Being a ‘Prisoner of Hope’!
As Spring School gets underway here at Holsby, the days are getting longer and the sun is coming out. Instead of a white blanket of snow over the campus, the grass is looking greener by the day and the birds are singing louder than ever. A sense of peace and awakening is over this place as students gather for ultimate frisbee and dare to swim in the nearby lakes (although it seems a little early for that yet!). But spring has evidently arrived and is announcing itself with wonderful warmth and brightness!
In our first service together this term, we heard a sermon from John Poysti, our Director at Holsby. He was preaching from Zechariah 9 and talked of us, as Christians, being ‘prisoners of hope’.
This concept had never really crossed my mind before. Many of us have read that Jesus came as part of His mission to ‘set captives free’, so what then does it mean to become a prisoner again? Surely this makes no sense? But instead of this being an illogical statement, this call to become prisoners of hope instead reveals something very beautiful in the character of God.
This passage talks to the people of that day, but also to us now. Speaking to the 50,000 Israelites who had chosen to return to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon (whilst many of their people chose to stay behind) verse 11 says ‘because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit’. Here, the Lord brings attention to the covenant He made with the Israelites back in Exodus when He promised to save, protect and restore His people. The covenant talks of God’s deliverance and provision for the Israelites at that time, but also tells us of the ultimate fulfillment in Christ that is real in our lives today.
Here, the passage says that prisoners will be set free from the ‘waterless pit’, and this picture is a vivid one. When you are in a pit, you are extremely vulnerable and helpless. You can’t climb out, you are imprisoned a long way below the ground. This is a perfect illustration of hopelessness. But, the Lord says that because of His promises, through Christ He has set us free from this helpless state!
We, who were stuck in the pit, with no ability to save ourselves from the ultimate end of death because of sin, had no way to be saved. But Jesus, through His work on the cross, went down into the depths of the waterless pit for us, so that as He defeated it, it need have no power over us anymore either. We are set free from this place of despair and instead, given freedom from sin!
So now, we know this freedom in Christ from sin. However, the verse 12 goes on to say ‘return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope’. A stronghold is a picture of a high place, a fortified place, one that speaks of safety and protection. And because Christ became a prisoner of despair on the cross for us, we can choose instead to be a prisoner of hope. The fortress the King is inviting us to return to is a place where the King guarantees our safety. It is a place where He assures us of justice and salvation. It’s a prison we choose, because it’s a fortress of hope.
Sometimes I am just amazed at the lengths that Jesus goes to save us, even though we did nothing to deserve it nor did we ask for it. But Jesus says, Return to Me. Return to the fortress of hope. I have prepared the way. I have paid the price. I invite you to become a captive of my love, my forgiveness, my cleansing. Come to me! I am your hope.