But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
In Michigan we took our empty soda and beer bottles to the store to get back our ten-cent deposit. Technically, the store was redeeming the bottles and cans, buying them back for the redemption price of ten cents. Of course, we had to pay ten cents to take them out of the store, so we saw it as getting our money back – but that ruins the metaphor for talking about redemption: God is the store. We are the bottles. Someone has gained possession of the bottles and God has paid to get his bottles back.
When the prophet speaks, the people are in the hands of Babylon. God wants them back. He paid the price: he raised up Cyrus and his army to take down Babylon and release its captives. And for a people so long in Babylon they can’t imagine going home, God’s message was simple: “The price has been paid. There is nothing to fear. You are my possession now.”
When we hear the words of the prophet now we are mindful that we are in the hands of an enemy much greater than Babylon. Sin and death have invaded God’s good creation and exercise dominion over human life. But the message of God through the prophet remains the same: “The price has been paid. There is nothing to fear. You are my possession now.”