Dealing with our own prisoners

Published 5:28 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

There is a listing of suggested Bible verses for every day — not just for every Sunday, like the one your preacher might use. This is for all 365 days a year (this year with one extra).

In that list are some passages that come up all the time. For instance, the Psalm reading for Tuesday is always the 146th. It starts off as one of your basic “hallel” (praise) hymns, with shouts of praise to God. Then it talks about not putting your trust in mortal princes who are here but for a moment.

Great words to remember in a presidential campaign year, especially if your candidate doesn’t win.

Then the Psalmist sings about those who put their trust in God, mostly because they have no one else to turn to: the oppressed, the hungry. It’s a great social gospel psalm for someone like me, who has often felt closer to God in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen than anywhere else.

But then it has an interesting line, one which can be easily passed over until it really hits us: “The Lord sets the prisoners free. …”

I’ve been in prisons many times, though never as a prisoner. I have only experienced that life as someone who had a pass to get out. And yet as I read this I couldn’t help but feel that there are all kinds of prisons, and all kinds of prisoners.

You can be a prisoner if you are working a job that is sucking the life out of you and is neither challenging nor rewarding for you. You can be a prisoner if you are in a relationship which is draining you, or is abusive, or is lacking in trust.

You can be a prisoner if you have to keep tapping your iPhone, or your computer, to see who is doing what or feeling left out because it seems that everyone else is living more exciting lives than you are.

You don’t have to be behind four walls with razor wire to be a prisoner. We have all kinds of prisons, many of them of our own making.

But in this Psalm, praises are sung to a God who “sets the prisoners free.” When Jesus came he quoted the passage out of Isaiah in which the prophet said that the Spirit of God was moving, “to proclaim release to the captives.”

God is serious about freedom, about liberation, about us being free. God does not want us to be prisoners. God works for us to be free.

The question is: Do we?

REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is