“As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” Zechariah 9v11-12
A letter written to The Guardian this week commented on the ‘wonderful coincidence’ that the 33 Chilean miners were rescued on 13th October: 13+10+10 add up to 33! I like those kind of ‘coincidences’! Jesus was 33 years old when He died and was buried, and if those men coming up out of the depths isn’t a sign of resurrection, I don’t know what is! Their amazing story has captured the imagination of millions and brought widespread joy; glory is being given to God for answered prayer. In an interview with the President’s Chaplain on Radio 5 we heard that there had been concerted prayer going on for the 17 days before contact was made, and acknowledgement was given, by believers at least, of the Lord ‘working everything together for good’ to bring about the rescue. It is so good to hear good news for a change. President Pinera came to Britain with some lumps of rock from the San Jose mine to give to our Queen and Prime Minister, declaring that his country had given an example to the world of “commitment, courage, faith, hope and unity” – quite a change since the days of Pinochet. Undoubtedly there are some dark secrets buried in that mine, but the turnaround from death and despair to life and joy, is undeniable.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40v1-2
There are two heroes who find themselves in ‘waterless pits’ in Scripture: Joseph, put there by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37v23-24) and Jeremiah, imprisoned by the people of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 38v6). They were deep, dried up cisterns, empty wells, from which it was impossible to escape without help from outside: ‘Jeremiah sank into the mud’. Ever felt like that? I do.
In Zechariah 9 God promises to restore those who are in over their heads, facing unscalable walls and the darkness of the pit. He calls us back to a fortress of hope: “Return to hide in the safe place of hope, a strong refuge: you cannot escape from hope!” Amazing imagery – and a sure promise, because of the blood of the covenant. It is the salvation Jesus has bought for us, the exchange of death for life – and the price was His blood. Hebrews 13v20 underlines this: it was ‘through the blood of the eternal covenant that God brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus’… So somehow the resurrection power was released through the suffering! And I guess that it has to be the same for us too, for it is those who share His sufferings who are the ones who will share His glory. Even the miners underground went through intense suffering before the great deliverance came: they are like inseparable twins.
So I wait for the ropes to be thrown down, for the One who lifts me up and gives me back my song, who banishes darkness and dryness, who turns mourning to dancing and death to life – the One who restores double, the One who died, but behold He is alive forevermore!