Out of the Devil’s Dungeon
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 5 B Psalm 130
June 06, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people in the depths,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Adam and Eve were deep in it and they felt it. That is why they hid themselves from the Lord God (Genesis 3:8). They were in deep trouble because of their sin. They did what God had told them not to do and they knew that it was wrong and they knew that it brought death to mankind, God’s beloved. They were caught deep in sin. They were deep under God’s wrath. They were deep down in the devil’s dungeon who captured them with his sly temptations. And knowing all of this, they were in the depths of despair.
You and I get deep into it too, don’t we? We fall for the devil’s tricks and give in to his temptations. We sin even knowing that it is the wrong thing to do before we do it. We are so deep in sin that many times we don’t even think about it. We just do it. It has become second nature to us, fallen nature. Once in a while our eyes are opened and we see how deep in it we are: deep under God’s wrath; deep in the devil’s dungeon; deep in the depths of despair.
Today’s psalm helps us to cry out from the depths of our despair. It gives us words to say when we are so deep in it that we are choking on it. It gives us words from the Lord by which we can be sure that they are true and that He hears our cry. The psalm is fairly short, only 8 verses, and well worth committing to memory, so that you have something to cry out when you are caught in the deep.
Adam and Eve “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). They did not cry out to God to save them. They were not sure God would want to save them. And perhaps that is the way that we feel sometimes as well. Why would God want to save someone like me who has fallen so deep down into the depths of degradation and despair?
But it is in God’s nature to save us from the depths. The whole creation of the world declares it. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:1). Then God began to make it a safe and habitable place for us. He never intended for us to live in the depths. He created light to dispel the darkness. He brought order to the waters and made the dry land to appear. He provided food and shelter and companionship so that everything would be very good for man and woman.
But the sin of the man and his wife brought them back into the depths. Their sin cursed God’s creation. It damaged all of the things that He had created for them. It even damaged their relationship with Him. Instead of walking with Him in the garden, they hid from Him. There was no way for them to climb back out of the depths of damnation. They were captives of the devil and they would go with him to the fiery pit of eternal destruction. They had no hope in the depths of their despair and nothing to cry out.
But someone did. “The LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). When the man and his wife were so far in the depths that they could not cry out to the LORD, He called to them and He gave them a promise that He would forever rescue mankind from the depths of their despair in sin. He will not allow the devil to hold us captive in his deep, dark dungeon. “The LORD God said to the serpent... ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel’” (Genesis 3:15).
Because the LORD God calls out to us in our despair, we have hope to cry out to Him. He called out to Adam and Eve when the devil captured them and they had become the source of the curse upon the very ground that God created to save them from the deep. He called to them to save them from the depths of their sin; the depths of His own wrath; the depths of the devil’s dungeon; the depths of their despair.
The LORD gave a promise to the serpent, the devil. It wasn’t a promise just to Adam and Eve, but to the one who deceived them and who tries to hold us all captive in his dungeon of despair. The LORD declared the devil to be our enemy and promised that he would be defeated, have his head crushed by the offspring of the woman. The promise was given to the devil so that we would know it doesn’t only refer to saving Adam and Eve, but all of us too. The LORD promised that One born of a woman would crush the devil in order to rescue us all from the depths.
Jesus proved Himself to be this promised One. Mark underscores it right from the first chapter of his gospel. Jesus casts out the unclean spirits, freeing those caught in the devil’s grasp. And Jesus Himself declared plainly that He had come to rescue us from the devil by saying, “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Mark 3:27). Jesus is the stronger man who binds Satan in order to rescue us from the depths of his dungeon. He crushes the head of the serpent and sets us free.
But in doing so His own heel was crushed (Genesis 3:15) as the first Gospel promise stated. His heel was crushed by a nail that pinned it to the cross at His crucifixion. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are set free. His descending to the depths of hell was to plunder the strong man’s goods kept locked away in the deepest recesses of his dungeon.
Peter describes it like this: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison... with angels and authorities and powers having been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:18-19, 22). Having died for our sins so that we have forgiveness in Him, Jesus could go right into the lower cell blocks because the devil was crushed beneath His feet, bound and helpless to stop the Christ from throwing the doors wide open and releasing us from the depths.
Paul wrote of the same thing in his letter to the Colossians. There he states that we were so deep in our sins that we were dead and buried deep until, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He bound the devil and triumphed over him so that He could set us free. “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Christ, 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. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him” (Colossians 2:13-15).
This is why you can cry out from the depths and be sure that the LORD will hear your voice. His ears are open to your cry. You know this because of the good news of the Gospel, that God does not want to leave you in the depths to perish eternally. He sent His Son, Jesus, to secure your release from the devil’s hold. He sets you free from your sins. It is one and the same thing. You are not free from the devil unless you are free from your sins. With Christ there is forgiveness, a forgiveness so fearful that it was secured through His own death on the cross for you.
Adam and Eve did not have this gospel so wondrously revealed to them as do you. They hid themselves in the depths of their despair. They could not cry out to God, so He called out to them. But you know the wondrous and glad news of the Gospel. There is no need for you to hide without hope. Rather, you can shout and cry aloud and call out to the LORD who hears, who has already provided the answer in His own dear Son. He has already bound the devil and you cannot be held by him. There is forgiveness for you with Jesus to set you free and bring you out of the depths.
Longtime prisoners often have a hard time adjusting to freedom. Sometimes captives remain afraid to go out into open spaces; or ex-convicts have a hard time reintegrating into society. It can be that way for us too when our sins are forgiven and we are set free. We cry out to God and He hears. We speak a confession and the pastor absolves. It is done. We are free. But the impact that our sin has had upon us lingers. The trauma of being the devil’s captive clings.
So keep calling out to the one whom you know always hears. Cry out and wait for it all to become clear. Wait knowing that the morning is coming. The resurrection morn, the dawn of the Last Day, is about to appear. The sun is on the horizon. There is nothing that can stop the Son of God from bringing the eternal day. Wait for the LORD and put your hope in His Word, that Word of Gospel: the Word He promised to the serpent; the Word that made a difference for Adam and Eve; the Word that Jesus proclaimed and the apostles preached; the Word that sets you free.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.