Prisoners of hope
We have all met people who are prisoners of despair. What we call depression could well be described in those terms: it is a helpless and hopeless condition with no prospect of release. They don’t want to collapse in despair but they feel bound to do so. Perhaps we have been in that waterless pit ourselves.
But Zechariah (a contemporary of Haggai) speaks of something incredible – not prisoners of despair but prisoners of hope. In fact he describes the people of God in exactly those terms. They are bound to hope. They may not even want to hope, but they can do no other – they are prisoners!
Zechariah is speaking to a people who have been knocked around and battered by the superpowers of their day. All their constants were challenged when they were uprooted from the land in which they found their identity. They were carried away to strange lands and stranger peoples. Now, after 70 years of exile, they are back in Canaan, desperately impoverished and under constant military threat.
But Zechariah doesn’t call them prisoners of Babylon, or Persia or Greece. He doesn’t call them prisoners of circumstance or fate. He doesn’t call them prisoners of economic or political conditions. He calls them prisoners of hope. Something has taken hold of the people of God and forced them to hope. If left to their own devices they would probably wander into world-weariness, into fear, into cynicism and melancholy. But something has arrested them and forbids them to despair. What is it?
It’s a lowly man, riding on a donkey:
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. 11As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. 12Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;
Zechariah holds up this picture of the Messiah to a bruised people. Not a Mighty Warrior on a white stallion but a gentle King riding on a donkey. The Messiah will not meet the powers of this world with more worldly power. He will meet them with simple justice, lowliness and a speaking of peace.
This is the revolution that will bring in a global kingdom of righteousness – from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth. It’s a revolution that prisoners in the pit can believe in.
In fact for those in the pit, they can look to Christ, their Stronghold, and know themselves bound to a much different story. The lowly King will die – shedding that precious “blood of the covenant” which redeems lost sinners. And He will rise again to bring a future more glorious than the paradise we have lost. Through Jesus we will be rendered double.
The waterless pit of our circumstances seems to demand our despair. But there is a gentle King who knows our sufferings. And He promises a mind-blowing redemption. Have you lost your dreams, your health, your dignity, your innocence, your peace, your children, your marriage, your youth, your job, your reputation? Christ will render double unto thee. For those who love the King – even in spite of ourselves and our circumstances – we cannot help but hope.