Sundays – First Service 8:45a | Formation Hour 10:10a | Second Service 11:15a


Harrowing of Hell

Today’s Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:49-72, 49; Genesis 37:25-36; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Mark 1:29-45

Today’s Writer: Morris Kizer

Verse 15 of Psalms 49 (one of the readings for today) says, “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”* Two questions immediately come to mind. The first is, what is the power of Sheol? The second is, how is it that God will ransom us?

Sheol is mentioned not less than 63 times in the Old Testament. It has been described as a bleak pit, a place associated with darkness, the realm of death, a place of destruction, and an abyss. Needless to say, it is a place where none of us ever want to be, not even for a minute.

The significance of verse 15 of Psalms 49 is more clearly understood and appreciated when it is read in conjunction with verses 7 through 9 of Psalms 49, which say:

“Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom for their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.”

What is the psalmist saying? Plainly that we cannot pay the price to save ourselves from the pit, and no person can ransom another.

What exactly is a ransom? There are several definitions, but the one which seems most appropriate as we move toward Good Friday and Easter is, the payment required for the release of a prisoner or a slave.

A normal response is “Wait, what you are talking about? I’m not a slave!” Paul clearly addresses this in Romans 6 and 7, where he described a carnal unspiritual person as a slave to sin, because sin is what a carnal unspiritual person obeys. The slavery to sin is what all of us desperately need to be ransomed from. But how can it ever happen?

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said “the the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Acknowledging this, Peter said “you were ransomed from the futile ways . . . not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

We can’t pay this ransom for ourselves, and no other person can pay it for us. Through this priceless ransom paid by the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

What is our response? No doubt there are many, but one must be that which is expressed in the old hymn:

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven,
To His feet your tribute bring.
RANSOMED, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing.
Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

*Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.