Putting Aside Your Prison Clothes

By B.J. Funk

Want to read a book better than the latest mystery novel you have read? Then, grab your Bible and feast your eyes on the intriguing 25 chapters of Second Kings! There you will find plenty of evil, hatred, and wickedness. Throw in war, cruelty, power, the desensitizing of right and wrong, and you have the ingredients that fill most of the best sellers on our book shelves. Add a famine so deadly that mothers eat their own children, mix in idolatry, conspiracy, murder, destruction, nauseating self-love, and you are standing in the middle of the reasons for Israel’s defeat. The intriguing story goes on and on, a tug of war between those who served God with a passion and those who led the Israelites astray.

But, there’s more. Woven into the framework of evil is the enchanting excitement of supernatural events: Elijah touches his cloak to the water, and it parts; He does not die but is taken up in a whirlwind; Elisha helps a widow with her debt by supernaturally expanding her jar of oil, and he also removes poison from a stew; He raises a boy from the dead, enlarges a small amount of food to feed a big crowd, and heals a man of leprosy.

Then there is Jezebel, the evil Baal-worshiping wife of king Ahab of Israel. She is thrown out of a window by eunuchs and then eaten by a dog. How humiliating is that for a main character!

To add insult to injury, the Babylonian army marches into Jerusalem, carries the people into captivity, and Jehoiachin, a former king of Israel, is put into prison. The story takes an unexpected turn after Jehoiachin has been in prison 37 years! The new Babylonian king releases Jehoiachin, speaks kindly to him and gives him a seat of honor. We have no indication why, especially since the king’s given name was Evil-Merodach, except we do know that God’s grace overrides evil rulers. The last two verses of this book reads, “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.”

Talk about a surprise ending!

There are several thoughts we can carry with us from these last two verses. First, God is a God of surprises. He is the master at turning a story around and bringing a happy, surprise ending! Secondly, who but God would give us a story like this! Full of the theme “rags to riches,” it is also only complete as a “jail to grace” story. Lastly, who of us could deny that God can soften the heart of a king? Our Father knows how to place both the villain and his victim in the same paragraph and allow a tenderness and softness to change the plot.

The greatest thought we can take away, however, is to allow Jehoiachin’s release and Evil-Merodach’s forgiving spirit to make a difference in our own lives. Jehoiachin, the prisoner, did nothing to earn a seat at the king’s table. You and I, prisoners to our sin, have done nothing to earn a seat at our King’s table. Yet, He invites you to “put aside your prison clothes, and join him regularly.”

Are you walking around daily in your prison clothes, afraid to claim your new wardrobe? Do you still sleep in your jail cell outfit? You don’t realize Jesus has set you free? When Jesus bought your life through his death, he brought you freedom from old habits, freedom from past sins, freedom from all those things that inhibit you from being all he wants you to be. He took your filthy rags and in exchange, he gave you new, clean white robes of wholeness.

What are you waiting for? Run! Throw off those prison clothes! Find your seat at the King’s table!

Don’t let anyone else have your spot! Gulp down the cup of his love. Eat his grace until you are stuffed. Bask in the unbelievably wonderful feeling of freedom.