When God gave His law to Israel, one of the concepts set up was that of the kinsman redeemer. When land or even people were sold, provision was made for buying them back. If a man could not redeem himself or his own land, his kin was allowed to (Leviticus 25:25, 47-49). It was a picture of Jesus Christ paying the price to buy back mankind out of sin with His blood.
The law established another responsibility for relatives. When someone was murdered, it was the duty of the avenger of blood to bring justice to the murderer. Provision was made for a trial, but it was the avenger of blood who pursued the killer and executed judgement when guilt was declared (Numbers 35:15-19).
In taking Bible classes, my teachers made sure to point out and emphasize that the word translated ‘avenger of blood’ was the same word, ‘gâ-al’, as was translated ‘kinsman redeemer’ elsewhere.
How odd, I thought. A redeemer and an avenger seem so opposite. One rescues and the other chases down a killer and exacts vengeance. But they are really just different functions of the same role. How does that work and what is its significance?
It turns out this is another picture of Jesus Christ.
The only one with the right to take vengeance was the one with the right to redeem.
There is only one name under heaven by which we may be saved. Jesus Christ is the only qualified and able redeemer. As the only one with the right to redeem, He is also the only one with the right to take vengeance. As Paul says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
When we try to avenge ourselves, we are trying to usurp a prerogative of God. Can we redeem ourselves? No. We are all flawed sinners and cannot measure up to God’s holiness. It is only through the Son of God we can be saved and forgiven. We are not our own redeemers; neither can we be our own avengers. Our place is call to the LORD when oppressed. He will take care of it.
On the other hand, as the redeemer Jesus Christ is also the avenger. He is showing great patience, giving many chances for people to turn away from evil and to Him, but time is limited. One day it will be too late. This is one of the major themes in the book of Revelation: the wrath of God. Yes, it is brought about by wickedness and rebellion and refusal to turn to God (Revelation 9:20-21), but another facet is it is poured out on those who are oppressing and killing those belonging to the redeemer (Revelation 16:4-6).
Redemption has come and retribution is coming. Be ready and be patient.