I am vulnerable before I have my first coffee of the day.
So, on a day earlier this week, against my will, some bad experiences on a past job began to replay in my brain in 3D Imax. After that annoying video concluded, I was reminded that the kinds of truths I describe in this meditation do not give an instant wiping clean of anything that torments us in our history. No, as is true of all scripture, these are truths that we need to keep being reminded of and re-applying.
A key passage that shows how God redeems our pasts for his glory is Ephesians 5:15-16. I will use the KJV version:
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Now, some modern translations will say something like “making the best use of the time” instead of “redeeming the time”. But let’s look at the Greek word in the original text. It’s exagarazo, which means making a payment to buy at the marketplace. The same Greek word is used in Galatians 3:13 (“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law”) and Galatians 4:5 (“so that He might redeem those who were under the Law”). In both these verses you see Christ making a payment at the cross to buy us out from being cursed.
Since Paul tells us how evil the days are, we need to “buy back” our time to be able to enjoy how today is a gift. But because we can be tormented by our history, we need to “buy back” how we look at our pasts, too. There is a great promise in the Old Testament that we can claim to help us redeem our pasts. Joel 2:25 says “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.”
Yes, our past is history, yet God restores it for his own glory. Just as Christ bought us back from slavery to sin, he can “buy back” what was negative in our past. When we were pushed around and beaten up and sinned against; when we sinned without even realizing it was sin; and even when we willfully disobeyed the Lord—-all bought back!
In the buyback, the power of the cross is central. Now that we have been adopted in to become part of God’s family and to be part of his plan, the power of the Spirit reshapes how we look at our history. What seemed devastating or hopeless at the time it happened we now see as part of God’s sovereign working to make us exactly who he needs us to be to experience today as his gift.