Last time, we saw the first picture of redemption in the wanderer rescued from sin and brought home to God through His grace. The second picture of redemption that Psalm 107 paints is that of the prisoner set free in verses 10–16. The portrait of the prisoner is drawn with a black and bleak backdrop. You and I are this prisoner by nature. Some of us are still in that prison, but some of us look back and see the darkness of the prison and the shattered chains lying on the floor of our former lives.
Verse 10 describes the human condition without Christ as one of darkness and in the shadowy realms of death. It is a hard life, a life of affliction and hardships in which there is no relief nor the sweet knowledge that these afflictions are conforming the prisoner to Christ (Heb. 12); rather, they are a direct consequence of sin. The prisoner is wrapped in iron wrist and ankle braces with heavy chains. Sin’s heavy presence drags humanity down. The world will tell you that the evolutionary process is making men and women better, but Scripture gives a helpful and honest assessment of sin’s effects. Have you come to see the bondage of sin for what it is? That is part of redemption—seeing what sin does. But it is also seeing what sin is, namely, rebellion against God. That is the assessment that the psalmist gives in verse 11. Naturally, we do not want to hear the Word of God. The prisoner is bound by his own fault because he refuses to hear and obey the Word of God. He thinks his own counsel is better than God’s. Are you living that way—a prisoner to your own faulty wisdom? Or do you know that the Word of God alone sets you free from bondage?
“The prisoner is in darkness and in chains because he refused to hear the Word of God”
The prisoner is in darkness and in chains because he refused to hear the Word of God and viewed His counsel with contempt. In many ways, this brings us back to Psalm 1 and the life of the wicked man who stands in the counsel of the ungodly. Internally, they know that their lives are not aligned with the Word of God. God brings the prisoner to the end of his own wisdom and self-sufficiency. This is part of the redemptive work of God, aimed to lead the prisoner to look outside of himself for help. That is the conclusion that the psalmist has reached, “There was none to help” (v. 12). It is from this point of helplessness that prison- ers begin to cry out. Are you at this point—realizing that help will come from no quarter but from above, from God Himself?
Here’s encouragement when you find yourself in that position: “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble.” The Lord is the only one who can help the prisoner. Even believers who have been saved from the power of sin must relearn this lesson of being weaned from our wisdom and self-sufficiency. The encouragement continues because God hears the cries of the prisoner. He sends His Son to enter prison and put on the chains of the prisoner. He takes the place of the prisoner and sets him free (Isa. 61:1). He shat- ters the iron bars and chains, breaks open the prison door, and sheds the glorious light of freedom into the dungeon of your own making. When He sets the prisoner free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).
How should we respond? Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! The chains have been broken and you must not return to those chains (Gal. 5:1). You no longer serve your slavish master, sin, but you are freed to serve God (Rom. 6:18). You are free to live to the glory of God, free to move and sing to the glory of God! Are you still a prisoner? Cry out to Him! Have you been set free? Praise and glorify Him!
(Read Part 1: The Wanderer here)
This article originally appeared in the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, May/June 2017. Posted here with permission.