Every so often I will be reading scripture and become captivated by a word or phrase. This happened again on Tuesday night as I studied, with a great group of men, the words of the prophet Zechariah. We had come to chapter 9, known by most due to its being quoted in the gospels when Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem upon a donkey. It is a few verses after this promise of the conquering king that I read the following words:
“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” Zechariah 9:12
“…you prisoners of hope….” Allow me a few sentences to place this phrase in context. Zechariah’s words are to a defeated people – they had forsaken the Lord and been overtaken by foreign powers. However, God had heard their cries for deliverance and is now preparing to rescue the faithful; the Lord is establishing a blood covenant with His people and a king is coming. God will free then from the pit and enable them to return to the fortress (similar to David’s experience as recorded in Psalm 40:2). God is coming to rescue the oppressed and afflicted.
We, in many ways, are prisoners of hope – those that are in bondage and in despair but remain convinced that our God is faithful and certain that He will redeem us. We cannot seem to shake loose of the shackles of our human desires and regularly succumb to sin. We are perpetually reminded of all the areas in our lives that need improvement and regularly recoil with guilt. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and regularly feel inadequate. It is enough to choke the hope out of even the greatest optimist.
That is why this phrase is so captivating to me. It tells me that I can have hope before the cell is opened; I can have confidence that my redemption in Christ is secure long before the bars are broken. I can be like Jonah, who praised God for his deliverance while surrounded by the digestive juices of a large fish. I can be like Job, who declared God’s praise before there was an inkling of restoration. I can be like the three young men in the fiery furnace who praised God whether He saved them or not simply because they were confident that He was able.
This weekend we begin the slow march from Jerusalem to Golgotha – from the joyous shouts of the crowd, through the last moments with the disciples, past the courts of judgment and the beyond the place of agonizing death. The only consolation and comfort we have is that this all leads to our lasting hope via the empty tomb. The chains that once held us – sin and death – have been broken and Christ has rooted hope in their place. “…you prisoners of hope….” What a joy it is to come across these captivating phrases, these little reminders of God’s great love for us.
Do you have hope even if imprisoned? Allow me to share with you a quote from an unlikely source of spiritual truth:
“Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.” – Dale Carnegie