Prisoners of Hope

What are you waiting for? Do you expect anything to happen?

The people of Israel were waiting for deliverance from foreign domination, but except for a brief period that did not occur.

In the New Testament time it was Rome that ruled the Western world. Israel was known as Palestine and was an insignificant but troublesome land.

For many years the Jews waited for Messiah. They expected this to be a military deliverer and king who would free them from their enemies and restore the glory days of King David. That has not happened as they hoped, not yet. Even today, many expect Messiah to come.

Herein lies the fundamental conflict: the world vs the Kingdom, the flesh vs. spirit, temporal vs. eternal, sight v. faith

However, the believer in Jesus Christ receives salvation and deliverance from the greatest enemies of the human race: sin and death and Satan. We must come to realize that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not located in a single place on earth. Dallas Willard refers to it as “the Kingdom of the Heavens.”

“Right beside and among the kingdoms that are not God’s stands his Kingdom always ‘at hand.’ It is that of Jesus and his Heavenly Father. It can be ours as well. The door is open, and life in that kingdom is real. Even now, ‘the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isa. 6:3). True, few see it.”

We may enter into the reality of God’s kingdom now by accepting the reign of Jesus the Messiah over our lives. All that is necessary for a Kingdom is a King and citizens. We become more than mere citizens, though. We are adopted into the royal family and become sons and daughters of the King.

What kingdom are you part of? Each of us has his own little domain because we all have self-will.

Extend that into the world–your home, your family, those over whom you exercise authority–and you have your kingdom. Giving your life to Jesus is giving your kingdom to Him and letting him rule through you. I would say it is a bloodless revolution, but that is only true if you consider that we did not have to fight and bleed. Jesus shed his blood on the cross to convince us of his love and to provide believers with the privilege of becoming part of His Kingdom of the heavens.

With all of this in mind, let us look at some famous messianic promises from the Old Testament, two of which are quoted by believers at Christmas.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV84):

“The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”

This refers to anyone in any time in history, but initially it pointed to those in Israel who were living without direction and little or no hope that better times would come. Does it speak to you today? Do you feel like your walking in darkness?

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). You must believe in Jesus and trust him to lead you, not merely accept him or seek to feel him somehow. Then you must actually follow what you say you believe!

Isaiah 9:6–7 (NIV84):

“For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.”

The baby born in a feeding trough has become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every nation on earth and every individual is still given the freedom to surrender to his loving rule or rebel, for now. But Jesus promised to return visibly and he will judge the world in righteousness and bring an end to evil and all self-will that opposes God’s will. “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Philippians 2:5–11 Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Have you surrendered your will to Jesus Christ. Do you confess him to be Lord over your life? Do you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is at the right hand of the Father now? That is your salvation from this dark, hopeless world. I will conclude with a messianic prophecy from Zechariah, often quoted at Easter, a portion of which has been upon my mind lately. I believe it applies to us, Lifewell, and to many others who have ears to hear.

Zechariah 9:9–13 (NIV84):

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!

Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

and the war-horses from Jerusalem,

and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow

and fill it with Ephraim.

I will rouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Greece,

and make you like a warrior’s sword.

We used to be known as Zion. It is a reminder that those who have faith in Jesus have been grafted into the Olive Tree of God’s people. Jews and Gentiles who believe are the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16, 4:28, Rom. 4:16-18) and are given the right to partake of the promises made to His people (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jesus is the basis for my application of this passage to you and I today Lifewell.

You will recognize the prophecy about Jesus ridiing into Jerusalem in the donkey’s back. He was a peaceful king. The military leader rides a horse or a chariot. Jesus will return on a white horse…

Taking away the implements of war from Ephraim and Jerusalem means that God’s people will be peaceful and the Kingdom will advance by winning hearts not forcing surrender through fear of arms. The real church has always increased this way. In fact, the Kingdom of God grows under persecution.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” -Tertullian

Now we conclude with what I believe to be the message for you today….

“As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;

even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

This promise is not offered to you and me because we deserve it, have earned it, or even because God feels sorry for us in our suffering. No, it is because of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

The promise is Jesus has freed you from your addiction today. He has freed you from depression today, from hopelessness and despair, from sadness, from anger and contempt, from the torment of abuse in your past, from failure.

Like Joseph of old, perhaps your brothers have thrown you into a waterless pit waiting to get the courage to kill you, then selling you into slavery. People you trusted, who appeared to be your friends, led you into darkness, evil, addiction. Your Christian brothers turned against you, slandered you, harmed your reputation, stole your joy. You have been persecuted for speaking about Jesus, and they threw you down into the bottom of a slimy pit, full of filth and mud but no clean water of life. That was what happened to Jeremiah, but God sent people to pull him out of the pit and he was kept safe in a fortress.

You are a prisoner of hope now!

You cannot help but believe things will get better, not because you deserve it, not because ‘everything will be ok’ naturally. NO, but because God is love. God is good. God has promised and fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, who came to set the captives free!

Luke 4:18–19 (NIV84): “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Finally, friends, all that the devil has stolen from you will be restored. In fact, two times as much or more. You have come to the year of God’s favor, a perpetual Jubilee.

Do you believe it? What are you waiting for? Receive it now.

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