Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Psalm 142:7 (NIV)
The key to understanding David’s “prison” is by reading the liner notes to this particular song’s lyrics: “A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.” The fact that the note is specific in mentioning “the” cave means that it refers to the Cave of Adullam which was a secret fortress and a bandits hideout. David was on the run from King Saul who unjustly wanted to wipe him out. There was a price on his head. For David, as time passed, the cave transformed itself from a place of refuge into a personal prison.
One of the definitions of “prison” is “any place of confinement or involuntary restraint.” Our prison can be any number of places that have nothing to do with steel bars and razor wire. Our prison can be a house or a room within a house. For a weary traveller, an airport, airplane or auto can become a prison. Relationships can become tortuous places of confinement. For those struggling with addictions, disorders, disease or handicap, our very own bodies can become our prison cell. Any who have struggled with the weight of guilt and shame know that our very soul can become our personal penitentiary.
David’s song is a wailing blues number and a desperate cry for salvation from his intensely personal problems. Each of us experience our own places of confinement. Sometimes we have been placed there involuntarily. Other times we find, like David, that a place we once ran for refuge has become a source of torment. Crazier still, we sometimes choose to stay in our personal prison because the torment we know seems less fearful than the freedom that is available to us.
I am reminded this morning of the quote from the prophet Isaiah which became the core of Jesus’ first public teaching:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [emphasis added]
Today, I am praying for myself and all those who know the pain of captivity in all of its diverse and personal manifestations. My prayer is rooted in Jesus’ words: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”