...There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has shattered gates of bronze, and cut bars of iron asunder...
What a miserable picture this selected passage from Psalm 107 presents: Envision the despair as cloaked in darkness the prisoners moan, chains clanking as these who are enslaved shift positions in a feeble attempt to bring some comfort to beleaguered bodies and souls. Rest does not come. Peace has fled and life is fleeting. Death, pressing in, now breathes it's chilly vapors into their spirit.
How did it come to this? What debauchery was committed to justify such a hideous punishment? Simply: sin. Rebellion against the words of God. Turning their back, rejecting, perhaps even ridiculing the Most High's counsel. Choosing their sin they now suffer the consequences. Imprisoned in a devilish fortress, shackled by their disobedience, they lay in bondage to their heart's desires. Quite regularly they bow their master: their lusts. Repeatedly they find themselves in a desperate struggle to satisfy the insatiable; and consistently they realize the futility of their labors.
How did they get here? What brought them from the frivolity of selfish ambition and pursuits to languish in this depraved state?
This loving, merciful, holy God - the One who cannot tolerate sin in His presence - allows them to suffer the rewards for their choices, with the desire to see them turn to Him. He knows that it is in this time of trouble that they will cry out to Him. And He patiently endures the travesty of their choices, all the while remaining nearby to immediately answer their pleas. He does not force Himself on them. He simply waits.
And when they in the deepest, darkest moments of their agony turn to Him, He acts. Swiftly. He saves them out of their distress. He brings them into the light and into life. And He breaks the shackles. The citadel of sin is destroyed through the mercy of God. Bronze gates shatter at His command, bars of iron are cut in two.
They squint their eyes, breathing deeply this freshness of new life as they rest in the warmth of the Son. Praise now comes easily to their lips. The mercy of God is fresh in their mind. It is a wonder that God would so move in the lives of men!
Oh that we would see and understand the consequences of our sinful choices! Oh that we would see through the deception of the evil one! His palaces are facades that simply mask the concentration camp of consequences. His jewelry, while eye-catching turns to shackles at the stroke of darkest midnight. His party rooms become holding cells for our hearts. His promise of freedom leads to forced labor. His mischief leads to misery and his promise of companionship leads only to loneliness.
How to escape this trickery and deceit you ask? Simply: receive the words of God, heed His counsel. In the everyday moments of life will you turn to what will enable you to see the deception for what it truly is? Disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness is not a futile exercise. It is the only way to ensure your freedom.