Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Saturday, 04 February 2012


By Jim Jordal

 The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim release to the captives…"

Luke 4:17-18a, WEB (emphasis mine)

In the first two prophecies of deliverance in the mission statement of Jesus he promised to preach good news to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted. Now he turns attention to people held captive in prisons---real or perceived---with his promise of release.

Release from captivity means just what it implies---total freedom from captivity of any sort---body, mind or spirit.

The human condition includes many different forms of captivity---slavery, imprisonment, sickness, poverty; ignorance, superstition, prejudice, bigotry, mental illness, addiction, depression and the worst of them all---captivity to endemic sin. In this limited space we’ll discuss only a few of the more common ones.

According to Scripture we are all captives to sin. Our own efforts cannot deliver us from this bondage. As the apostle Paul so vividly said of his own failing struggles to obey the law, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this bondage to sin?" Only Jesus can deliver from this awful bondage, and that because of his sacrifice at Calvary.

Another form of captivity is literal imprisonment. I think of the unfortunate fact that of developed countries, the United States has by far the highest proportion of its people incarcerated in state and federal prisons, local jails, reform schools, military brigs, and asylums for those deemed dangerous to society.

Some people blame this tragic situation on the strict Puritan code which still drives jurisprudence in this country. Others blame it on a culture of "frontier" lawlessness. Others see the breakdown of families and systems of social control as the culprits, while others look to racial and economic prejudice for causation. Most students agree, however, that most of those imprisoned are perceived as somehow dangerous to society.

But who or what determines what behaviors or conditions are dangerous to society? We pride ourselves in the so-called "rule of law," but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the laws under which people are imprisoned are made by and for the benefit of the ruling power structure. So you might conclude that in our society most of the prisoners are those determined to be of danger more to the power structure than to society in general. Up to now Americans of lowly origins have been protected by the Constitution against unreasonable treatment by government. But this favorable treatment is now being minimized as courts interpret the Constitution in ways more friendly to holders of power than to the common people.

How about drug laws as an example? Why is it in many states that the penalty for a given amount of crack cocaine is up to 10 times as high as for the same amount of powder cocaine? Could it be that the real reason is that white Americans of moderate wealth prefer and can afford powder cocaine while minorities and the poor can afford only crack cocaine. So perhaps the real, but seldom admitted, reason for differential justice in this case is fear by the ruling majority that the criminal, minority elements of society will escape from control.

Another source of captivity and oppression in our society is debt at all levels, public and private. We no longer imprison debtors as old England and the early American colonies did, but we continue to imprison people for debt in many other ways. So debt slavery is still alive and well in modern society. Think of the people driven to suicide and murder because of debt pressures. Think of families driven to despair by pressing debt with no way out short of homelessness and destitution. Think of governments so deeply in debt they can figure no solution except to further cut the safety nets originally intended to protect poor people against disaster and give them a toe hold on the ladder to success.

Yes, Jesus promised to free even these struggling captives. The Jubilee message of Leviticus 25 is more than law; it is prophecy concerning economic deliverance in Christ’s earthly kingdom. We could have part of that deliverance from debt captivity now if we would only implement some of the Jubilee provisions, namely the cessation of charging interest against debtors, sharing the world’s wealth among all, and a periodic freeing of all debtors and those in bondage for financial reasons. These alone would go far toward releasing modern captives of poverty, debt, unemployment and homelessness.