A Song About Redemption
Adapted from a Sermon by Archibald G. Brown
First Delivered on Lord’s-Day evening, October 11th, 1868, at Stepney Green Tabernacle
“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be 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 this Lord’s Day morning as we hear a sermon adapted from one given by Archibald Brown over 150 years ago.
Deliverance by redemption is not a deliverance obtained by mere pardoning mercy, as in the case of the debtor, set free by his earnest appeals to his creditor, in our Lord’s parable; nor is it a deliverance accomplished by rescue, obtained by 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 unspeakable agony on the cross, he not only made salvation possible for all but made it certain for his own elect by then and there paying down, not in gold or silver but in his precious blood, the redemption price demanded by an inflexible justice.
Indeed, believer in Christ, you have been bought out and out by Him; you 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” are the words we read in Colossians and Ephesians (Col 1:14, Eph 1:7). The text before us this morning 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 have a heart burning with gratitude through a more than usual consciousness of his interest in that redemption. How can he rise to the sublimeness of the text unless it is but the echo of his own soul’s experience? May the Lord graciously help us while we consider first, In what particulars redemption call for a song, and then, Who those are who should sing the song.
I. First then — in what particulars does redemption call for a song?
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 it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it.” Why? “For the Lord has redeemed Jacob.” In this is indeed a marvel of grace, deserving the greatest praise from those who have been ransomed.
What could man have been to Him? What shadow of obligation was there on his part to exert the slightest effort to save a single one? 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 argue against 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 “God over all, blessed forever.” (Rom 9:5)
But blessed thought! It was much to him; his sovereign unaccountable love said, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom.” (Job 33:24) The Lord has done it, and done it alone. With whom did he take counsel in this matter? Who paid part of the price with him? Redemption is not the work of the many; it is God’s own in plan and execution; he came out to the work “in the greatness of his strength,” “mighty to save.” (Is 63:1)
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 the gift of his humanity infinitely precious; sufficient to make a just substitute for a countless multitude of fallen men.
And here a little story may perhaps help to more clearly explain the meaning of this.
There was once a lady who undertook the task of instructing a deaf and dumb boy in the things of God; of course she could only speak to him by signs and pictures. She drew on a paper a picture of a great crowd of people, old and young, standing near a wide and deep pit, out of which poured out smoke and flames — 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 the moment he gave his life on the cross, the pit was shut up! The deaf and dumb boy made signs that the person who died was only one, and the persons 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 spelt “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 it:” and “shout, O depths of the earth: For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”
2. Another particular in redemption that specially calls for a song is its cost.
Well may the believer stand amazed at the awful price his soul’s redemption cost. What that price was Peter tells us: “Not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19 ) And well also may he stand astonished at that incomparable love that paid the price demanded.
The value of any article is proportional to what it cost to purchase it. In past times, the worth of the outstanding pearl adorning the bride was not only its cost in dollars but more so in the great risk involved in retrieving it from the sea bed. Estimating redemption by this test, who can tell its worth? The heavenly pearl-diver beheld us sunken deep below in the sea of depravity and sin; he not only saw, but he coveted the jewel, that it might forever adorn his imperial crown. Stripping himself of the robes of heaven, and laying aside the purple of royalty, he stood upon the shores of heaven, and sprang into the deepest part of the black ocean: down, down he went — the floods roared over his head; “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (Ps 42:7) — he reached the holiest depth, for he became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross;” (Phil 2:8) and at the lowest depth he grasped the jewel and carried it triumphantly above;
Gethsemane’s bloody sweat; the bloodier flogging in Pilate’s hall; and the shameful death on the cross, were all part of the price he paid to ransom fallen man.
Believer, consider the cost of your redemption, and then “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it:” and “Shout, O depths of the earth… For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (Is 44:23)
3. Thirdly, another aspect which gives reason for song with respect to redemption is its completeness.
Christ has so gloriously completed the work of redemption that nothing can possibly be added to it, “the Lord has done it.” (Is 44:23) Unlike the atonement made by the priest in Aaron’s line, it lasts forever. In their sacrifices there was a continual reminder of sin. Year after year the high-priest entered into the holiest of all; every entrance witnessing that the previous atonement made was only partially effective.
The writer of Hebrews, in his own masterly style, draws the vivid contrast between the two, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood.” “Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb 9:12, 25-26) and once more, “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:11-12)
Indeed, the atonement of Christ is so infinite that nothing more can or will be demanded by God throughout all ages. Never more will the “Son of God” become the “man of sorrows;” (Is 53:3) never will the Redeemer’s blood flow on the cross. If you are not saved by that atonement, you must be most certainly damned; it is your only hope, “The Lord has done it,” and will never repeat it. And so, believer in Christ, consider redemption’s completeness, and then exclaim, “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; … For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (Is 44:23)
4. As a fresh incentive to song, consider next Its comprehensiveness.
Redemption is an amazingly deep subject. To dwell on all we are redeemed from, and redeemed to, would take a week of preaching; and we would still only have scratched the surface. It will take eternity to reveal all. Let us therefore only look into a few of the most prominent evils from which we are redeemed.
i) If we are Christ’s, then we have been redeemed from the hand of Satan.
By sin, man has sold himself to the devil, “you have sold yourself for nothing” the devil can claim of his own; but those for whom Christ died are not his, for they have been redeemed without money, (Is 52:3) therefore his power over them is cancelled. Christ’s sheep, true believers, are not the devil’s, but Christ’s. They have been redeemed; washed in his blood! Satan sees the Lord’s mark on their forehead. He may claim his own swine, but Christ’s sheep he must leave alone. Yes, blessed be God, Christ has rescued the captives of the tyrant, (Is 49:24) from him that was too strong for them.
ii) Are we not also redeemed from the guilt of sin?
The black cloud that hung over us has been blotted out; as the previous verse of our text says, “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you;” (Is 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)
iii) With the guilt, away goes the power of sin;
no longer galley slaves to our own lusts, but Christ’s free men to follow after holiness.
iv) 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.” (Rom 8:1) In relation to the saint, Christ’s redeeming blood has put hell’s fire out. What hell is, a redeemed soul never has and never shall know.
v) He has also redeemed us from the power of death.
In Hosea, we read “I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting?” (Hos 13:14) There is no death for the child of God — he has only to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death.” (Ps 23:4) Death left its sting in Christ; the only sting death ever had was sin, and that is gone;
vi) And to close this point, Christ has redeemed the bodies of his saints for the glories of the resurrection morning.
Even “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23) The dust of God’s long departed children is included in the Redeemer’s purchase; and when the trumpet sounds to announce the dawning of the resurrection day, then from marble sepulchers, forgotten graves, and the deep ocean, that dust will arise in glorified bodies to proclaim the comprehensiveness of God’s Redemption. Then “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; … For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”
5. Fifthly and lastly, the highest cause for song is that redemption is that in which God has been pleased to glorify himself the most.
“The Lord … will be glorified in Israel.” All the attributes of God are most gloriously to be seen in the work of redemption.
i) First, Justice stands out in magnificent stateliness right through the whole of the Old Testament; it was displayed in awful splendour when the rebel angels were hurled from thrones in heaven to beds in hell; when the old world was destroyed by the flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah with a rain of fire; but Jesus hanging on the cross between two thieves until death ended his agony, is the most amazing evidence of God’s stern justice that ever has or ever will 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 stands next to me,” declares the LORD of hosts.” (Zec 13:7)
ii) Think, also, of the glory that is given to the infinite wisdom of God through redemption.
Amid all the varied works of God, none so loudly proclaim “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,” (Rom 11:33) 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 time, the greatest love for the sinner — which would leave justice unimpaired, truth un-violated, and yet allow mercy to triumph — which should at one and the same time fulfil all the threats against sin, and all the promises and types of a Saviour; which would adequately and forever answer the question “How then can man be in the right before God?” (Job 25:4) A problem which if all the angels had met in solemn council for ten thousand years to solve, would still have been infinitely beyond them; but wisdom triumphed, it found the thread that led to the solution, and in redemption “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Ps 85:10) God is glorified, sinners are saved, and Satan is confounded.
iii) That the power of God is magnified, we need only one passage to clearly see.
That passage is Ephesians chapter 1 verses 18: “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know... what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph 1:18-20)
iv) The last attribute we will consider which received exceeding glory through redemption, is Mercy.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) Do you want to know what God’s love and mercy is? Then you must stand before the bleeding Saviour on the Cross, and read it there drawn out in that language of his suffering. In Christ, behold mercy incarnated, love embodied! No doubt that mercy may be seen in the light, heard in the breeze, and discerned in everything; but for all this it has pleased God to make redemption his chosen panorama of mercy.
Now, believer in Christ, is it your highest and deepest desire that your God should be glorified? — then rejoice, for your Lord is supremely glorified in redemption. Make the language of the text your own, “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; … For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”
II. Secondly we now consider who those are who should sing the song.
i) The first called on in the text is, Heaven!
“Sing, O heavens,” and well you may, for redemption has shed fresh light on your glories. The highest joy the angels can have, is that which comes from seeing their King glorified. We have already seen that a glory beyond all glories flows to Christ through the channel of redemption. Therefore the keen interest displayed by the angelic world in every step of that redemption is not surprising.
It was indeed the true Jacob’s ladder, linking heaven and earth, and therefore on every rung an angel stood. Wonderfully they broke the still silence of that first Christmas morning, with such a hymn as the world had never heard before. A shepherd band was “out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night,” when, “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,” and then the angel said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” No sooner had this wonderful 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 among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10, 14)
Do you not think that those who are “ministering spirits” (Heb 1:14) to the saints, were not also constant attendants on our Lord in his thirty years sojourning here? This we know, that when our Saviour was in Gethsemane weeping, all bathed in bloody sweat, there appeared “an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43)
In wondrous awe they must have grouped themselves, unseen to mortal eye, around the cross, and marvelled 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 overflowing of rejoicing was heaven thrown when the conqueror ascended to heaven.
How the very walls of heaven shook when all the assembled host shouted, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps 24:7)
Sing, O heavens! The answer comes rolling back, We do — we do. Behold also the redeemed in heaven!! Listen to their song, more touching even than an angel’s, To “him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37) Do you tell them to sing? They answer back, We do — we do — and ever will. All heaven unites in this redemption song.
ii) Let the redeemed on earth take their part.
“Shout, O depths of the earth.” People of God, every tree planted by his right hand, break forth into singing. Whoever else may be silent, you must not. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble” (Ps 107.1-2)
Behold your slavery gone — your bonds broken — your chains snapped — your sins forgiven — your heaven secured, and then sing. Shame on us that we sing so infrequently, and when we do, so faintly.
Believer, you are the lamb taken out of the lion’s jaw, and delivered from the paw of the bear. Then sing your praise with David. Do not let the stars of heaven outdo the stars of the Lord. They sing their Maker’s praise, so you ought to shout your Redeemer’s praise.
iii) 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 child of yours? Do you not remember how you almost despaired of his or her conversion? And do you not, above all, remember that day when those prayers were answered? That day when for the first time you saw that child seeking Jesus? Seeking baptism and fellowship at the Lord’s Table? Indeed, sing, for the Lord has done it. Are there not many 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 be among the singers? We should indeed. Lord, help us today to sing that You have “done it.”
iv) And, lastly, we close by saying the trembling sinner has good cause indeed to join his voice with ours.
To the anxious penitent, is this morning's text not a gleam of sunshine in the darkness? “The Lord has done it.” If it is done, then there can be no need for you to add anything.
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. Then do not try to add to a perfect work. Go in your emptiness to the Redeemer’s fulness. 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 place, you will say with a heart overflowing with gratitude, “Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.”
God grant that this may be the blessed result, for Jesus’ sake.