One of my all time favorite Charles Wesley hymns is the song, “And Can it Be?” In one of the verses of that song, there is a powerful lyric that speaks of the freedom we gain in Christ, “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast-bound in sin and dark of night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray. I woke, the dungeon filled with light! My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. Amazing love, how can it be? That Thou My God wouldst die for me!”
The imagery of this song places mankind in a dungeon, held tight in the chains of sin’s oppression. The arrival of the Savior, lets light into the dark place, and liberates us from sin’s captivity. I love that picture . . . it is very meaningful to me. As beautiful as that analogy is , and as beautiful as that analogy was arranged to song by Charles Wesley, it would be wrong to give Wesley the credit. The Lord Himself penned a song centuries before “And Can it Be?” that Wesley (no doubt) drew from as he adapted the text to music. Around 700 BC, our great God wrote a song that he dictated to the prophet Isaiah, asking Him to share it with God’s people. This song (one of three “Servant Songs” in Isaiah’s prophecy) predicts Jesus’ role as God’s “Chosen One” or Messiah, who would accomplish His purposes in the world. Listen to the words of this song from Isaiah 42:1-9:
“‘Look at My servant, whom I strengthen,. He is my chosen one, and I am pleased with Him. I have put my Spirit upon Him. He will reveal justice to the nations. He will be gentle – He will not shout or raise His voice in public. He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope. He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged. He will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for His instruction.’ God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath and life to everyone in all the world. And it is He who says, ‘I, the Lord, have called You to demonstrate My righteousness. I will guard and support You, for I have given you to My people as the personal confirmation of My covenant with them. And You will be a light to guide all nations to Me. You will open the eyes of the blind and free the captives from prison. You will release those who sit in dark dungeons. I am the Lord; that is My name! I will not give My glory to anyone else. I will not share My praise with carved idols. Everything I prophesied has come true, and now I will prophesy again. I will tell you the future before it happens.’”
The first part of the song sees God describing Jesus to Isaiah and His readers, 7 centuries before His Bethlehem birth. He describes Him as someone who is fully in tune with the Lord . . . fully empowered by His Spirit. He is one who will bring about justice, not just for Israel, but for the entire world. He will accomplish this justice by being a humble servant leader, not a loud-mouthed dictator. He will inspire hope, not crush it, and He will usher His truth and plan around the world . . . even to places not yet discovered yet by the ancient world (places like Oklahoma!)
In the second part of the song, God talks more about the specific task Messiah will accomplish. This is where Wesley echoed the Servant Song. Jesus is said to shine as a light into the dark, dank dungeon of this fallen world, and beckon His people to follow Him out of sin and into the freedom of life in Christ.
This Servant Song, spoke of the work of Christ centuries before His birth, and reminds us again of how God had been planning a rescue of His people for centuries. Reading this song today, makes me want to sing again Wesley’s refrain this Christmas season: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Savior’s blood? Died Him for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued. Amazing love, how can it be? That Thou My God wouldst die for me!”
As you see Christmas lights around this holiday season, may they remind you of the Light of Christ that invites you out of the dungeon of your sin and into a relationship with Him.