Psalm 146:7b-8 - The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
Being held captive or doing time as a prisoner in the world of the ancient Near East must have been a major bummer. Written records and law codes from Babylonia and Assyria indicate there could be harsh reprisal for those breaking certain laws, and the prospect for those breaking those laws was bleak.
The Assyrian empire, for instance, had earned quite the grisly reputation when it came to dealing with prisoners, especially foreign prisoners of war. Beheading, impaling, burning, severing, and gouging were acts routinely practiced on Assyrian rivals who didn't fall in battle. No doubt aware of their penchant for violence, the prophet Jonah, you may recall, went the other way when the Lord called him to deliver a message to the Assyrians. He booked a cruise to Tarshish when directed by God to preach to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.
And who could blame him?
No one wants to be in prison-or worse!
Yet, prisons aren't always four concrete walls and barred doors, are they? Sometimes they're cells of our own design-cages we don't even know we're in. For many, self reigns supreme where no attitude will do unless it starts with "Me first." For others, its materialism and the clever way we turn "getting ahead" into a lifetime obsession. Still others find their cells locked by addictions. Here, drugs, sex, and booze are the marquee players. But let's not forget those other habits that are just as toxic: backbiting, lying, gossiping, cheating, slandering, and more.
It looks like we're all prisoners to some degree.
The people of Israel knew what it was like to be held captive. Their time in Egypt toiling for the pharaohs was ingrained in their national consciousness. They'd felt the oppression of hostile nations like Assyria and Babylonia and other nearby neighbors as well. And they knew, from receiving God's continual reprimand at their idolatrous and apostate ways, that they were captive to the fiercest taskmaster of all: sin.
Their predicament isn't much different than ours, is it?
The sin that stains Israel's history black is the same sin that stains ours. The enemy we fight, the devil, would have us all enslaved to our iniquity, to the degrading passions of our flesh, to prisons of our own making. Without help from above, we'd neither recognize the state of our captivity nor find a way to escape. But God has done well on both counts: opening our eyes to our status as sinners and breaking the chains that bind us.
And in a final blow to the powers of darkness, God appoints His Son to deal the death blow to our oppressor, through His life, death, and resurrection.
"Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You broke the bonds that held us in our sin. You took our pain and misery and flung open the prison doors that held us captive. Thank You! In Your Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.