Ransom Captive Israel | December 2021 Tabletalk

The December 2021 issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional) has a Christmas theme – “The Theology of Christmas Hymns.” The featured articles all focus on a particular Advent hymn – eleven of them in total. These are the “classic” Christmas songs familiar to us, but the writers bring out the profound theology behind the hymns, explaining them in the light of the Scriptures and the historic faith of the Christian church.

One that I particularly enjoyed reading this past Sunday was “Ransom Captive Israel” by Dan Forrest. You may recognize that name from certain other songs and arrangements, as Forrest is a noted composer and arranger of choral as well as instrumental and orchestral pieces. As you may guess, this writer explains the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Below is a portion of Forrest’s reflections on this wonderful Christmas hymn. You will benefit from reading the complete article as well as the others at the Tabletalk website.

For hundreds of years, this hymn was sung as plainchant, meaning unison melody and not all the “parts” or harmonization that were added to melodies in “hymnal” style in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Perhaps the stark clarity of these rising and falling lines more freely and evocatively expresses the longing of the text and the Advent season itself.

Unlike Israel, though, we have the glorious hope of having seen the first advent of our Lord. Christ is not only transcendent beyond the heavens, coequal and coeternal with the Father, but also (praise be to God) immanent—with us. The Word was incarnate—“made flesh”—dwelling among us, robed with humanity, experiencing human life with its joys, its necessities, its labors, its frustrations, and even its sorrows so that Jesus could understand our weakness, our temptation, and our suffering. Because of this wonder, we have seen His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Only a prophet like Moses saw God’s glory, and his face shone with the brilliance of the experience, yet Christ’s disciples lived, breathed, ate, and walked with this visible “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). We who did not have the privilege of hearing, seeing, and touching the living Word (1 John 1:1–3) nevertheless have the record of those who did, and like Moses, our faces shine with the unveiled glory of the Lord through the work of the Spirit in us (2 Cor. 3). Even Peter, who personally heard the voice of the Father proclaiming His love for the Son, could say (to you and me) that we have “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” in the written Word (2 Peter 1:16–21).

And we, followers of the Word incarnate and the written Word, have seen the atonement. Christ’s death has indeed ransomed us, as the hymn pleads, from the captivity and penalty of our sin, and His resurrection has defeated death and raised us to new resurrection life. We mourn the brokenness of this fallen world, but not as those who have no hope. And even in the Advent season, as we embrace the waiting and longing, we rejoice in glorious hope of our Immanuel who has come and will come again.

Source: Ransom Captive Israel | Tabletalk

Published in: on December 14, 2021 at 9:24 PM  Leave a Comment