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Prisoners of Hope
I’ve been looking lately at Scriptures that speak to the coming Messiah and the gospel message, and when I read the Scripture that I will be sharing today, it has the fullness of the gospel within it, but not exactly in a way that it would normally be brought forth.
So, that’s why I’d like to spend our time together and pull out what I consider to be some real gold.
It is found in the book of Zechariah. And within the context of our passage, it speaks of the coming Messiah, He who would be King, and what a great and glorious day that will be, but it’s not as the children of Israel would like to have seen.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey … He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.’” (Zechariah 9:9-10 NKJV)
Here they are told to rejoice because the Messiah King is coming, and they’ll be free from those who have oppressed them. But He’s not coming as they expect. He’s not riding on a war horse, but rather He’s coming in humility riding on a donkey, actually a colt of a donkey.
And then we get to our verse which speaks to exactly what the Messiah will do, and it is literally the gospel message personified.
“Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” (Zechariah 9:11-12 NKJV)
And so, what we are introduce to in our passage is the condition of humanity, and that is humanity is fallen, and trapped in a prison and needs deliverance.
Let’s begin by looking at humanity’s present condition as outlined in our verse.
Humanity’s Present Condition
“I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” (Zechariah 9:11b NKJV)
The gospel, that is, the good news of Jesus Christ always begins by letting us know the true condition of humanity, and that is, “fallen.”
It began with Adam and Eve when they gave into Satan’s temptation and ate of the tree of good and evil, directly disobeying God. And this brought sin into the DNA of humanity, where everyone is born into sin.
This was brought out by Kind David has he confessed his sinfulness to the Lord in Psalm 51. He said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5 NKJV)
And then the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 NKJV)
What I found interesting in our passage in Zechariah is how this is bought out. He calls humanity’s present condition as a pit where there is no water.
Now, the word pit, is a hole that has been dug, and it is mainly used in relationship to a cistern, which is a well for collecting and holding water in the desert. And while it was meant to be life giving, in this instance it wasn’t because it is without water, that is, it is without life.
How appropriate this is in describing the world we live in and the condition of humanity. Back in the beginning, Adam had dominion over the earth, as the Lord said “Be fruitful and multiply … (and) have dominion over … every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NKJV)
Now, however, we live in a world of disease and death, and that’s because of Adam and Eve’s sin, where we are now held captive to both sin and death, and thus Satan.
And so, through Zechariah the Lord describes us living in a pit, a hole we dug trying to find life, but instead it is a pit that sucks us in and takes life away.
But God provides a way out, a way of escape, as brought out in this beautiful picture found in Psalm 40. Here King David said, “He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” (Psalm 40:2 NKJV)
Here, David calls this a horrible pit, and that’s because it is filled with “miry clay.” The word “miry,” basically means that which is left behind, or the “dregs.” And the word clay comes from the root word meaning, “sticky.”
So, let’s go back and look at this pit. Remember, it is a word commonly used for cisterns, that is, a place where water is collected. But, in the desert where it is hot, the water soon begins to be not only used, but it also begins to evaporate, and soon what’s left on the bottom is this miry clay, or the sticky dregs of what’s left. Some refer this to yucky mud.
We see such a prison within the city of Jerusalem during the time of Jeremiah when King Zedekiah allowed the princes to imprison Jeremiah. Look at the description given.
“And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.” (Jeremiah 38:6b NKJV)
That’s the condition and promises of this world. It entices us to believe what we look at last week as mirages, but only to find them empty and unable to deliver what has been promised. They evaporate and leave behind miry clay that holds us, entraps us, to where we find ourselves stuck in a dungeon with no life to look forward to.
But, as I said, God provides a way out, as He lifts us out of the pit and sets our lives upon the Rock.
And this brings us to the second part of the gospel message.
Or we could say, humanity’s deliverance. Now, Zechariah brings out two aspects or the means to our deliverance.
God Is the Author
“I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” (Zechariah 9:11b NKJV)
We see the same thing mentioned by King David as well when he said that that it was God who brought his life from out of the pit of miry clay.
To the children of Israel, the Lord said, “‘Fear not … I will help you,’ says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:14 NKJV)
But the Lord also tells us how this deliverance will be accomplished.
Redemption Through the Blood
“Because of the blood of your covenant.” (Zechariah 9:11a NKJV)
In God’s Law, it gives us the way by which forgiveness is accomplished.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV)
And then the writer of Hebrews, quoting this law of the blood sacrifice said that it was Christ who through the blood of His sacrifice put away our sin saying that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.
The Apostle Paul said, “He (God the Father) has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Jesus), in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV)
And so, it is the Lord God, who lifts us up from out of the pit of miry clay, setting our feet upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, delivering us from the power of darkness and into the light and life of His love.
Therefore, no one need to remain stuck in the muck and mire of this world any longer. Or as Jesus so aptly put it, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
Now all of this brings us to the main theme of today’s message and that is for all of us who have been redeemed, the Lord calls us
Prisoners of Hope
Now, we come back to the gospel and the elements contained within. And the first thing that becomes evident is that without Christ’s redemption we would still be, if I could, prisoners of despair and death.
Until a person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ, they are prisoners to sin. In other words, sin reigns over them thus making them its prisoner or slave. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NKJV)
And then as prisoners of sin, because we have failed to believe in Jesus, we have been condemned. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18 NKJV)
But this isn’t the end, there is hope, there is deliverance. Notice again what it says in Zechariah 9
“I will set your prisoners free … I will restore double to you.” (Zechariah 9:11-12 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul states it this way.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 NKJV)
And in Galatians 5:1, Paul tells us to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1 NKJV)
Now, as prisoners of hope there are three things that I’d like to share with you, and that is the object, foundation, and message of our hope?
Object of Our Hope – Eternal Life in Heaven
The writer of Hebrews, in Chapter 11 said that Abraham was able to obey God and move forward, not knowing where he was going, and dwelt in a foreign land because by faith he waited for the city whose foundation, that is whose builder and maker is God, that is, he was waiting for an eternity in heaven (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Jesus gives us that same hope saying, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 NKJV)
And so, the object of our hope that gets us through this sin ladened world, and a world that is diametrically opposed to us is an eternity in heaven with the Lord God.
To Titus, Paul starts us down the road of hope saying, “Having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7 NKJV)
And then to the Church of Colossae Paul said, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.” (Colossians 1:3-4 NKJV)
The question is why, which is found in the object of our hope as Paul goes on to say in the very next verse saying, “Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:5a NKJV)
Therefore, the object of our hope that gets us through even in the hardest of times is our hope of eternal life in heaven with our Lord.
Foundation of Our Hope – Jesus Christ
Talking about having a sure foundation the Lord said that He would lay it down for whoever would believe.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.’” (Isaiah 28:16 NKJV)
Now, Jesus talked about Himself as that sure foundation for all who believe.
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV)
And the Apostle Paul says in speaking about the good news of Jesus Christ, that he was laying a foundation that no one, or nothing else could take the place of.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. (1 Corinthians 3:10 NKJV)
And then in the very next verse he defined that foundation as no one less than Jesus Christ.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV)
Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can lay the foundation that we can truly place the fullness of our hope upon, and that is the hope we have not only for this life but eternal life as well, that, along with the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
With Paul making this statement on how he laid a sure foundation through his witness of Jesus Christ leads me to the last point.
Message of Our Hope – The Gospel
The gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ is filled with the knowledge and love of God towards us, but it is also full of hope.
The Apostle Paul said how that God desires to present us holy and blameless in His sight telling us of our need to continue steadfastly in the faith being firmly grounded in “the hope of the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23 NKJV)
The Apostle Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 NKJV)
And so, the gospel message of Jesus Christ reveals to us the great and living hope that is ours through faith in Jesus’s death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
The gospel, therefore, is filled with hope, and is designed to not only give us hope, but inspire us with hope.
Therefore, we are held captive, not out of that which we have done, but because of our hope in Jesus as that place of refuge, that strong fortress. Therefore, it is to Jesus that we run in our time of need to find that hope to see us through our existence here on earth until that day that we are before Him in heaven.
It is to Jesus that we run, and He will pull us out of the waterless pit, filled with the miry clay of this world and into the glorious light of His everlasting love.
And this is where we move back to what we talked about at the start of the year, and that is how the Cities of Refuge resemble and speak of Jesus as our place of refuge.
And what we saw by the names, and the order of these names, is the redemption He provides. And what we see is how Jesus is the holy one who redeems us by taking upon Himself the sins of the world so that we can now have fellowship with God. But even more than that, He is our stronghold, our strong tower in time of need, and how not only is He above the fray, but has lifted above the fray as well so that whoever believes in Him will have the joy of eternal life.
Therefore, Jesus came to lift us out of the pit of despair, out of the muck and mire of this world in which most people are being held captive by, and instead we can be held captive by the hope of Jesus Christ, who through His death and resurrection can lift us up and make us citizens of heaven itself.
That is why every believer in Jesus Christ is a Prisoner of Hope.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study