The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
and the unfaithful for the upright.
There is a sense in which the wicked receive the punishment that was to have been visited on others, including the righteous. Thus, Judah was spared when Sennacherib was moved by God to attack the Egyptians rather than his covenant people. And God could say,
“For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:3, 4).
One person cannot pay for the life of another, especially the life of a sinner for one who is righteous. But this type of language expresses the justice of God in which we often see the wicked meeting destruction of some sort and the righteous being spared. Thus comes the expression, “There but by the grace of God go I.” And so will we say when the Day of Judgment comes and we are spared the judgment of God.
All the more then, ought we to tremble as we contemplate the real ransom made for us. For it was not by the substitute of the wicked that the righteous were ransomed; rather, it was by the substitute of the Righteous One that we the wicked were ransomed. Christ ought to have been spared the cross and we serve as his ransom. That would have been just.
What mysterious mercy is this that brought forth a profound justice in order to ransom wicked people?
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
14 May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”
17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.