“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.” – Isaiah 43:3 (ESV)
Why did God have to give up Egypt, Cush, and Seba as a ransom?
(a) He had no other choice
(b) Times were tough
(c) His back was up against the wall
The answer is (d) Justice.
God acted upon His own system of justice. Neither Egypt nor any other nation of the world had the right to enslave Israel.
Justice has its origin, as does every other virtue, in God. His first display of justice was in the Garden of Eden. There man and woman exchanged trusting in God at His word for trusting the serpent at his. In doing so they forfeited their dominion of the garden to the serpent.
One of the primary principles of man’s relationship with God revolves around decisions. Man was given the freedom to choose, but not the freedom to choose his consequences. As it has been said,
“You can choose your choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.”
Living with these consequences can often be difficult.
According to Romans 6:16, “to whomever one gives himself over to obey, to him he is a slave.” Since slaves cannot own property, the garden that was once man’s was given to Satan. This principle has been repeated and reaffirmed ever since. Think of any addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, or immorality. It is slavery. Every slave ultimately longs for freedom. He or she must escape or be delivered in order to receive it. The law only provides two ways to receive freedom: through being purchased out of slavery, or being granted it by an act of mercy. God would later choose both.
From the time of the fall, Satan was granted a great degree of authority over man and the earth. Adam and Eve were the federal representatives of all mankind and Satan became the ruler of this present age. Whether we recognize it or not, all mankind fell under his rhythm and became slaves to sin in various degrees. Death was the final verdict for all.
Mankind’s Story Continues
Even though the effect of man’s sin and selfishness became widespread and often disastrous, the story of mankind does not end there.
Centuries later the descendants of Adam and Eve through their son Seth became the people of Israel. Eventually, they became slaves in Egypt.
In order to liberate Israel, God literally had to extract one nation out of another (Deuteronomy 4:34). Because God is just, He did not strong arm the Egyptians into freeing the Hebrews (though He could have). He purchased them instead. He used three nations to purchase one. Egypt, Cush, and Seba became the ransom price for Israel’s freedom.
Is that just? To whom did he pay the price?
Egypt was a pagan nation that had given itself over to idolatry and demonic worship. When God delivered the 10 plagues to Pharaoh, it was directed against the gods of Egypt. Satan was their unseen god behind the scenes. The 10 plagues were in effect targeted at Satan. If the pharaoh had conceded at any one of those plagues, Egypt could have been spared and the Hebrews freed. God literally turned Egypt over to the satanic forces they worshiped. It did not fare well for them. It never does.
Israel was a nation of uneducated, impoverished slaves with no market value; that is, unless you are God who sees beyond the stars and into the realm of the impossible. He has never made a wrong decision.
By now you should be seeing yourself in this story.
God took three powerful, developed nations and exchanged them as a ransom for Israel. He had the legal authority to do so because of another principle that came into play. In God’s justice system, He has a measurement that He alone knows. The prophets called it the ‘full measure,’ or the ‘cup of His wrath.’ When that cup is full, life changes for that individual or nation. The privileges of authority and leadership come to an end. Because of Egypt’s incessant cruelty to the Hebrews for centuries, God exchanged their history for Israel’s future.
Through one nation He would write His redemption story. Through Israel’s conquests and failures, God would reveal His promises and precepts. Through triumph and tragedy, He would be proven faithful.
When He looked at Israel, He saw all mankind – none righteous, none holy, none worthy of His attention, but He paid the price for them nevertheless. The next verse of Isaiah tells us why.
“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 (ESV)
The Moral of the Story
Another general principle of human life is that no one exchanges something of high value for something of little value. In Israel’s case God chose a slave nation to bring many sons to glory, not just the nation of Israel. When Jesus (Yeshua) gave His life, it was in exchange for the lives of any who would believe in Him – for all of time.
When you exchange your life for His, He not only frees you from spiritual slavery to a cruel taskmaster, He transforms your nature, reveals His love and eternal value and instills it in you.
Along with the redeemed of Israel, you become a participant in God’s eternal redemption story.
The lesson here is to put yourself in the story. If you are a believer in Jesus, the Messiah, read the scriptures with that in mind. When you do though, be sure not to shove the Jews and Israel aside, for it was to them whom it was first written: “For salvation is from the Jews” and the Gospel continues to be to “the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentile].” – John 4:22, Romans 1:16 (ESV)
When believing Jews and Gentile join together for one purpose, as one people, their influence and impact on the world will be beyond measure. So far, it has yet to be seen in its full measure. God still waits for the generation to arise that will carry that banner. You can choose to belong to that generation.