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Chapter 13On April 4, 2010, a 300,000 ton oil tanker carrying crude oil, worth $170 million, from Iraq en route to Louisiana was hijacked in the Indian Ocean about 690 miles north of the Somali coast. Somali pirates held the tanker and the 24 crewmen hostage for 217 days while release terms were negotiated. The pirates initially demanded $20 million for the release, but settled for about $9 million. On November 6, 2010, the tanker and crew were released after the payment had been airdropped. The cargo and crew were intact and unharmed.
Five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos were captive for about seven months. The price, or the cost, of their freedom was about $9 million. We typically refer to that price as the ransom. If we talk about a ransom today, we usually think of it as the price paid to release hostages or prisoners of war. In books and movies we are used to phrases such as, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists, hijackers, kidnappers, etc.” The reality is quite different and sometimes such ransoms are paid.
The ransom of hostages is an example of an illegal cause of ransom and one where we typically view the victims as innocents being used as pawns. Biblical law speaks of other types of legal ransom. In the Bible, the ransom is a redemption price that is paid in order to free a captive slave or to deliver a convicted lawbreaker from a stricter penalty of sin. In some capital cases it was possible to ransom the guilty from the death penalty (Exodus 21:30). The ransom applied to various situations in the Old Testament, but the common link is that ransom refers to the redemption price that is paid.
Romans 6:23 states, “the wages of sin is death.” Our sins have broken God’s law and received a death sentence penalty. We live and breathe with condemnation over us (John 3:36). Further, we live in what Jesus described as slavery to sin. “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). We are born into bondage to sin and owe a debt we must pay with our lives in death.
God has provided for release from bondage and canceling the condemnation against us. The terms are non-negotiable. The price of redemption could only be paid in one way and only one price was acceptable.
The Old Testament law taught the necessity of a blood sacrifice to forgive sins, “and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The Old Testament law had a system of offerings and sacrifices for the purging of sins. But, the writer of Hebrews recognized that system was only a shadow of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1-4). The repetitive cycle of sacrifices for sins required by the law shows that those same sacrifices didn’t actually pay for sins. The blood of animals is insufficient to pay for the sins of people (Hebrews 10:4).
If we are talking about our own bank accounts, $9 million is a lot of money, and maybe more than most of us can imagine. If we are talking about the wealth of a nation or the wealth of the entire world, it is a trifling amount. If we piled up the wealth of the world to pay the ransom for our soul, it would not be enough.
They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.
– Psalm 49:6-10
The psalmist wrote of the fact that riches cannot ransom a soul from the grave. Many have confidence in their riches (Psalm 49:11), but fail to understand that death is a boundary their money cannot cross (Psalm 49:17). They will live in luxury, but die just like a beast in the field. This is the ultimate foolishness (Psalm 49:12-14). The psalmist would point us to true wisdom that is hope in God who “will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Psalm 49:15).
So what is the acceptable ransom price and to whom is it paid? The writer of Hebrews showed the blood of animals was not enough, but he also wrote that blood was the “shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). The price is blood, but not that of animals. The only blood price accepted is the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14). Jesus testified before his death, he had come “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Peter later wrote of redemption that it did not come through things like “silver and gold,” but “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The cost of redemption was the blood of the sinless Son of God.
We are left with the question: Who received the ransom payment? Some think Satan had to paid. Satan, or the Devil, and his army of pirate demons do participate in the captivity of human beings. He roams freely throughout the world, terrorizing and deceiving the nations to enslave them and blind them to the glorious freedom in Jesus Christ through his blood (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:26).
God does not negotiate with terrorist hijackers. Jesus Christ came to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan was not paid. He will be judged (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10).
It is not Satan’s wrath we most need delivered from. We need delivered from the wrath of God who can condemn us eternally to the lake of fire (Matthew 10:28; Romans 2:2; Revelation 14:7). It is God we have sinned against and fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). Christ paid the ransom price of his own blood for the redemption of all who believe in him to God (Ephesians 5:1; Hebrews 9:14). Jesus testified that he willingly paid this price (John 10:18).
217 days is a long time to be every moment in danger of dying, hoping the hijackers demands will be met. A swat team might be sent to free the captives, but some could also die in the crossfire. Instead, $9 million was airdropped and the ship was on its way with all on board accounted for. We are born into sin and captivity. We live every moment of our lives under condemnation and in danger of dying in that condemnation, which puts us into eternal punishment for our sins. Eternity is infinitely longer than 217 days without any hope or possibility of deliverance. All our money, or all the money in the world, cannot save us. The price is infinitely higher than that, but Jesus Christ came into the world and died to pay that price no one else could. Our redemption is secured through faith in him apart from any contribution of our own.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.