Imagine solitary confinement in “The Hole,” the darkest of dark cells. You can’t see, because there is absolutely no light in your windowless cell. You are under a sentence of death. The prison warden and all the jailers clearly enjoy their work. They are brutal and violent.
There are no friends here, only enemies.
This is the picture that Isaiah uses to portray our natural condition under sin. But now, imagine that jail door opening and the light streaming in. God has sent his Holy Spirit. He enters our dark prison cell through the teaching of the gospel.
He removes our chains, opens the cell door, leads us out past all the jailers and the warden himself. He takes us past the main gate of the prison out into the full light of day.
We are amazed. And we feel so grateful to lift our faces up to that warm sun, to see the blue sky, to enjoy the sight of the trees and the grass, to pull in a deep breath of fresh air. It’s an utterly transforming moment.
Isaiah puts it this way: “He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” (Psalm 107:14-16, NIV).
Hundreds of years later, the apostle Paul personally experienced this transforming moment.
Paul knew the cell in which his wrong-headed Pharisee beliefs had once kept him. He knew the chains of trying live the “exemplary, perfect life” meant for humans to witness and praise. He knew the darkness of trying to earn and win his own way into God’s heart by being good and living righteously.
In fact, Paul even knew what it was like to be a collaborator with the prison officials and had at one time persecuted those who believed in Christ.
Then came his release from all that. Then came Jesus — on the road to Damascus — personally challenging him to walk out of that prison with him. Then came the Holy Spirit into his imprisoned heart to release him into the light.
“I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:22-24, NIV).
Are you prepared for the total change that the Holy Spirit wants to bring about in your heart? Are you ready to come entirely out of your dark cell and live a Spirit-transformed life?
What “gates of bronze” or “bars of iron” do you need your gracious God to break down for you?
As Isaiah promised, and as Paul experienced, God wants you out of that dark prison cell. He wants you fully walking in the light. He wants you to experience the joy of freedom, and the peace that comes from knowing — as Isaiah words it — “the Lord’s unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
Lord Jesus, lead me out of the dark prison cell of sin. Forgive me for the wrong I have done. Change my heart and my mind. Break down the gates of bronze and the bars of iron that limit me from being transformed into your image, so that you may be praised for the work of change done in me.
Our Bible reading for Monday, September 14, is Isaiah 33:1 – 35:10, Galatians 1:1-24 and Psalm 107:10-22.