The Ransom from Selfishness

Ah, selfishness. It really is an issue. I so badly want to excuse it out of my life. I have a pretty decent list of reasons why it’s not selfish, when I fill-in-the-blank…rant at my family, pocket all my paycheck without sharing with those in need, eat all the chocolate in the chocolate cabinet, brush off a friend who could use a listening ear. The list goes on and on.

I’m a legitimately selfish person. I like my time spent on what I want to spend it on. I like my house to look the way I like it. I like my food to be what I want, when I want it. Since many of you don’t know me, you may be thinking, “Wow. She might just need to get that problem under control.”And I do. But so do you. 😉

Isaiah 47 tells all of us, each and everyone of us, that we need to get this problem under control. Let’s read a little of the Law, but don’t worry, we’ll get to the beautiful Gospel. If you have your Bible available, please read all of Isaiah 47. Below, I will highlight Isaiah 47:8-10 –

Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
    who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
    “I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
    or know the loss of children”:

 These two things shall come to you
    in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood
    shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
    and the great power of your enchantments.

You felt secure in your wickedness,
    you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
    “I am, and there is no one besides me.”

Oh, Babylon. They were just so much like those of us living in any first world culture today. They thought they were all-that and a bag of chips. (FYI-my fourteen year old had to ask me what I meant by that phrase.) They really had everything they needed – jobs, homes, good food, medical care, relative safety, Starbucks…ok, they didn’t have Starbucks, but you get the point. They felt secure in their pleasures and all the gifts that God had given them. The problem wasn’t the gifts. It was the trust.

The Babylonians had security in a few things that seriously hindered their ability to have a relationship with the Living God. My suggestion is that it would behoove us to take a peek at their issues, so maybe we can avoid or recover from a few of our own. We have a God who heals, who saves, so looking at our sin is never a problem, because we already live in the forgiveness He offers. It simply allows us to really live in that forgiveness more authentically every day.

  • Pleasure – The babylonians put their security in pleasure. If it felt good, if they felt good, and life was going well for them individually, than they were good to go. Who needs God when there’s entertainment? What pleasures do we place our security in today?
  • A life without loss, i.e. “The Good Life” – It’s easy to feel secure when life is going well. Sometimes we look around us and we see others suffer and, sadly, we feel pretty darn secure because we’re doing quite well, thank you. That won’t ever happen to us. We must be really special people. Oh! It must be because we are such good people! (Note my sarcasm.) You can see how this train derails quickly. When we place our security in life going well for us, we have no solid foundation. What happens when we do experience loss? Where do we turn? How have you seen this in your own life or in the world around you?
  • Sorcery, talismans, astrology – This is not ok. We have one God. Searching after the stars, palm readers, horoscopes, lucky charms, psychics, and any other method to tell us our future or give us good stuff is expressively forbidden in the Bible. How do these things lead us away from trusting in the Lord our God?
  • Sin – well, that hits the nail on the head. The Babylonians, according to verse 10, thought their sin was hidden, unseen. The Bible tells us that even when we think we are hiding it well from others, God sees our secret places. This may sound intimidating, but remember that the God who sees, also is the God who forgives. What have we to gain by confessing our sins and revealing the depths of our heart to God? Everything. Light, hope, mercy, grace, and peace, to name a few. How have you seen confession make a difference in being able to truly Live?
  • Wisdom and knowledge – What we know will never save us. What we believe will. We can both miss Jesus because we are so busy searching science and religion for truth away from His Word and we can miss Jesus because we know so much Scripture, but we never let the Word work in our hearts. Faith is not something we can see from the outside, so only God knows if this is someone’s struggle. How have you seen wisdom and knowledge get in the way of faith? How have you seen them be a positive impact to faith?
  • Ourselves – The Babylonians thought they were so cool.“I am, and there is no one besides me.” (v.10) Often times we think we’re so cool too.What do we do, say, or think that shows that part of us that places our trust in ourselves and not in Christ?

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in what we have, what we need, what we have going for us, that we forget where it came from. The reality is that it could all be gone in a flash, in the blink of an eye.

And that would be ok. Because God would still be Savior of the world.

The real phrase from our hearts – “You are and there is no one besides you, Jesus.”

Oh, goodness, He is so good. God makes it so simple to turn to Him, to lay it down and rest in grace. God does all the work. We were dead in our trespasses, but as baptized children of God we are risen in new life! He raises us up from all that lack of trust and selfishness and grief and puts on new clothes, white clothes, of Jesus kindness, righteousness, and holiness.

“You are, and there is no one besides You, Jesus.”

Say it again,

“You are, and there is no one besides You, Jesus.”

He was for the people of the Old Testament. He is for us today, and He will be tomorrow.

Father, we praise You that You are. We thank you for giving everything to bring us out from where we have been in our own sin and selfishness. Please continue to work in our hearts. Help us daily to place our trust in you, not ourselves, not the things of this world, nothing but You, precious Savior. Jesus, help us lean on you. Spirit, guide us in Truth and wisdom, to seek our True God everyday. We lift our hearts to the One who is both the Ransomer and the Ransom. Thank you, Christ Jesus. Thank you.



Glance back through the bullet pointed list of things the Babylonians trusted in. You should find it about halfway through today’s study. Chose two and answer the questions included beside each.

Write a statement below, on your Scripture engagement tool, or in a notebook affirming God’s place as the One worthy of putting our trust in. You can use my statement if you’d like – “You are, and there is no one besides You, Jesus.” – or create your own.



*The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia Publishing House, pg. 6 and 210

All or Nothing Faith


Day 4 – All or nothing faith

Our youth Sunday School class decided to do something different this year. We wanted to open our Bibles, and to some extent our hearts, a little wider than might feel comfortable. It started out all fun. We laid our Bibles on our laps and I had the youth holler out words that stuck out to them in Scripture, as they flipped through the pages. I asked them to look for big words, exciting words, sad words, confusing words, hard words, and encouraging words. Sometimes I think we take for granted the words of the Bible because they have become commonplace to us. As a believer of many years and an avid reader of Scripture, I’m constantly looking for Law and Gospel, guilt and grace, sin and salvation. When I was young, I had no idea what to look for. Goodness, half the time now, that’s still true. I might read a passage about ransom, but have no idea what the word itself means.

Likewise, our study here is designed so that we glean something new from something we otherwise would have skipped over. Sometimes those things are desperately encouraging. Other times, I feel overwhelmed and perplexed by God’s language and thoughts. And that’s ok.

The Word was meant to be opened, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, understood or perplexing. God will always show us something. He is the Light.

Would we rather remain in darkness?

And still…Pandora’s Box. Sometimes that’s what we get when we open the Bible. Questions, questions, and more questions come pouring out.

Today’s study deals again with a difficult topic, from the Levitical law of the Old Testament. But we would be remiss to skip over it. I believe that God has something to reveal to us, even if only in part and confusing at face value. That said, let’s dive in. Please read Leviticus 27:28-29:

“But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

This passage tells us that there are things that are not to be ransomed, not to be saved from destruction, because why? Because they are God’s.

In the Old Testament God devoted some things to destruction. Some things were absolutely not meant to be redeemed. This conversation is related to concerns we probably have all had about Old Testament warfare, namely, that there is so much of it! Goodness, but they fought a lot back in the day. It is a culture we are so removed from, it’s hard to wrap our heads around. To begin to understand it all we need to understand the Hebrew concept brought up in Leviticus- charam or cherem – “that which is to be given over to the Lord by destruction.”*

Let it sink in and flash forward to your own life to grasp the concept.

Sometimes we need a little cherem in our own lives. Sometimes there are jobs or material possessions or even relationships with others that should be utterly destroyed, that is to say removed from us, sent away, put on the trash heap- in order to honor the Lord. The scene from the movie Fireproof comes to mind. The main character struggled to overcome his pornography addiction. He dealt with it in a pretty cavalier manner until his eyes were opened and he recognized that it was destroying everything he held dear. On that day, in the film, he carries his computer out into the driveway and smashes it to bits with a baseball bat. A perfectly good computer, but better off as cherem devoted to destruction for the Lord.

In the Old Testament, things that were “devoted to destruction” were absolutely not to be ransomed. This was God’s command. Cut and dry. But that computer just seems so darn useful, you see…

The Israelites also felt the same. Instead of heeding God’s command, they often saved treasures, and sometimes people, that God did not intend to survive. You can see how it would be complicated. Just as in yesterday’s study we talked about the sacrifice of the Egyptian army, likewise, the Israelites would go to battle with real people, people with families and homes.

However, the cherem was created in the Old Testament to keep the Israelites set apart. The people that came against them in war, or those God sent them against, were slowly destroying them. They introduced them to idols, led them to all manners of adultery, utterly destroying children and families in one swoop or over time. At the very least these nations created complacency in their faith, and at worst turned them from the Triune God.

Here’s the deal: God values us enough to demand better.

The book of Isaiah can gives us some answers and some peace. Turn to Isaiah 43:11-13:

I, I am the Lord,
    and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
    when there was no strange god among you;
    and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he;
    there is none who can deliver from my hand;
    I work, and who can turn it back?”

My Study Bible notation states, “As in the past, so also in the future, God’s plans will be unstoppable.”

God gets to be God and we don’t get to steal that from Him.

In the fullness of time, our God sent his own cherem. A redeemer, a ransom – Christ Jesus, our Lord.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (Hebrews 10:10)

Jesus came and offered Himself for total destruction. It was confusing and hard for the disciples and the people who had to watch it. It invigorates and warms our hearts with grace, this sacrifice. But complacency, it does not create. God has set us apart with His ransom. Jesus has given His life, for our salvation, and now we live in a New Covenant. We can offer grace and forgiveness at times when we could not see it without Him. There are definitely still times we need to send some stuff, that which leaves us complacent, to the trash heap – things and relationships that lead us away from Him – but we see it with a new mind. The mind of Christ.

And so we keep studying, we keep opening the Word to understand, when it feels dark and confusing. This new covenant calls us to go and Live. Read John 17:15-17:

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,that they also may be sanctified in truth.

We are different than the Israelites. We are called to go fully and unabashedly into the world and to do it with Bibles open. We give Jesus our all, because He gave us every single bit of Himself.

All in, girls. Lift high the Ransom for all people. Share the message that destruction may last for a night, but resurrection comes in a sweet, sweet Savior.



Let’s converse freely. This is a difficult topic. Please share any questions or thoughts you have about today’s study.


*The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia Publishing House


The High Price of Ransom


Day 3 – The high price of ransom

What do you know of the Old Testament stories of the Red Sea, of Moses, of the original Passover lambs and doorposts, or of the Hebrew slaves ransomed?

Take a moment to jot down or think through words and pieces of the events you remember of what we call The Exodus. Feel free to quickly skim the first 14 chapters of the book of Exodus to jog your memory or to learn something new! This is an open book test. 😉

(Just joking. There are no tests in Bible study. I promise!)

What did God bring the Israelites out of in The Exodus? Slavery. Yes. Hard slavery, ever increasing oppression, task masters, a life of clay with no straw and drown baby boys. Can you imagine?

God references His work to free His people from Egypt’s bonds in Isaiah 43:3-4. Let’s read that.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.

God is willing to give what is most valuable to Him to ransom His children – namely, people.

This concept may be more than a little disturbing for us, God giving some people in exchange for others. To understand it better, we need to open our Bibles and return to the end of the Exodus, to the crossing of the Red Sea into the land of promise, the land of freedom. Please read Exodus 14:19-31. For the sake of space here, I will only highlight Exodus 14:18-20, 23-24, and verse 30 below:

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic…

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

It should be hard to listen to the loss of the Egyptians. I don’t think we were designed to be ok with people dying. We were made for life. Sin brought death into the world. We were made in the image of God, to have compassion and mercy for every life. We were also made to hold our heads high and that means not sticking them in the sand. Matthew Henry reminds us in his commentary –

“God has purchased them dearly.”

The salvation of the people of Israel, God’s chosen ones, those people who were to bring the knowledge of Salvation to the rest of the world, was not a simple commercial transaction. Giving people in exchange for other people – let us not assume that this was something easy or weightless to God. He gave dearly to ransom them from the hands of those who were destroying them.

When people lose their lives for any reason, God cares.

He cares for the murdered child, he cares for the aborted baby, he cares for the soldier. He cares.

I’m not entirely convinced that there weren’t Egyptians turning to the Lord like mad under the weight of the closing waters of the Red Sea. They had seen His work, they had seen the miracles and plagues and the faithfulness of this unknown God. How many of them turned to Him, we do not know.

But in this instance, a ransom had to be given. It’s hard. God came down as a pillar of fire, a cloud of darkness to stand between His people and the evil that would overtake them. He is not messing around when it comes to His children. Death is our earthly reality, yes, but don’t be mistaken-

He is willing to let hard stuff happen for us to come to Him.

That doesn’t mean that the hard stuff is a flashing neon sign of someone or something’s lack of faith. That’s silly and it’s petty and it is not at all Biblical. Faithfulness does not mean good will come to you, and unfaithfulness does not always bring on calamity. It does mean there are casualties in this war against the devil, sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s our children, sometimes it’s jobs or homes or happiness.

And the battle is the Lord’s. He is fighting.

Here is the hope: He has won.

Revelation 5:9-10 tells us that Jesus came down, fought the fight and won. The victory is ours for eternity.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Today we learn that ransoming comes with a price. This pilgrimage is hard. This journey is full of boundless love and joy, but also pain and struggle. Sometimes we need to get to the other side of the Sea and thank God for something He’s doing that we don’t quite understand, to lay it into His hands, to weep over those lost, and praise Him for eternal life in Jesus, offered free for every one of us both left standing and drown underwater.

He is working, ransoming, redeeming, and saving souls every where, every day. Rest in Him.




Take a moment to work on memorizing the Heart verse for the week. Write it out, stick it up somewhere.

Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.  (Isaiah 43:4)

Who are you praying for, that they would come to God, whether through joy or struggle? (You can use a name or vague description of the situation, however you are most comfortable for privacy sake.)


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