In Psalm 107, the second group of people in need of the steadfast love of the Lord is found in vv 10-16. With dramatic depiction the psalmist describes their deplorable condition. They are sitting in “darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons…” (v 10). Their experience is one of darkness, danger, and bondage from which they have no hope for escape.
Also, they are physically worn down from “hard labor” (v 12). They are being used for someone else’s benefit, rather than enjoying the fruit of their own labors. They toil and struggle only to reap shame instead of satisfaction. They are basically imprisoned slaves. And they know it. So, their hearts are “bowed down,” and they see no one there to help.
What’s more, is that they are in this condition not merely because of ruthless, violent, and greedy men but because of their own actions. “For they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High” (v 11). They are imprisoned slaves because of their rebellion and disobedience. Sin always enslaves. Sin is always a shameful and cruel taskmaster. And, sadly, there are times that we find ourselves bound to its unbreakable irons and bowed down by its unrelenting demands. We know it’s our fault. We know it’s due to our spurning of the Word of God, but we can’t get out. Yet, it is exactly at this point that we are now in a position for a mighty deliverance. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”
Oh, the glory of God’s steadfast love; the power of His delivering grace! We lack the ability to be free. We don’t possess the power to get out. We don’t have the authority to demand release. But God does! Listen with fresh wonder to the dramatic language of the psalmist, “He… burst their bonds apart…. he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron” (v 14b, 16). The guilt is ours; the grace is His. We deserve the bondage, but He delights to set the captive free.
As our Substitute, the Lord Jesus was delivered over to shameful bondage because of our rebellion and contempt of God. He was scourged and condemned to be crucified. And as He carried the cross, He fell, bowed beneath the weight of our sins. On the cross He entered the dreadful darkness of the wrath of God which we deserved, and then, He gave up His life. He was placed in a tomb, sealed behind the iron doors of death. But, on the third day, He burst the the bonds and shattered the doors of sin and death, thus securing and declaring “liberty to the captives” (Lk 4:18).
Are we in bondage? Does some persistent sin still haunt us? Is our tongue or temper controlled by a wicked taskmaster? Does lust seem to demand our decisions? In the trouble of our own making, let us cry out to the Lord. For, in His steadfast love, He will deliver!
He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me. — Charles Wesley
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.