A Song About Redemption!
Archibald G. Brown, October 11th, 1868, at Stepney Green
"Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel." Isaiah 44:23
What is redemption, and what is there in it that particularly calls for a song? This is our subject for this evening's meditation. Deliverance by redemption is not a deliverance obtained by mere pardoning mercy, as in the case of the debtor, set free at his earnest entreaties; nor is it a deliverance accomplished by rescue, obtained by the exertion of force only; but it is a deliverance gained by the payment of a price — the full discharge given on receipt of the full amount due. When our Lord hung in "unknown agonies" upon Calvary's tree, he made Salvation certain for his own elect, by then and there paying down, not in gold or silver but in precious blood-drops, the redemption price demanded by an inflexible justice:
"From Bethlehem's inn to Calvary's cross,
Affliction marked his road;
And many a weary step he took
To bring us back to God.
But darker far the awful hour
When on the cross he cried,
'Tis finished,' the full ransom's paid,
Then bowed his head and died."
Yes, beloved, we have been bought by Christ; we no longer belong either to Satan, self, or the world — but to Him who has purchased his church with his blood, "In whom we have redemption."
The text which I have selected for this evening is a magnificent call to Heaven and earth to join in singing the glories of redemption — to preach from it in any measure as it should be preached from, the preacher ought to be in possession of a heart burning with gratitude through a more than usual consciousness of his saving interest in that redemption. How can he rise to the sublimity of the text, unless it is but the echo of his own soul's experience? May the Lord graciously aid and send "help from on high" while we endeavor to show:
first — In what particulars redemption call for a song,
and then — Who those are who should sing the song.
1. In what particulars does redemption call for a song?
My difficulty here will only be one of choice, for every particular of redemption is worthy of a sonnet. The whole is a golden harp, and every string has only to be touched in order to give the sweetest melody.
1. Certainly redemption calls for a song when we remember, first, ITS AUTHOR. Our text seems to teach this in its very wording, "Sing O heavens!" Why? "For the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree!" Why? "For the Lord has redeemed Jacob." In this is indeed a marvel of grace, demanding the highest anthems ransomed lips can raise.
What could man have been to Him? What shadow of obligation was there on God's part to put forth the slightest effort to save a single rebellious sinner? Had the whole human race like a roaring torrent been turned to Hell and left to roll its awful course until the end of time, who could have dared to impugn the justice of the doom? What could it have been to God whether man was saved or damned? He would have been glorified in either case, and still remained "The blessed (happy) God."
But sweet thought! It was much to him; his sovereign unaccountable love said, "Deliver him from going down to the pit — I have found a ransom!" The Lord has done it, and done it alone. With whom did he take counsel in this matter? Who paid part-price with him? Redemption is no work of the many; it is God's own in plan and execution; he came forth to the work "in the greatness of his strength," "mighty to save."
It is through the person of the Redeemer, that redemption gains its infinite value. He threw the weight of Deity in the scale. It was the altar of his Godhead, that made his atonement of boundless price; sufficient to make a just substitute for a myriad host of fallen men.
Let me try and more clearly explain my meaning by an anecdote. There was once a lady who undertook the task of instructing a deaf and dumb lad in the things of God; of course she could only speak to him by signs and pictures. She drew upon a paper a picture of a great crowd of people, old and young, standing near a wide and deep pit, out of which smoke and flames were issuing — on a corner of the paper she drew the figure of One coming down from Heaven on purpose to save them. She explained on her fingers to the boy that when this person came, he asked God not to throw the people into the pit, if he himself agreed to be nailed to a cross for them; and how sacrificed Himself upon the cross, and the pit was shut up! The deaf and dumb boy made signs that the person who died was only one, and the people saved many. How could God take one for so many?
The lady taking off a gold ring, put it beside a heap of withered leaves, and asked the boy which was the best, "the one gold ring — or the many dry leaves?" The boy clapped his hands, and spelled "the one! the one! the one!"
The Lord Jesus is the one gold ring whose atonement is sufficient for the many dry leaves. Think of redemption's author, and then "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
2. Another particular in redemption that specially calls for a song is ITS COST. Well may the believer stand aghast at the infinite price his soul's redemption cost. What that price was Peter tells us, 1Peter 1:18-19: "Not with corruptible things as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." And well also may he stand astonished at that incomparable love that paid the price demanded.
"This was compassion like a God,
That when the Savior knew
The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity never withdrew!"
The value of any article is in proportion to its cost to procure. The pearl that gleams on the brow of yonder bride is immensely precious, because of its rescue from the great deep at the risk of the pearl-diver's life as he was dragged into the boat, half-dead, with the blood gushing from his nostrils. Estimating redemption by this test, who can reckon its worth? The heavenly pearl-diver beheld us deep-sunken in the sea of depravity and sin; he not only saw — but he coveted the jewel, that it might forever flash in his imperial diadem. Stripping himself of the robes of Heaven, and laying aside the purple of royalty, he stood upon the battlements of Heaven, and sprang into the deepest part of the black ocean! Down, down he went — the floods roared over his head; "all your waves and your billows went over me!" He reached the holiest depth, for "he became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross;" and at the lowest depth he grasped the jewel and bore it triumphantly above! O ineffable love!
Gethsemane's bloody sweat; the bloodier scourging in Pilate's hall; and the ignominious death at Golgotha — were all part of the price he paid to ransom fallen man.
Behold, O saint, redemption's cost, and then, "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
3. Thirdly, I would try and strengthen the reasons for song by reminding you of ITS COMPLETENESS. Christ has so gloriously completed the work of redemption, that nothing can possibly be added to it, "the Lord has done it!" Isaiah 44:23 Unlike the atonement made by the Aaronic priesthood — Christ's atonement lasts forever. In their sacrifices, there was a continual remembrance made of sin. Year after year the high-priest entered into the holiest of all; every entrance witnessing that the previous atonement made was but of limited efficacy.
Paul, in his own masterly style, draws the vivid contrast between the two, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, "Neither by the blood of goats and calves — but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "Nor that he should offer himself often, as the high-priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world. But now once in the end of the world, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," Hebrews 9:12, 25-26. And once more, "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God." Hebrews 10:11-12.
Yes, the atonement of Christ is so infinite, that nothing more can or will be demanded by God throughout all ages. Never more shall the "Son of God" become the "man of sorrows;" Isaiah 53.3 never more shall Calvary's hill run red with a Redeemer's blood. If you are not saved by the atonement made, you must be most certainly damned — it is your only hope, "The Lord has done it," and will never repeat it.
View, believer, redemption's completeness, and then exclaim, "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
4. I would have you observe as a fresh incentive to song, ITS COMPREHENSIVENESS. Redemption has a giant's span. To dwell on all we are redeemed FROM, and redeemed TO — would take a week of preaching; and still we would then be no nearer the conclusion of the matter. It will take eternity to reveal all.
Let me therefore only mention a few of the most prominent evils from which we are redeemed. Beloved, if we are Christ's, then we have been redeemed from bondage to Satan. By sin, man has sold himself to the devil, "you have sold yourself for nothing!" The devil can claim his own; but those for whom Christ died are not his, for "they have been redeemed without money," Isaiah 52:3. Therefore his power over them is usurped.
Hands off! Hands off that man in the gallery! He is not yours, O Satan — but Christ's. Hands off that trembling sister in the aisle! She has been redeemed; washed in blood! Behold the Lord's mark on her forehead. Claim your own swine — but leave Christ's sheep alone. Yes, blessed be God, Christ has "delivered the lawful captive" Isaiah 49:24 from him that was too strong for him.
Are we not also redeemed from the guilt of sin? The black cloud that hung over us has been blotted out; as the verse previous to our text says, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins; return to me, for I have redeemed you;" Isaiah 44.22. Our guilt has been removed so clean away that even God's holy eyes behold "no spot or wrinkle or any such thing." Eph, 5.27.
With the guilt, away goes the power of sin. We are no longer galley slaves to our own lusts — but Christ's free men to follow after holiness.
If we are redeemed from the guilt and power of sin — then we are also redeemed from the consequences of sin. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8.1. In relation to the saint, redeeming blood has put Hell's fire out. What Hell is — a redeemed soul never has and shall never know.
He has also redeemed us from the power of death. In Hosea 13.14, we read, "I will ransom you from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction." There is no death for the child of God — he has only to walk through "the valley of the shadow of death." Death left its sting in Christ; the only sting death ever had was sin, and that is gone!
"It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road;
And 'midst the brotherhood on high,
To be at home with God.
O Jesus, prince of life!
Your chosen cannot die;
Like You they conquer in the strife,
To reign with You on high."
And to close this point, Christ has redeemed the bodies of his saints for the glories of the resurrection morn. "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, namely, the redemption of our body." Romans 8.23. The sleeping dust of God's departed host is included in the Redeemer's purchase; and when the archangel's trumpet sounds to announce the dawning of the resurrection day, then from marble sepulchers, forgotten graves, and the deep ocean — that dust shall arise in glorified bodies to proclaim the comprehensiveness of God's Redemption! Then "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
5. Fifthly and lastly, the highest cause for song is redemption, being that in which God has been pleased to glorify himself the most. "The Lord has glorified himself in Israel." All the attributes of God are most gloriously seen in Christ's work of redemption!
JUSTICE stands forth in magnificent grandeur right through the whole of the Old Testament — it was displayed in awful splendor . . .
when the rebel angels were hurled from thrones in Heaven — to beds in Hell;
when the old world was destroyed by a watery deluge; and
when Sodom and Gomorrah were turned to ashes with a rain of fire.
But Jesus hanging on the cross between two thieves until death terminated His agony — is the most amazing evidence of God's stern justice that ever has or ever shall be given throughout time or eternity! Never was justice so glorified, as when the cry rang through Heaven, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is close to me! Strike the Shepherd!" declares the LORD Almighty!" Zechariah 13:7
Think, moreover, of the glory that accrues to the infinite WISDOM of God through redemption.
"All worlds His glorious power confess,
His wisdom all His works express."
But amid all the varied works of God, none so loudly proclaim "the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God — as that of redemption. Pause for a moment, and consider the demands made upon that wisdom. A plan of salvation was required which would . . .
show the greatest hatred for sin — and at the same, the greatest love for the sinner;
leave justice unimpaired, truth unviolated — and yet allow mercy to triumph;
at one and the same time fulfill all the threats against sin — and all the promises and types of a Savior;
satisfactorily and forever answer the question "How then can man be justified with God?"
This is a problem, which if all the angels had met in solemn conclave for ten thousand years to solve, would still have been infinitely beyond them. But divine wisdom triumphed, it found the answer that led to the solution, and in redemption, "Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Psalm 85:10
God is glorified,
sinners are saved,
and Satan is confounded!
That the POWER of God is magnified, I need only refer you to one passage — Ephesians 1:19-20. "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know... what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
The last attribute I will mention which received exceeding glory through redemption, is MERCY. "In this the love of God was manifested towards us, because God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." 1 John 4:9
Would you know what God's love and mercy is? Then you must stand before the bleeding Savior on Calvary's tree, and read it there drawn out in crimson characters! In Christ, behold mercy incarnated — love embodied! It has pleased God to make redemption His chosen panorama of mercy. An old divine has well said: "May not a Christian turn Psalm 136 into gospel-language and say,
"O give thanks to our Redeemer; for His mercy endures forever.
To Him who said 'Lo, I come!' — for His mercy endures forever.
To Him who was born in a stable — for His mercy endures forever.
To Him who fulfilled the law for us — for His mercy endures forever.
To Him who expired upon a cross — for His mercy endures forever.
To Him who rose again from the dead, and ascended into Heaven to manage our affairs — for His mercy endures forever!"
Now, believer, rejoice, for your Lord is superlatively glorified in redemption. Make the language of the text your own, "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
II. Who those are, who should sing this Song.
I have dwelt so much longer on the first division than I intended, that but very little time is left for describing who the songsters ought to be. I will therefore only briefly mention them, and leave you to supply the deficiency in your private meditations.
1. The first called on in the text is, Heaven! "Sing, O heavens," and well you may, for redemption has shed fresh luster on your glories. The highest joy the angels can have, is that which arises from seeing their King glorified.
I have already endeavored to show that a glory beyond all glories flows to Christ through the channel of redemption. Therefore I am in no wonderment at the marked interest displayed by the angelic world in every step of that redemption. It was indeed the true Jacob's ladder, linking Heaven and earth, and therefore on every rung an angel stood. Sweetly they broke the still silence of that first Christmas morn, with such a carol as the world had never heard before. A shepherd band was "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night," when, "lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them," and then the angel said, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
No sooner had this sweet gospel song died away into the previous stillness of the night, than a very constellation of angels shone round the astonished band, and sang as never mortal ear had heard before, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!" Luke 2:10, 14. Those who are "ministering spirits" to the saints, were also constant attendants on our Lord in his thirty years of sojourn here — this we know, that when our Savior was in Gethsemane weeping, all bathed in bloody sweat, there appeared "an angel strengthening him." Luke 22.43
In wondrous awe they must have grouped themselves, unseen to mortal eye, around the cross, and marveled at the love that would not call them to the rescue! With what ecstatic joy that angel (on the third morning's dawn) rolled back the stone. In what a delirium of rejoicing was Heaven thrown when the conqueror ascended,
"With scars of honor in his flesh,
And triumph in his eyes!"
How the very walls of Heaven shook when all the assembled host shouted, "Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in!" Psalm 24.7
Sing, O you heavens! The answer comes rolling back, We do — we do!
Behold also the redeemed in Heaven!! Listen to their song, sweeter even than an angel's, "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen!" Do you tell them to sing? They answer back, We do — we do — and ever will. All Heaven unites in this redemption song.
Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel
2. Let the Ransomed on earth take their part. "Shout for joy, O depths of the earth!" Whoever else may be silent, you must not. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever, let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy." Psalm 107:1-2.
Behold . . .
your serfdom gone,
your bonds broken,
your chains snapped,
your sins forgiven,
your Heaven secured
— and then sing! Oh shame on us that we sing so seldom, and when we do, so faintly.
Where is our harp tonight? Hanging on yonder willow? Let us get it down, and
"Loud to the praise of love divine,
Bid every string awake!"
Believer, you are the lamb taken out of the lion's jaw, and delivered from the paw of the bear. Then sing your David's praise. Do not let the stars of Heaven make the stars of the Lord blush. They sing their Maker's praise — so you shout your Redeemer's praise!
3. Surely those who have loved ones that have been redeemed should join us in the song. Parents, do you not remember how you used to pray and weep, and then weep and pray, over that son of yours? Do you not remember how you almost despaired of his conversion? And do you not, above all, remember that day when those prayers were answered, that day when for the first time you beheld him seeking Jesus? Did he not, last Lord's-day evening, sit with you at the table of his Savior and yours? Oh sing, for the Lord has done it!
Are there not many of us who can think of parents — sisters — brothers — husbands — wives — that have been brought in by grace, and made truly one with us in the very closest of bonds, and should we not to be among the singers? We should indeed. Lord, help us tonight to sing that You have "done it."
4. Let me close by saying the trembling sinner has good cause indeed to join his voice with ours. Ah, anxious penitent, is tonight's text not a gleam of sunshine in your darkness? "The Lord has done it!" If done, then there can be no necessity for any addition of yours.
"Nothing either great or small,
Nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all,
Long, long, ago!"
Was blood required for your cleansing? It has been shed.
Was a righteousness necessary for your acceptance? It has been worked out.
All that the salvation of your soul demands, has been done. Cease then from trying to add to a perfect work. Go in your emptiness to the Redeemer's fullness. Venture your soul on him. Stake all your eternal interests on the complete atonement he has made; God help you to do that now, and then before you leave this tabernacle, you will say with a heart overflowing with gratitude, "Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel."
God grant that this may be the blessed result, for Jesus' sake. Amen.