O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those God redeemed from trouble. Psalm 107:1-2 (NRSV, adapted for inclusive language)
It may be heresy, but I don’t use the word “redeemed” much, at least not to describe people. I’ll speak of a bad situation being “redeemed” by a new perspective or a lesson learned. But I shy away from the notion of people being “redeemed.” It sounds too much like being “saved,” that other pesky Christian word often used to separate God’s chosen lambs from the unredeemed goats.
Yet after 2-plus years of ministry during a pandemic, Psalm 107 redeemed the word “redeem” for me. The original Hebrew goel means “to be set free.” For the psalmist, the “redeemed of the Lord” didn’t mean people saved from hell and bound for heaven. The “redeemed” of Psalm 107 were those who had been freed—saved, if you will—from physical realities like hunger and thirst or being lost in the desert, imprisoned or caught in a storm at sea.
Moreover, goel’s redemption is rooted in the relationship between the redeemed and redeemer. Throughout Psalm 107, those in need of redemption—i.e., those being freed from danger or loss—break their silence and cry out to God. God hears those cries, and the psalmist exhorts the redeemed to “give thanks to the Lord” over and over again.
Perhaps before I and the church I serve start envisioning the future, we need to stop and give thanks for all the ways God helped us weather the storms and shadows of the last two years. Maybe we even need to realize we’ve joined the ranks of the redeemed. Perhaps we all do.
Thank you, God, for your steadfast redemption. Amen.