That would also be a form of redemption.
Redemption does not always have to be with money. It could be with the life of someone else. A hypothetical example might be in the case of someone who needed a heart transplant. Without it he would die. Then someone else gets killed in an automobile accident who has signed up to donate his organs. His heart is used for the person who needed the transplant. One person died in order to give life to another. This would also be a form of redemption. In this case the redemption price was not m money, but someone’s life.
So you get the idea, to redeem someone is to buy that person from someone else, from slavery, or even from death. The redeemer gives something, money, possessions, work, or even his own life in exchange for the other person. In the case of the firstborn son, in order to not have to offer up your son to the Lord as a sacrifice, one paid a ransom price, a certain amount of money, to the priest to redeem him from death.
This redemption motif is one of the major themes of the Scriptures. In fact, it is essential to understand what is meant by redemption in order to understand the Bible, and especially to understand the work of Christ, because Christ came into our world to redeem us. He purchased us for a price. He purchased us from the anger and wrath of God. He purchased us from eternal punishment in hell. For from the time of our birth we are under God’s curse and wrath (Eph 2:1-3). From our birth we are slaves to sin which results in our death (Rom 6:23). From the moment we were born we are on the road straight to hell, except for the fact the Jesus redeemed us from hell. He did not pay either gold or silver. He paid for us with his life. He gave his life in exchange for ours. By his death on the cross we have been bought from slavery to sin and death and set free. By his death we have been purchased for God to be his children. Hannah gave her son Samuel to the Lord. It was not Samuel’s choice or decision. Mary took Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord. He did not have any input into that.
The same is true for us. Jesus came and died on the cross and by his death he redeemed us from sin, death, and the God’s anger. He paid the ransom price for us of his own free will. We didn’t ask him to. In baptism, God claims us as his own possession. We don’t decide, he just does it. Jesus, by means of his word, takes hold of us and makes us his own possession. He made himself our Lord and master. It was his doing, not ours. We became his subjects in his kingdom, by his doing. Once we were children of wrath by nature. Once we were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3). Once we were citizens of the kingdom of darkness. But now by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been made children of God, raised to life in Christ, and transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. All this was accomplished on the cross and all this the Holy Spirit did to you personally in baptism.
So that now you are the Lord’s! St. Paul tells us in Scripture, “if we live or if we die we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:8). And also, “He redeemed us all from lawlessness…for his own possession.” St. Peter says, “You are a chosen race…a people for his own possession…” (I Peter 2:9). And the apostle John says of Christ, “By your blood you ransomed people for God and have made them a kingdom and priests…”
Now you no longer belong to sin and death. Now you no longer are under the curse of the law. Now you no longer are under the threat of God’s anger and judgment. For you have been redeemed; purchased, not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:18-19). He gave his life in exchange for yours. You now belong to God. Your soul, your body, your life and everything you own is the Lord’s, because he purchased you by giving his life on the cross.
But right here we see a problem. We belong to the Lord, but we act as if we are free agents. We live as if we were free to do whatever we wanted. We run our lives, our family, and even our church as if it were ours to do with as we please. We say, “It’s my body, I can do with it as I please.”
No you can’t! it’s not your body! Your body belongs to the Lord. You belong to the Lord. You are not free to use your body as an instrument of sin, because it’s not yours to do with as you please. You may not use your hands to steal, or your fists to harm others. You may not use your intellect to figure out how to take advantage of someone with a lesser intellect. You may not use your body for immorality, for sex outside marriage, or for any form of adultery or fornication. All such things are a rejection of Christ and a denial of his forgiveness and salvation. You are not your own lord and master; for you have another Lord who made you in the first place, and then purchased you with his own blood.
We belong to the Lord. We are his instruments to love our neighbor. We are to use our body to serve our neighbor. Our hands to help in time of need, to heal his wounds, to lift him up when he falls. We are to use our mouth to speak love and forgiveness. Our feet to walk with him in his suffering. Our back to bear his burden, our mind to figure out ways to make a better world and community, and our hearts to love and give compassion.
But, oh, how we do fail? We fail at giving to those in need. We fail in being concerned for the well-being of others. We fail at caring. We fail at being Christians because we think we can do as we please, that we are our own lords and masters, that our bodies, possessions, riches, talents and even our church are ours to do whatever we want with them. You deserve God’s wrath and eternal punishment.
But Jesus bought you back from your lives of sin. He gave his life in exchange for yours. He was condemned to hell in exchange for you. By his suffering and death and resurrection he has purchased you for God and set you free from the power of sin. As St. Paul tells us, “In your baptism you were buried with him into death, in order that you might be raised as he was raised to walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:1-4). “Therefore, consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” (Rom 6:12-13).
You are the Lord’s. Your sins have been paid for. You have been forgiven. You are now God’s possession whether you live or die. For Christ came that through his own death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and to deliver you, who once, through fear of death, were subject to lifelong slavery. Mary dedicated him to the Lord in the temple in order that he might become a faithful high priest in the service of God to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Now, along with Hannah and Simeon, you can offer thanksgiving to God and sing: “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen they Salvation.” Now we can depart this life in peace, because he has redeemed us from the wrath and punishment of God so we can die in peace. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). By his death he has delivered us from the fear of death, and he will raise us on the last day and we shall stand guiltless at the judgment. Amen.