Out of the Pit
On Monday morning, January 2, 2006, we all heard the news that there had been an explosion in a coal mine in Sega, WV. Thirteen men were trapped in the coal pit, deep below.
While those poor souls were still trapped in that deep, dark pit, we met for prayer in my office on Tuesday night (January 3rd). Bro. Larry had the reading and led us in prayer. In his prayer, he said, Lord, we too were once in a deep, dark pit, hopelessly and helplessly lost. We could not escape from that pit; and no man could get us out. But you reached down and lifted us out by your almighty grace. God, how we thank you for saving us from the pit!
After the service that night, my wife and I stayed and worked until a little past 11:00 P.M. When we got home, as we walked through the door, I turned the news on and heard the euphoric report that the miners had all been found alive, except for the one who was found dead earlier. Everyone was filled with tearful, euphoric joy, including Shelby and me as we watched. The next morning, the joy was turned to horrid, incomprehensible sorrow, when it was discovered that the report was false and all the miners, except for one, were dead.
Oh, what heartache! What sorrow, even anger filled those people, who had experienced such joy just a few hours before. I thought about them all day long on Wednesday as we drove across the country. My thoughts were, and continue to be, How those poor people must be hurting. How sadly descriptive that is of the religious experiences so many have.
We were all trapped in a deep pit, with no way to escape. Religion comes along, repeating an unfounded and false report that salvation has come. The poor soul has been delivered from the pit. What euphoric joy follows! What gladness and singing there is because of the good news! Then, it is soon discovered that there was no deliverance. The poor soul is still trapped in the pit; and the sorrow is greater than ever. I have a better report to give, a report given by God himself about deliverance out of the pit. We read in Zechariah 9:11-12.
As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee.
Let us see, and see clearly, that this passage is all about our Lord Jesus Christ and his great salvation. In the 9th verse of this chapter Gods people of old were called to rejoice greatly and shout at the prospect of Christs coming. How much more we ought to rejoice who have seen his coming! The reason for great joy is the character of our all-glorious Savior.
Behold, thy King cometh! Christ did not come to be made King. He came as King. And when he comes in saving power and grace to chosen sinners, he comes as King. Christ is the King of all; but how blessed they are of whom it is said, he is thy King! Thy King is able to save (John 17:2). Thy King is just. Thy King comes having salvation. And, yet, he is lowly. How condescending our Savior was when he came to redeem and save us (Phil. 2:8-11).
Then, in the 10th verse we are told that our King has conquered and will conquer all our enemies! Now is the prince of this world cast out! (See Col. 2:13-15.) He speaks peace to the heathen, speaks peace to sinners for whom he has made peace by the blood of his cross. And Christ, our Savior-King, is the King whose dominion is from sea to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
Yes, Christ is here. This chapter is all about our blessed Savior and his great salvation. ¾ The Lord our God who saved us in the great day of his grace as the flock of his people (v. 16). How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty (v. 17).
In verses 11 and 12 we hear the Lord God speaking to his Son and then speaking to us, his people, about the great salvation that he performs. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee. This is the salvation I have experienced. It is the salvation all Gods saints have experienced. Oh, how I pray that you may be caused to experience it, if you are yet in the pit wherein is no water.
Prisoners in the Pit
First, our text speaks of Prisoners in the pit wherein is no water. In ancient times they did not build nice, country club prisons, with television, air-conditioning, and recreation rooms. They just dug dip pits, threw prisoners into them, and covered the mouths of the pits with a large stone. The prisoners in those pits were utterly helpless, continually living in the muck and mire of their own waste. The pits were dark, filthy, smelly places, living graves in which others had died and rotted away. They were horrible pits. The only hope any had of escaping had to be from someone outside the pit. That is just where we were when our blessed Christ saved us by his grace. Prisoners in the pit wherein is no water.
In the Pit
The law of God has put the whole human race in the pit. You are a sinner. You have broken Gods holy law. Justice demands your punishment. Your conscience, agreeing with the sentence of divine justice, sets a huge, immovable rock upon the pit. And you cannot escape. You are a prisoner to your own evil devices and the desires of your depraved heart, locked up under guilt and condemnation by the high court of heaven!
Is that where you are? Nothing out of hell is more horrible to experience than an awakened, screaming conscience, before a holy and angry God, without Christ and without hope. Oh, how well I remember! What could I do? All the stench of my foul sin was everywhere! I found no comfort in myself; and, though many tried to give it, I found no comfort in anyone else. They were in the pit with me. One offered me his waste bucket of religious ceremonies. I tried to drink it, but found no water. The more I drank, the greater my thirst became. Another gave me his bucket of resolutions and reformations. And I drank deeply from the bucket, but nearly choked to death on the muck. Then, a fine looking man gave me his bucket of free will. It was more appealing than any other. How pleasant it appeared to my rotting flesh. He said, Sip from this sweet bucket, and you can will yourself out of the pit. So I took a big drink, and thought I had escaped the pit. But I soon discovered that free will was nothing but the waste of humanity, a deadly, poisonous opiate; and I was still in the pit.
I chose to get out. I prayed. I read my Bible. I reformed. I resolved to do good. But I was still in the pit, bound hand and foot, without the least shred of freedom, in the power of hell, taken captive of Satan at his will, and utterly incapable of changing anything. Escape was impossible. My darkness was intolerable. My fate seemed unavoidable. Hell must surely be my portion forever! And there was no water. I found no refreshment in sin, and none in religion. I saw nothing but death around me, death in me, and hell before me!
Did you ever awake in the morning and wonder that you were not in hell, and go to your bed at night afraid to fall asleep, lest you fall into hell forever? Did these words ever terrify you "And in hell he lifted up his eyes"? What a horrible pit! Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth (Isa. 24:17). David said, I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength (Psa. 88:4). We were all in the pit by reason of the fall of our father Adam. But it is one thing to be in the pit, and another thing to know you are in the pit. Has God ever cast you down into the pit? All who are made to experience this are prisoners of hope (v. 12). Both Job and Jonah describe the experience (Job. 30:19-25; Jonah 2:1-9).
He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes. I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not. Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me. Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance. For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living. Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction. Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor? (Job 30:19-25)
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. (Jonah 2:1-9)
I was near to despair
When Christ came to me there,
And He showed me that I could be free;
Then He lifted my feet,
Gave me gladness complete,
When He reached down His hand for me.
Blessed be his name forever, he lifted me out of the horrible pit. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings (Psa. 40:2).
Deliverance from the Pit
Let me show you how he did it. The Lord God declares, By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners! This is what Job describes in Job 33:19-24.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain: So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat. His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out. Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
The Lord God finds his elect in the dark dungeon, and declares that we are Christs prisoners. I was a prisoner; and, though I did not know it, I was his prisoner, both by special election and by special purchase. He says, to Christ, our covenant Surety, I have sent forth thy prisoners! He does not say, I have offered thy prisoners release. No! Blessed be his name, he says, I have sent forth thy prisoners! He sends forth Christs ransomed prisoners by effectual, irresistible grace, because justice demands it by the blood of the covenant he made for his prisoners with Christ, our Surety!
When that covenant was fulfilled when the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was shed, we were set free. As our Representative, he ascended to the Father's right hand; and we are there in him. The ransom price has been paid. Therefore, we read, "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads" (Isa. 35:10).
The prisoner is out of the pit, and he is out by "right." He did not break out, but he is out because all his debts have been paid. A child of God is justly as well as graciously saved. It would be an eternal injustice if any soul for whom the Savior died as a Substitute upon the cursed tree, to remain in the prison and suffer the wrath of God. If Christ has ransomed me, justice cannot hold me. Justice demands that I go free; and free I am forever!
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine.
"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). He has the power and the right to set prisoners free. Who can shut up those whom he delivers? He has sent us forth out of the pit. He has granted us life, light, and liberty. Our feet are free, and we are on free soil (Rom. 8:1-4; 10:4). He sends us forth by the blood, by the expiation made for sin before God, speaking peace by the blood and creating peace in the conscience by the blessed gift of faith in Christ. Let the ransomed, blood bought sinner once know the blessedness of the covenant and the saving power of the blood, and he is a prisoner no longer.
All this work of grace was performed according to a covenant made on our behalf between God the Father and Christ his Son before the world began. All the temporal, spiritual, and eternal deliverances we enjoy swim to us through the blood of that covenant. By the blood of this covenant, by which we are redeemed, forgiven, reconciled, justified, sanctified, and saved, all the choice mercies, high favors, noble blessings, and everlasting glory that the saints enjoy forever were purchased and made sure.
Gods prophet, Isaiah, was sent to King Hezekiah with a message of judgment. He told the king to set his house in order, because God was about to kill him. When Hezekiah heard those words, he repented, calling upon the Lord God for mercy. Immediately, God sent that same prophet to him with a word of grace, assuring him that he had obtained the mercy he sought (Isa. 38:1-8).
That is a pretty good picture of my souls experience. One day, I heard a man sent of God, by whom the Lord God opened my dark, putrid heart to me, exposed my sin, and by his holy law and justice condemned me. Guilty, condemned, and helpless, I cried to God for mercy. Immediately, I heard God speak by that same prophet, assuring me that I would never die, that I had obtained mercy by the blood of Christ. Now, I say with Hezekiah, Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back (Isa. 38:17).
Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption! What a sweet thought! My God loved me out of the pit! Yes, Love lifted me! For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. He loved me out of the pit because he has put away all my sins forever, casting them behind his back!
How my heart does rejoice
When I hear His sweet voice
In the tempest to Him now I flee;
There to lean on His arm,
Where I'm safe from all harm.
Since He reached down His hand for me.
When my Saviour reached down for me,
When He reached down His hand for me;
I was lost and undone without God or His Son,
When He reached down His hand for me.
A Continual Turning
Now, look at Zechariah 9:12. The Lord God speaks here to us, to all whom he has sent forth out of the pit by the blood of the covenant. We have been sent forth out of the pit of despair, but are still in a world of pain, sorrow, and trouble. Here we are prisoners still, but we are prisoners of hope. Therefore, our God calls for us ever to turn to Christ. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee.
Christ is our Strong-hold (Pro. 18:10). Let us turn to him every day and all the day through, constantly coming to him by faith (1 Pet. 2:4). Turn to him as prisoners of hope, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life!
Now, look at the last line of verse 12. Read it and rejoice in Gods promise to every sinner he sends forth out of the pit, to every ransomed soul who turns to Christ the strong-hold. Even today do I declare that I will render double unto thee. This is a promise for you and me today. Even today do I declare. It is a promise of infinite, boundless, abundant mercy. I will render double unto thee (Isa. 40:1-2). His mercy is doubled to us. He not only forgives all our sins by the blood of his darling Son, he makes us the very righteousness of God in him, and declares that he will never impute sin to us again (Rom. 4:8). He not only saves us from hell, he makes us heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17-18).
Our great God declares, For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them (Isa. 61:7). Yes, Gods super-abounding grace is always double grace, grace for grace (John 1:16). Where sin abounded grace did much more abound!
Are you yet trapped in the pit? May the Lord God be pleased to send you out of the pit by the blood of the covenant, for the glory of his own great name! Though you are justly condemned under the righteous sentence of the law, it is through Christ that the sentence is reversed. Though you are dead in trespasses and in sins, Christ can give you life. Though in yourself, you are utterly without hope, in Christ there is hope. Though you are as filthy as hell itself, Christ can make you clean!
Now, my brother, my sister, let us remember the hole of the pit from which we have been dug, and glorify our God for deliverance out of the pit (Isa. 51:1; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.