By: Rev. Eric Hancox, Covenant of Grace in Winston Salem, NC
As I’ve been reading and praying lately, a particular theme for which we ought to give thanks has repeatedly come before me in the Word – namely, the fact that Christ has come to set captives free. To those who are born in sin and continually bound by it all their days, this comes as very good news indeed, and it should drive us, once and again, to both seek His help and give Him thanks.
Psalm 107 is filled with images that picture for us the glorious work of Christ on behalf of His people. To those who wander through this desert world, He provides an everlasting home, satisfying the longing soul, and filling the hungry soul with good things (cf. Ps 107:4-9). To those who have sinned their way into a state of misery, so that they sit under heavy affliction and waste away, He sends forth His Word and heals them (cf. Ps 107:17-22). To those who are tossed about with worldly concerns as a ship at sea, drained of courage and lacking wisdom, He comes and calms the storm, stilling the waves and bringing His own safely to shore (cf. Ps 107:23-32). On those who find this world a barren and hopeless place, He pours out abundant blessings – casting down the haughty and lifting the lowly (cf. Ps. 107:33-42). And, in the midst of all this, we’re told, for those who are fast bound by sin, as by strong bars and shackles, He bursts their bonds apart, shatters doors of bronze, and cuts in pieces bars of iron (cf. Ps 107:10-16). He sees us in a sinful state, bound over by our own wicked wills to reject what is good and pursue what is evil and destructive, and He has compassion. He sees the believer, still wrestling with indwelling sin and attempting to throw off its chains, and He takes pity. He comes, a mighty Savior, and He breaks apart the chains of sin that secure us. He comes, like Samson, to the city gate and rips from the ground that which held us captive. He sets us free from sin’s binding power – free to sin no more and to serve the Lord with gladness.
Having read and pondered this, I was pondering a separate theme when I turned to Isaiah 42, and there again, I was confronted with Christ, the chain-breaker. Having spoken in verse 1 of His Son as His Elect One, mightily anointed with the Spirit, the Father goes on to describe the character and ministry of Christ. As He proceeds to address the Son directly, the Father says, among other things, that He has sent His Son “to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isa 42:7). This is set in contrast with all the false gods people invent for themselves, which have no real existence and can do nothing at all to help or to hinder. Over-against all such inventions of man’s imagination, the Lord, through His Son, is able to free those who sit in the darkness of sin’s dungeon, wasting away under its harsh oppression. He is able to liberate those who have been ensnared by the devil, having been captured by him to do his will (cf. 2 Tim 2:26). He is able to bind Satan, called the “strong man,” and plunder his house, freeing those who had been bound by him (cf. Matt 12:29). He looks upon wretched and miserable creatures, shackled and weighed down by sin, and His heart goes out to them. He finds a believer who has foolishly sought to wrap himself about again with the very irons Christ came to destroy, and He has mercy. With unmatched might, He bends the bars that restrain us so that we can walk free. He snaps the cuffs that hold us, giving us renewed freedom in the way of the Lord.
This indeed is very good news and a reason to seek the Lord in every temptation. No matter what great sin you may be wrestling with, believer – no matter how heavily it presses upon you, no matter how strong its hold on you may be – Christ is greater still. He is able not only to forgive you for the guilt of sins already committed but to release you from the power of sin you feel drawn to yet commit. No chain of temptation, no weight of sin, is more than Christ can handle. As our sovereign, almighty Lord, He is able, and as a merciful Redeemer, He is willing to loose you from the dark dungeon or well-forged chain and to lead you along in the paths of righteousness. Therefore, when you are drawn to do that which you know displeases your God, call upon Christ who came to free the captives, and go forward, in the freedom of His grace and strength of His might, to serve the Lord. And, as you do so, remember His own recurring instruction to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” (1 Chron 16:34; Ps 118:1, 29; 136:1). Give thanks to Him this Thanksgiving Day. Give thanks to Him every day and always. “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron” (Ps 107:14-16).
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!