“O Come, O Come Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
Do you recognize the words to this popular Christmas song? Each year, I sing this song with so much joy and anticipation. The theme of redemption is what makes it one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. Unlike some of our modern holiday songs, this one is especially biblical. Among the many attributes of the Messiah, this song mentions one of His often forgotten roles: the ransom of Israel.
Luke 1:68 teaches that the “God of Israel” has “visited and provided redemption for His people.” Luke was not the first biblical author to use this idea. Here are a few more examples from the prophets:
Jeremiah 23:5-6 describes a “Righteous Branch of David,” a clear reference to the Messiah. Verse 6 teaches, “In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely.” This is a prophecy that will be fulfilled in the future, when Jesus is on His throne in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom. Jeremiah, along with many of the prophets, recognizes that the Messiah will save Israel.
Isaiah 11:12 teaches that the “root of Jesse” (a reference to the Messiah) will “gather the dispersed of Israel; He will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” In addition to spiritual restoration, the Messiah is also responsible for physically restoring the Jewish people to their land, Israel.
Spiritual and physical restoration are closely connected throughout the descriptions of the Messiah. The Prophet Ezekiel describes it like this:
“For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:24-26).
Though so much more could be said of the Messiah’s role in the Bible, it is clear that the Messiah has a PRESENT and FUTURE role to fulfill with both the House of Israel and the Nations.
Hanukkah and Christmas season are upon us. It is with joy and hopeful anticipation that we can all sing, “O come, O come Immanuel.” Immanuel has unfinished business to carry out.
This season, will you join us as we sing and pray for Immanuel to return and “ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile”?