In December 2018, Dan and I choose the word “confident” as our word of the year for 2019. (Confidently Walking into 2019) Honestly, I have started to feel like choosing the word “confident” is like praying for patience! In just two short months, I feel like my confidence has been so shaken! Areas I have never questioned my confidence have felt like a crazy storm I cannot hide from.
In mid January, I was reading Zechariah and a verse hit me in a way that I could not shake. So I made the only rational decision – I needed to get the verse tattooed to my arm. So tonight, I got that tattoo. All three of my previous tattoos have deeply personal meanings, and this one is no different. Tonight, I want to share the meaning of my newest tattoo with you. Zechariah 9:12 says this:
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
So many times, when I have heard the word “fortress” I have thought of deep, ugly strongholds, chains, torture and death. The idea that this verse starts with “return to your fortress” was such an interesting concept. Why would the author (most likely Jeremiah or Ezekiel) encourage us to go somewhere so ugly? So I googled the word “fortress” and learned the definition is “a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison.” After reading that definition, I started to wonder what the word “fortified” truly means. Again, I googled and learned “fortified” is defined as “to protect or strengthen against attack, surround or provide with defensive military works”. When the author said “return to your fortress”, he was calling the people to return to their safe and strong God.
The word “prisoner” really threw me off though. How can we run to a fortress of safety but also be a prisoner? That question circled around in my head for several days until I started to think about an old castle. You know, the ones you may have seen in a movie about medieval times? Imagine with me a huge castle. The castle is large and filled with important people, so it obviously has a moat around it. You can only get close to the castle if you travel over the drawbridge. When you cross the drawbridge, but are still outside of the castle, you are safe. Not many enemies can attack you within the walls. However, inside of the castle you are even more safe. Very few enemies can attack within the walls of the castle.
Deep inside of the castle is a dungeon. Now, I know most of us imagine dungeons to be dark, dirty and cold but I’d like to argue the dungeon is like the heart of the castle. Not everyone sees the dungeon. It’s reserved for a select few prisoners. No one can touch the prisoners who are in the dungeon.
As I turned this over and over in my mind, I felt like I heard the Father whisper “let me take you prisoner”. He wasn’t saying let me take you to a dark, dirty and cold place… no, He was calling me deeper in to His heart. Into a place of hiding with Him. A safe place where no one could touch me. A place where I wouldn’t be susceptible to any outside voice or distraction. A place with just Him and me.
What does it mean to be a prisoner? Again I googled, and learned that “prisoner” is defined as “a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody”. Here’s the beautiful thing about being a prisoner of hope, it’s a self imposed imprisonment. We get to choose if we are going to be “restrained” by hope, or if we are going to run away and live in despair.
Just when I thought I had wrapped this verse up, and could move on, I started to look into the word “prisoner” a bit more. Every time I sat down and tried to dig more into the word, I kept seeing the same thing. Over and over and over again I kept seeing the phrase “take no prisoner”. So I began to research the phrase “take no prisoner”. One definition of the phrase is to “be ruthlessly aggressive of uncompromising the pursuit of one’s objectives.”
Immediately, I felt like the Father asked how my life would look different if I took no prisoners. What if I was ruthlessly aggressive in pursuing Him? What if I was uncompromising in the pursuit of Him?
I think the verse answers those questions. When we hide in him, when we are prisoners of hope who ruthlessly aggressively pursue Him, He brings restoration. Not just a tiny bit, but twice what we lost.
In a season where I feel like I am surrounded by heaviness and where my confidence is shaken – I am running back to my fortress. I am hiding in the hidden parts of God’s heart, making myself a prisoner of hope, because I know – without any doubt – my restoration is coming. Restoration that is going to be big. Now, just in case I ever forget, I carry the reminder on my arm forever.