Summary: It’s important as believers that we remember the chains of sin - remembering where we came from helps us grow into where we’re going in Christ, and much of this world is still in chains.
Remember Your Chains
November 5, 2006
Turn with me this morning to a passage from Psalm 107
Psalms 107:10-16 (NIV) 10 Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, 16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
This passage is in the middle of a longer Psalm which historically relates to the Israelites time of captivity in Babylon, as well as God’s deliverance of His people in other contexts in the Old Testament. It illustrates those cycles, or patterns, that are so apparent in the Old Testament. It’s a pattern that reveals much about human nature, and much about our loving and gracious God.
We’ll take a closer look at this cycle in a few minutes. It’s a pattern that puts the lie to the sometimes heard idea that the Old Testament is about God’s wrath and judgment, and the New Testament is about God’s grace and mercy.
Both the New Testament and Old Testament contain much about God’s wrath and judgment. Both the New Testament and Old Testament loudly proclaim God’s grace and mercy.
We’re going to see that as we focus primarily on two passages - one this passage from Psalms - and another from 2 Peter 1 we’ll read here in a moment.
Commentator William McDonald has some helpful things to say about this Psalm. First, he points out the common pattern we see so often in the Old Testament. If we’re honest, we have to admit that, while we see this pattern at work in the Old Testament with the people of Israel as a group, we also see that this pattern is something we as followers of Christ under the New Covenant, just be continually on guard against as well, as individuals.
The great hymnist Robert Robinson knew this. That’s why he wrote in his well-known hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, these lyrics:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
An unverifiable story of this man’s life goes like this:
One day, he en¬count¬ered a wo¬man who was studying a hymnal, and she asked how he liked the hymn she was humming. In tears, he replied, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”
So, while we can’t verify this story, though it’s been often told, we can believe it might really be true, because we’ve seen it so clearly illustrated in human nature. We saw it in the news just this past week, when yet another very high profile minister, a guy who graduated in the same graduating class I did from ORU, had a very public fall.
Isn’t it interesting too, that Robinson, in his prayerful hymn, used a word similar to what the Psalmist used. Robinson’s prayer is that God would let His goodness, like a fetter, bind his wandering heart to God.
“Fetter’s” not a word we hear very often now. In fact, about the only way you hear it used these days is to say “unfettered,” which basically means unhindered by anything. But a fetter is a chain. It’s something that serves to restrict or restrain. And it’s used often when talking about slaves.
So we see the Psalmist, who wrote Psalm 107 using the same visual imagery, but in a different context. Whereas Robinson was essentially asking God to chain his heart to God, so the hymn writer wouldn’t wander from God, the Psalmist was recognizing that God is also the one who loosens, who breaks, in fact, another kind of chain - the kind that tends to bind us and restrict us and enslave us – the chains of sin.
This morning’s message is focused on that idea. It’s the idea that we cannot, we should not forget our chains. The title of this message is Remember Your Chains. That’s because all of us, at one time, were bound in chains. Some of us still are, for various reasons, even though we needn’t be, and scripture is full of admonitions to remember things.