Truth, Understanding, Insight

Prisoners & the joy of release

12th April 2014, hej


The Bible uses powerful word pictures, and the one of the prisoner waiting for release is of great importance for our lives. At the time of Passover it is worthwhile considering the prisoner with the idea of the joy of freedom.

The prisoner is featured in one of the most powerful passages in Isaiah. Isaiah speaks of Messiah God's servant, who will come as a light to the Gentiles,

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street...he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.
Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. (Isaiah 42:1-7)

The Servant who brings Light to the Gentiles would open the eyes of the blind and bring the prisoners who sit in darkness out of prison. Indeed it was literal, but the thing the blind and those in the dark of the prison have in common, is lack of sight. The words here are a metaphor for spiritual understanding or as we would speak of “enlightenment” which is also a metaphor for knowledge. This is about everyone, this is about us!

Prisons now may have light, but in the past they were dark, with any hole for light smaller than a person might escape through. The image we might have in our mind of a prisoner is of a thin, unkept, long haired person marking days on the wall waiting for release.

The point about the above passage is that the prisoners and those blinded by darkness are made to see and brought out. They are finally brought out of the prison when when the Messiah has set judgement in the earth.

And he said, It is a light thing that thou should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (Isaiah 49:6-13)

Thus we see that all prisoners are finally released at the day of salvation, when they shall be led to Zion and inherit the desolate heritages.

Again Zechariah makes this point that the prisoners are released with specific events.

And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zechariah 9:10-11)

When war ceases and God's kingdom, his dominion, is set up from one end of the earth to the other, at that time all the prisoners are sent forth and made finally free.

In Messiah /Christ our eyes are indeed opened and we walk in his light and are led, yet in this life we are still in part prisoners - yet prisoners of hope.

Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee; (Zechariah 9:12)

Prisoners of hope know their day of release comes soon, when “King comes unto” them (Zech 9:9). The day of release has a place of release as King David points out.

But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the LORD hears the poor, and despises not his prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moves therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein. (Psalm 69:29-36)

Note how king David, wealthy and powerful, wrote that he was “poor and sorrowful”? How is it that David identified himself with God's 'prisoners'? Why is it that David speaks of God in the future saving Zion?

Then we see David speaks of “seed”, or the descendants of God's sevants. David sees the saving of Zion way in his future!!

Until we dwell in Zion when God builds it, we are poor and prisoners still.

Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; (Psalm 79:10-11)

Paul was speaking of the servant state when he calls himself the “Prisoner of the Lord” (Rom 16:7, Eph 3:1, 4:1, Col 4:10, 2 Tim 1:8, Phil) and speaks of his “fellowprisoners.” The state or being a prisoner is in some respects like that of being a bound slave.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant (slave, bondservant), is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant (slave, bondservant) (1Corinthians 7:22)
But now being made free from sin, and become servants (slave bondservant) to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Rom 6:22)

Thus this life, even the freedom of Christ, is facing to the end of Everlasting life. We must see ourselves as bound servants seeking that end of eternal life. For all our life we are bound and subject to death.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the slanderer; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

If we believe we are free now in this life, the chances are our path is not pleasing to God. He seeks his bound servants. He seeks those who know they are prisoners.

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. (Psalm 39:4-5)

In this context we can undertsand how Christ Y'shua's words require us now to soberly consider our state.

He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:2-10)

No matter how wealthy we are, we are dying creatures still subject to the curse of Eden. In death we can take nothing physical with us. Christ asks us now to be poor in spirit, to mourn and seek the kingdom of God.

But there is a great blessing of peace, happiness and joy there! We know our state now is the house of mourning, but we are not cast down and sad about it as we know we have a promsied and confirmed release from this state! Are we free and happy here now in prosperity? Yet if we look about at the ills of the earth and the prospect of death ahead, how can we rejoice inside?

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:17-18)

There is a great truth in that the bondservant-prisoners of the God of Israel are a happy joyful people waiting for a sure deliverance.

Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places. (Deuteronomy 33:29)

And again,

A Song of degrees. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. (Psa 128:1-2)

Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. (Psa 144:15)
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)

The irony is that those that are well off and think themselves free of God and collect this earth's wealth, (often by oppression of others) are of all the most miserable.

Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serveth him. (Malachi 3:15-17)

Happiness is a state of looking forward, of being helped through trial day by day by the Great Power of the Universe and of having hope for the set time of personal deliverance when God reigns in Zion!

Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looses the prisoners: The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieves the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turns upside down. The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD. (Psa 146:5-10)

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