Put Aside Your Prison Clothes
"In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived." 2 Kings 25:27-30
FROM THRONE TO PRISON
A teenage monarch, Jehoiachin became king of Judah at just 18 years old and reigned for three short months before he and his people were taken captive by their Babylonian enemies and sent into exile. Jehoiachin came from a long line of kings from the House of David, many of whom had been leading God's people astray for years through idolatry, wickedness and rebellion. And Jehoiachin continued the tradition. "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done." (2 Kings 24:9)
The Lord, after repeated warnings and attempts to set the Jewish people back on the right path, could no longer tolerate their brazen disregard for His ways. Being a holy and just God, He had to remove them from His presence (2 Kings 24:20) and from the land He had given them, even though it grieved Him greatly. Ever refused to follow God fully? I have. The first thing to go is intimacy and communion with Him, along with the full measure of blessing and provision that He longs to give.
Distance from God also inevitably results in bondage. Along with thousands of his subjects, King Jehoiachin became a captive. The Bible tells us that he and his family surrendered directly to Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar himself. Royalty, now prisoners of the enemy. Sound familiar? Don't we, as "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17), sometimes find ourselves needlessly "submitting again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1)?
A MERCIFUL RELEASE
Fast forward 37 years. Jehoiachin is still in exile — still a prisoner. But God is still God. Even while carrying out highly warranted discipline after His people chose to reject him, He is still faithfully caring for His people, still fulfilling His promises and still working out His plans for them. A new King is coming. And he has the keys to the prison.
It's a very good day for Jehoiachin, now about 55 years old, when King Nebuchadnezzar's successor takes over the throne of Babylon. Lo and behold — the new king graciously releases him from prison! Not only that, he speaks kindly to him and gives him a seat of honor at his table, where Jehoiachin enjoys the privilege of dining for the rest of his days. The Bible doesn't explicitly explain why this happened, but it's clear that the king had compassion for this royal prisoner.
RESPONSE TO FREEDOM
When I read these next words in my Bible, they took my breath away. "So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes." I stopped dead in my tracks. "That's me," I immediately thought. And if you have received God's gift of salvation, it's you too. The undeserved freedom granted by our King is an incredible invitation, and putting aside our prison clothes is the ONLY appropriate response.
So why do we put our prison clothes back on at times, or keep them close at hand, as though the door to our cell isn't wide open? Because these clothes are familiar or comfortable? Because we think we deserve to keep them on? Maybe we think we should earn our freedom. Sometimes we're trying to find a different way out, totally missing the unlocked door in front of us. Or perhaps we've been deceived into believing there's nothing else for us besides this dark, dingy cell. Maybe we don't believe that the King is really trustworthy, or that He's actually going to take care of us out there.
Sadly, it's entirely possible — even common — for Christians to live like we aren't free, for all these reasons and more. If Jehoiachin had said to the king, "No thanks, I'll keep these prison clothes on and stay here in jail," that would have been ridiculous. Unfortunately that's often exactly what we do.
Through Jehoiachin's story, the Holy Spirit showed me a picture of my own story. So many of our stories, I believe. Imprisoned as a result of our own turning away from God, and our failure to believe what He says, we find ourselves locked away in the prisons of fear, anxiety, depression, control, criticism, shame, condemnation, indecision, striving, pride, insecurity, addiction and a slew of other slavemasters. In this kind of captivity, the enemy keeps us from the abundant life God intends for us to have — and the plans and purposes the Lord wants to accomplish in and through us.
But, praise God, we don't have to stay there! Jehoiachin's rescue foreshadowed the future rescue of God's people from Babylonian exile — and ultimately, our TOTAL rescue through the cross of Jesus Christ (a legal descendant of Jehoiachin, by the way — see Matthew 1). This staggering gift of grace not only frees us from the eternal penalty of sin, but also from an earthly life of bondage and separation from God.
To take hold of our freedom, and live it out fully, we need to set our old, ugly prison clothes aside daily, reminding ourselves — and our accuser (Rev. 12:10) — of the freedom that is ours in Christ. How can we be so sure of our right standing? Take a look at Colossians 2.
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
The reason we can confidently put aside our prison clothes is because God put aside the charges against us.
Jesus is the King who releases us from the grip of hell on our lives, now and forever. Following Him is the way out of every jail cell that the enemy can throw us in. “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17–18)
A LIFE OF FREEDOM
Like Jehoiachin, when we are freed by the King who holds the keys, we are invited to...
1. Throw off our prison clothes permanently and walk out of captivity — despite our guilt — solely because of the King's kindness.
"...he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..." (Isaiah 61:1)
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36
"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:4–9)
2. Exchange prison clothes for the clothes of salvation and righteousness.
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness..." (Isaiah 61:10)
“See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (Zechariah 3:4)
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
3. Receive words of kindness from the King.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)
"The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times." (Psalm 12:6)
4. Enjoy the honor of eating regularly at the King's table, where we experience a close relationship with Him.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)
"...indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)
"People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." Luke 13:29
"Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19:9)
5. Count on the daily provision of God.
"Give us this day our daily bread..." (Matthew 6:11)
"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26)
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
“I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10)
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING TODAY?
As you live out your days, are you wearing the clothes of a free person or an inmate?
It seems obvious, but sometimes we still miss what Galatians 5:1 says: "FOR FREEDOM Christ has set us free." By enduring the cross on our behalf, Jesus didn't just unlock the door to heaven so we could stay in our prisons until then. He invited us to come out now. Declaring us righteous before the Father, He gave us immediate access to the King's presence, favor, fellowship and faithfulness. He enabled us to leave the old self behind and actively walk in the freedom that came at such a precious cost.
So what are you waiting for? Put aside your prison clothes like Jehoiachin did. Leave them where they belong, put on the righteousness of Christ and receive the riches of His love for you. Your seat at the King's table awaits.