THE ‘PIT’ WHICH THE ELECT ARE DELIVERED FROM
“As for Thee also, by the blood of Thy covenant I have sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water”! [Zech 9:11]
First, our attention is directed to that condition of thralldom we are all in by nature; namely, “THE PIT WHEREIN IS NO WATER” (Zech. 9:11), under sin’s dark dominion (Rom.3:9), under the law and subject to its curse; as the Apostle observes, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continuteh not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10)
There is a state of imprisonment; which is, the condition of soul of a sinner, MADE SENSIBLE of his undone, wretched, and miserable state, arising from the law having come with power to his heart in the hand of its Divine Author by which he has knowledge of sin, and the wrath and curse of God due to him as a vile offender; his soul, which was previously dead in sins, and lay unconsciously imprisoned, is now quickened by the eternal Spirit, and feels sin a burden; the hand of God lies upon him, pressing him sore; he is shut up under the law, and cannot come forth, has no soundness in his flesh, because of a sense of God’s anger; neither is there any rest in his bones, because of his iniquities, for they are gone over his head as a heavy burden, too heavy for him to bear; he is troubled and bowed down greatly, seeing others walk at large, and, mourning his own lonely state, longs for deliverance.
But he can no more come out of this low dungeon, this horrible pit, this mire and clay, of himself, by his own strength or exertions, than he can create a world; and the more he struggles to break off his chains, and open the prison doors, and come out by his legal works, the more he gets entangled, and the deeper he sinks in the pit, for he finds that the law demands perfect and perpetual obedience, is inflexible, and will not abate the least mite. Therefore, the Lord alone can bring a soul out of prison and set it at liberty; hence we read that “God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwelleth in a dry land” (Psa. 68:6).
And the man who has thus been imprisoned and delivered, knows when, by whom, and by what means he was brought out. He knows that it is owing to the love of God the Father, as the MOVING cause; and to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the sinner’s Surety, in His obedience, death and resurrection, as the PROCURING cause, by whose doing and dying the law is magnified and made honourable, and the justice of God completely satisfied: THEREFORE THE POOR PRISONER IS SENT OUT OF THE PIT WHEREIN IS NO WATER, by virtue of the blood of the covenant: the lawful captive is delivered, and the prey taken from the terrible one; he is ransomed from Hell, and delivered from going down into the pit of endless misery.
Such distinguishing goodness and mercy, known and felt in the soul, are sure to produce gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving unto the Eternal Three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: and in this consists the very essence of religion: for if we know nothing of bondage, we know nothing of spiritual liberty, if we have never felt our imprisoned state, we never knew what it was to be brought out of prison. Some, however, talk of the great joy they feel, but we never hear of the sorrow that they have had; of great liberty, but nothing do we hear of their imprisonment. They begin at the wrong end at first, who talk about their liberty before experiencing bondage; of the joy of God’s salvation before their sorrow, from a sense of condemnation; of the pleasures of Heaven before they have felt the pains of Hell.
There is another state of imprisonment; which happens when the soul that has been made clean, and brought out of prison into liberty, returns again into darkness of mind, despondency and dejection; having no access to God in prayer, no sensible enjoyment of His presence, no communion with his heavenly Father either in private supplication and reading of the Word, or in public ordinances; but he is shut up; the Word is a sealed book, yielding no consolation, but condemnation; and when he goes to the house of God it is the same, while others are blessed under the Word preached, feeling its power and sweetness and are praising God, he is cast down, goes mourning without the sun, feels nothing but the vile affections of his deceitful heart, and is fretful and rebellious when he hears others speak of the goodness of the Lord to them. Thus as a prison is a place of confinement, he finds his soul “shut up and cannot come forth”: for a soul in this state requires the same power that brought him out of his first imprisonment, to bring him out of this low dungeon.
And as a prison is a place of darkness, so he walks in darkness and has no light, is solitary, sighs and groans, and concludes that the mercy of God is gone forever; but now and then hope springs up, and he prays, with some degree of confidence, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name”: and God will hear his prayer. Although this imprisonment be long, and occasioned by his own folly, in departing from “the Fountain of living waters,” and hewing out to himself “cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water”: for the Lord has said, that if His children forsake His law, He “will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail” (Psa. 89:32, 33). “He heareth the poor, and despiseth not His prisoners” (Psa. 69: 33). He “looked down from the height of His sanctuary, to hear the groans of His prisoners: to loose those that are appointed to death.
He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer” (Psa. 102:17-20). And the covenant promise of God the Father to Jesus Christ the Son, runs thus, “I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles: To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isa. 42:6, 7). And Christ saith, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because the Lord hath sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Luke 4:18).
Now the Lord must come to the prisoner and set him free, and not wait till he has let himself out of prison, and then come and assist him. O no; JEHOVAH HIMSELF MUST DO THE DEED; for the poor prisoner can only groan, sigh, and pray for deliverance, BUT CANNOT EFFECT IT. If David could have obtained liberty by his own exertions, why does he pray, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name”? Observe the object of the poor prisoner in prayer to be brought out of prison; it is not merely ease and comfort to himself, but the glory of God: “that I may praise Thy name.” Thus, praise to the name of the Lord is the consequence of His delivering mercy to our souls; praise to sovereign love, atoning blood, and Almighty power, combined together, in bringing a soul out of prison.”