The Misery of Doubting Castle

Now, night being come again, and the Giant and his wife being in bed, she asked him concerning the prisoners, and if they had taken his counsel. To which he replied, They are sturdy rogues, they choose rather to bear all hardship, than to make away themselves. Then said she, Take them into the castle-yard tomorrow, and show them the bones and skulls of those that you have already dispatched, and make them believe, ere a week comes to an end, you also will tear them in pieces, as you have done to their fellows before them.

So when the morning was come, the Giant goes to them again, and takes them into the castle-yard, and shows them, as his wife had bidden him. These, said he, were pilgrims as you are, once, and they trespassed in my grounds, as you have done; and when I thought fit, I tore them in pieces, and so, within ten days, I will do you. Go, get you down to your den again; and with that he beat them all the way thither. They lay, therefore, all day on Saturday in a lamentable case, as before. Now, when night was come, and when Mrs. Diffidence and her husband, the Giant, were got to bed, they began to renew their discourse of their prisoners; and withal the old Giant wondered, that he could neither by his blows nor his counsel bring them to an end. And with that his wife replied, I fear, said she, that they live in hope that some will come to relieve them, or that they have picklocks about them, by the means of which they hope to escape. And do you say so, my dear? said the Giant; I will, therefore, search them in the morning.

Doubting CastleDespite Hopeful’s reassurance, the darkness returns. Night comes again and Christian and Hopeful still remain in the oppressive bonds of Doubting Castle. It seems that there is no end to their captivity.

The ongoing misery of Doubting Castle reveals the weight of depression that can linger and lie even upon true believers. Doubts can be persistent. Discouragements can increase. Misgivings can reemerge and reinforce, like iron bars holding us down. Even more mature believers are not immune. Christian was more seasoned in his pilgrimage than Hopeful. Yet Christian’s suffering was more severe. It was Hopeful who served his older brother by speaking words of encouragement. Bunyan himself often experienced times of severe depression. He confessed in the conclusion of his autobiography:

I have wondered much at this one thing, that though God doth visit my soul with never so blessed a discovery of himself, yet I have found again, that such hours have attended me afterwards, that I have been in my spirits so filled with darkness, that I could not so much as once conceive what that God and that comfort was with which I have been refreshed. [Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 3 in the Conclusion]

Giant Despair and his wife, Diffidence devise their plans in the dark, at night, when there is no light. Diffidence (lack of trust or unbelief) will always send us Despair to bludgeon and abuse us. Diffidence plots and directs; Despair carries out her cruel designs. He does her bidding. Diffidence tells her husband: “Take them into the castle-yard tomorrow, and show them the bones and skulls of those that you have already dispatched, and make them believe, ere a week comes to an end, you also will tear them in pieces, as you have done to their fellows before them.” The castle-yard represents the lives of those shattered by sin and devastated by despair. It is the hopelessness of a fallen world that has been blinded to the truth of God’s Word and the ruin of those who have strayed from the Way and denied the faith. Diffidence is sure that the sight of such brokenness and failure will extinguish whatever resolve the pilgrims may yet possess.

Despair would tear our lives apart and leave us in ruins. It would beat us down with troubles, trials, and tribulations. Its rage seems relentless with no way of escape. In the end, it would destroy us and leave us for dead. But God has different designs. He allows hardship to persist that we might endure:

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

He would have us glory in tribulation that it might bring us to hope.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3–5).

He would have us cry out to Him in faith that we might be delivered from oppression.

O Lord my God, in You I put my trust;
Save me from all those who persecute me;
And deliver me,
Lest they tear me like a lion,
Rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
(Psalm 7:1–2)

Giant Despair is confounded at the perseverance of the pilgrims. Diffidence fears that they may yet hope of escape. She suggests that they may, in fact, possess the means to escape. Giant Despair intents to search them in the morning.  In the next post, we will see how the pilgrims indeed are able to escape the misery of Doubting Castle.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Hopeful’s Reassurance

Hopeful: Indeed, our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me than thus for ever to abide; but yet, let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going has said, You shall do no murder: no, not to another man’s person; much more, then, are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another, can but commit murder upon his body; but for one to kill himself is to kill body and soul at once. And, moreover, my brother, you talk of ease in the grave; but have you forgotten the hell, for certain the murderers go? “For no murderer has eternal life,” &c. And let us consider, again, that all the law is not in the hand of Giant Despair. Others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him, as well as we; and yet have escaped out of his hand. Who knows, but the God that made the world may cause that Giant Despair may die? or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in? or that he may, in a short time, have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs? and if ever that should come to pass again, for my part, I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before; but, however, my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while. The time may come that may give us a happy release; but let us not be our own murderers. With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together (in the dark) that day, in their sad and doleful condition.

Well, towards evening, the Giant goes down into the dungeon again, to see if his prisoners had taken his counsel; but when he came there he found them alive; and truly, alive was all; for now, what for want of bread and water, and by reason of the wounds they received when he beat them, they could do little but breathe. But, I say, he found them alive; at which he fell into a grievous rage, and told them that, seeing they had disobeyed his counsel, it should be worse with them than if they had never been born.

At this they trembled greatly, and I think that Christian fell into a swoon; but, coming a little to himself again, they renewed their discourse about the Giant’s counsel; and whether yet they had best to take it or no. Now Christian again seemed to be for doing it, but Hopeful made his second reply as follows:

Hopeful: My brother, said he, do you not remember how valiant you have been heretofore? Apollyon could not crush you, nor could all that you did hear, or see, or feel, in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. What hardship, terror, and amazement have you already gone through! And are you now nothing but fear! You see that I am in the dungeon with you, a far weaker man by nature than you are; also, this Giant has wounded me as well as you, and has also cut off the bread and water from my mouth; and with you I mourn without the light. But let us exercise a little more patience; remember how you played the man at Vanity Fair, and was neither afraid of the chain, nor cage, nor yet of bloody death. Wherefore let us (at least to avoid the shame, that becomes not a Christian to be found in) bear up with patience as well as we can.

Locked in Doubting CastleIn the depths of Doubting Castle, cruelly abused by the schemes of Giant Despair and his wife Diffidence, Christian has reached the point of despairing even of life itself. But in his misery, he has a tremendous advantage. He is not on the journey alone. He has Hopeful as a companion. And Hopeful comes to his aid with counsel and encouragement.

Hopeful begins by pointing Christian to God and His Word. Our hope, if it is to hold, must be anchored in the commands and promises of Scripture.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

1) Hopeful reminds Christian of who God is. He is Creator of heaven and earth. He is in control, not the giants who have them pinned down.

2) Hopeful reminds Christian of what God has said. God commands: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Murder, including suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is contrary to God and truth. It plays into Satan’s design, who from the beginning has sought to mar and destroy God’s creation.

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15).

3) And Hopeful reminds Christian that they must resist Despair. Giant Despair trembles at the light. He is vulnerable and can lose his strength and leave off his vigilance. God may yet provide His pilgrims an opportunity for escape. They must be patient and endure.

It is worth noting in Bunyan’s story that the pilgrims do not find immediate relief. The darkness remains. Resolve and good counsel do not free them. For a time, their endurance and will to press on only brings about increased suffering. When the giant rages, Bunyan describes Christian as falling to a swoon.

Bunyan himself experienced bouts of depression where he “swooned” as Christian did. He describes such a time in Grace Abounding:

At another time, though just before I was pretty well and savory in my spirit, yet suddenly there fell upon me a great cloud of darkness, which did so hide from me the things of God and Christ, that I was as if I had never seen or known them in my life; I was also so overrun in my soul, with a senseless, heartless frame of spirit, that I could not feel my soul to move or stir after grace and life by Christ; I was as if my loins were broken, or as if my hands and feet had been tied or bound with chains. At this time also I felt some weakness to seize ‘upon’ my outward man, which made still the other affliction the more heavy and uncomfortable ‘to me.’ [Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 261]

But Hopeful again reassures Christian with truth. He reminds his brother of the difficulties and dangers that he has already endured by God’s grace.  He reminds him of his valiant stand for the gospel at Vanity Fair, a testimony that served in part to lead Hopeful to Christ. And he exhorts him not to bring shame upon himself, but to “bear up with patience.”

How great is our need for a companion such as Hopeful—a brother or sister who will stay near us in times of distress, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12). And there are many opportunities for us to be Hopeful and help others around us cling to truth. Mason says in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress:

Here is the blessing of a hopeful companion; here is excellent counsel. Let vain professors say what they may against looking back to past experiences, it is most certainly good and right so to do; not to encourage present sloth and presumption, but to excite fresh confidence of hope in the Lord. We have David’s example, and Paul’s word to encourage us to this, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37); and says Paul, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9)—(Mason).

Christian endures the dungeon because he has Hopeful as a companion. Bunyan’s message in this portion of The Pilgrim’s Progress is clear. It is to our great advantage, even to the preserving of our lives, that we walk together in this journey, and that we make an effort to comfort and encourage one another along the way. (This is a theme that Bunyan explores in much greater depth in Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress with the account of Christian’s family, Christiana and her children, and their companions as they travel to the Celestial City.)

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Lord Is My Delight

Just released! A new album of hymns and songs celebrating the joy of following and serving Christ.

The Lord Is My Delight 2017

Stream music and listen on Bandcamp.

Click here to download free sheet music (PDF) of these songs and hymns.

Click here for more songs and hymns.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
(Psalm 37:3–5)

New Album Coming Friday

In 2012 I released an album of songs and hymns I had written entitled Upon This Rock. That collection focused on Christ as our Rock and salvation, our one hope and resting place. This Friday, January 5th, I will be releasing a second collection entitled The Lord Is My Delight. This new album is a celebration of the joy of following and serving Christ.

Pre-order the album today and receive one of the tracks now.

I wrote the hymn My Soul What Truth Consoles You? one year ago today, on New Year’s Day 2017.  The idea for the hymn came during a message preached on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017 by Conrad Mbewe on John 3:16 entitled “God’s Indescribable Love.” Dr. Mbewe encouraged us to begin the new year with our souls “anchored deep” in the unfailing love of God in Christ.

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1–2).

Forest at Dawn

Isaiah 40 begins with some amazing words of hope. In the midst of pending judgment, Isaiah points the nation of Judah to the coming of the Messiah. He speaks of Christ who would come and tell the weary and downcast:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

In 1741 George Fredrick Handel opened his oratorio Messiah with a setting of Isaiah 40. Seventy years earlier, in 1671, a German minister named Johannes Olearius fashioned the same passage into a hymn: Comfort, Comfort Ye My People. Olearius was born in 1611 (the same year the KJV translation of the Bible was completed) and he attended the University of Wittenberg (where Martin Luther had taught theology).

The hymn is set to a tune from the Genevan Psalter composed by Louis Bourgeois to fit Psalm 42. Psalm 42 includes the refrain:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:5)

Olearius’ hymn is a beautiful setting of God’s words of comfort to His people. It was translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1863.

 

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem,
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.

Yea, her sins our God will pardon,
Blotting out each dark misdeed;
All that well deserved His anger
He no more will see or heed.
She has suffered many a day,
Now her griefs have passed away;
God will change her pining sadness
Into ever springing gladness.

For the herald’s voice is crying
In the darkness far and near,
Bidding all men to repentance,
Since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
Let the valleys rise to meet Him,
And the hills bow down to greet Him.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher places plain;
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
Now o’er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token,
That His word is never broken.

“Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”
Words by Johannes Olearius, 1671
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Music by Louis Bourgeois, 1551
Arranged from the tune GENEVAN 42
From the Genevan Psalter, 1551
Words and Music ©Public Domain

Download free sheet music (PDF), including guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune THIRSTING for classical guitar.

More Hymns from History

More Christmas music arranged for Classical Guitar

Behold Your God, Believe His Word!

Isaiah 40 Bible

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
And all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
When the breath of the LORD blows on it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isaiah 40:6–8)

Isaiah reminds us that God always is faithful to His Word.

Our experiences in this life are temporary—including both joys and trials; but God’s Word endures forever. We are like the grass that withers and the flower that fades—but God and His Word are not. Darkness and difficulties may come, or prosperity and ease—but regardless of circumstances, regardless of how well or how badly things appear to be going, God will always accomplish all He has purposed. His Word is true and faithful. For Judah, devastation and exile are looming, BUT there is hope, there is comfort, there is a SAVIOR. Christ will come, because “the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.”

Read more from this sermon on Isaiah 40 entitled “Behold Our God, Believe His Word”

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Doomed by Diffidence

Now, Giant Despair had a wife, and her name was Diffidence. So when he was gone to bed, he told his wife what he had done; to wit, that he had taken a couple of prisoners and cast them into his dungeon, for trespassing on his grounds. Then he asked her also what he had best to do further to them. So she asked him what they were, whence they came, and whither they were bound; and he told her. Then she counselled him that when he arose in the morning he should beat them without any mercy. So, when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls to rating of them as if they were dogs, although they never gave him a word of distaste. Then he falls upon them, and beats them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done, he withdraws and leaves them there to condole their misery and to mourn under their distress. So all that day they spent the time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations. The next night, she, talking with her husband about them further, and understanding they were yet alive, did advise him to counsel them to make away themselves. So when morning was come, he goes to them in a surly manner as before, and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison, for why, said he, should you choose life, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness? But they desired him to let them go. With that he looked ugly upon them, and, rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits, (for he sometimes, in sunshiny weather, fell into fits), and lost for a time the use of his hand; wherefore he withdrew, and left them as before, to consider what to do.

Then did the prisoners consult between themselves whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse—

Christian: Brother, said Christian, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable. For my part I know not whether is best, to live thus, or to die out of hand. “My soul chooses strangling rather than life” and the grave is more easy for me than this dungeon. Shall we be ruled by the Giant?

Doubting Castle

Christian and Hopeful lie imprisoned in Doubting Castle. They were overpowered by Giant Despair and forced into his dark dungeon. But despair is not the only struggle the pilgrims must face. Giant Despair has a wife and her name is Diffidence.

According to Mirriam-Webster, the term “diffidence” comes from a combination of the Latin verb fidere (to trust), and the prefix dis (the absence of). It is the opposite of “confidence” — con (with) and fidere (to trust). In modern usage “diffidence” means timidity or lack of confidence. It describes those who are hesitant and unsure of themselves. But in Bunyan’s day, the term had the broader meaning of distrust or lack of faith.

Scripture exhorts us to: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). As a mature believer, Christian should be “sound in faith” (Titus 2:2) and an example to younger believers like Hopeful. Yet Christian strayed and caused Hopeful to stray with him. Christian’s failure to walk and lead faithfully caused him to trespass on the grounds of Doubting Castle. Now locked away in its prison, he battles not only despair, but also distrust. His faith wanes; he falls into unbelief.

Despair is a cruel taskmaster. It beats us without mercy. It leaves us helpless, with nowhere to turn and no way out. Distrust is its crueler companion. It causes us to waver and question what we know to be true. It isolates us and casts suspicion over hopes for joy and salvation. It compounds our misery and can deceive us even to the point of thinking that life is no longer worth living. Christian loses sight of truth and despairs of life itself; he quotes from the book of Job:

So that my soul chooses strangling
And death rather than my body (Job 7:15).

Christian’s faith is shaken. He is on the verge of giving up. He asks Hopeful: “Shall we be ruled by the Giant?”

But this is a giant that cannot tolerate the light. He falls into a fit in “sunshiny weather.” Despair loses its strength in the light of God’s Word. Despair loses its grip when truth is brought to bear. Christian can be thankful that he is not facing this oppression alone. He has Hopeful for a companion. In the next post we will hear Hopeful’s answer and reassurance.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Captured by Giant Despair

Neither could they, with all the skill they had, get again to the stile that night. Wherefore, at last, lighting under a little shelter, they sat down there until the daybreak; but, being weary, they fell asleep. Now there was, not far from the place where they lay, a castle called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair; and it was in his grounds they now were sleeping: wherefore he, getting up in the morning early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and Hopeful asleep in his grounds. Then, with a grim and surly voice, he bid them awake; and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his grounds. They told him they were pilgrims, and that they had lost their way. Then said the Giant, You have this night trespassed on me, by trampling in and lying on my grounds, and therefore you must go along with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they. They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in a fault. The Giant, therefore, drove them before him, and put them into his castle, into a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking to the spirits of these two men. Here, then, they lay from Wednesday morning till Saturday night, without one bit of bread, or drop of drink, or light, or any to ask how they did; they were, therefore, here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintance. Now in this place Christian had double sorrow, because it was through his unadvised counsel that they were brought into this distress.

The pilgrims now, to gratify the flesh,
Will seek its ease; but oh! how they afresh
Do thereby plunge themselves new griefs into!
Who seek to please the flesh, themselves undo.

Giant Despair

Though Christian and Hopeful try “with all the skill they had” to return to the Way, they are unable. Wearied and cast down, they find a little shelter and fall asleep. Soon they discover that they are in great danger. They have trespassed on the grounds of Doubting Castle and are captured by Giant Despair.

The castle is a miserable, unforgiving place. It represents the doubts and fears of those beaten down by sin and overcome with guilt and sorrow. David describes such brokenness in the Psalms:

You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor;
My adversaries are all before You.
Reproach has broken my heart,
And I am full of heaviness;
(Psalm 69:19–20)

I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth;
I suffer Your terrors;
I am distraught.
Your fierce wrath has gone over me;
Your terrors have cut me off.
They came around me all day long like water;
They engulfed me altogether.
(Psalm 88:15–17)

The depth of such brokenness is portrayed in the allegory as a dungeon. The dungeon is a dark and unpleasant place, “nasty and stinking to the spirits of these two men.” Their sorrow is lingering and lonely. For four days they are confined without food or drink (to regain their strength) or light (to see and find a way out), or friends and acquaintances (to notice and take pity on them).

Loved one and friend You have put far from me,
And my acquaintances into darkness.
(Psalm 88:18)

Christian knew he had sinned and willfully wandered from the Way. His sorrow was deep in the meadow, when he realized his grave error. But now his pain is deeper. Though he had repented, sought forgiveness, and tried with great effort to make things right; he and Hopeful failed to return to the Way. Christian feels the weight of responsibility for their present distress. Earlier in the story he had grown weary on Hill Difficulty and had fallen asleep. He lost his roll (lost his comfort and assurance of salvation) and lost time retracing his steps to find it. Now Christian is again in a difficult place. He struggles with assurance. He is riddled with guilt, overwhelmed with doubts, and bound by despair. How can he be a Christian and stray so badly? His “unadvised counsel” has endangered not just himself, but a brother as well. Both he and Hopeful are overpowered, forced into Doubting Castle, and locked away in its very dark dungeon.

Christian’s misery echoes Bunyan’s own doubts of his salvation, expressed in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

But my original and inward pollution, that, that was my plague and my affliction; that, I say, at a dreadful rate, always putting forth itself within me; that I had the guilt of, to amazement; by reason of that, I was more loathsome in my own eyes than was a toad; and I thought I was so in God’s eyes too; sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble out of a fountain. I thought now that everyone had a better heart than I had; I could have changed heart with anybody; I thought none but the devil himself could equalize me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I fell, therefore, at the sight of my own vileness, deeply into despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind; and thus I continued a long while, even for some years together. [Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 84]

Christian and Hopeful lie imprisoned in Doubting Castle because they were no longer looking to Christ and resting in His provision. They had looked to themselves to find an easier path. And even when they realized their error and sought to return to the Way, they failed, striving in their own efforts. “All the skill they had” was not sufficient to revive and restore them. It looks grim for the pilgrims, but their troubles are just beginning.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So!

Autumn Trees

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…
(Psalm 107: 1–2)

Psalm 107 teaches us that we are to give thanks to the Lord. And we are to do so in the hearing of others: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! In each stanza we see people in various afflictions and trials. And each time the Lord brings deliverance, each time we see His hand at work, we see an exhortation to give thanks.

In light of God’s glory manifest in His work in us, we are to speak and sing and pray His praise. We are to encourage one another by giving thanks for what God has done and what He has promised to do. God intends that our words and our prayers strengthen those who are weak and feeble among us, that they might hear and have faith and persevere in prayer and hope.

The word that is translated “thanks” here in Psalm 107 is the Hebrew word yadah. Literally it means “to publically confess or acknowledge.” Thanksgiving in the Hebrew understanding of the term was not a private affair. It was always public—making known what God has done. The verb yadah simply means to declare or recognize a fact, whether that fact is good or bad. When it is used in the context of sinful human beings, the verb denotes the acknowledgment of a person’s character, most often in the context of confessing or acknowledging sin. When it is focused upon the glory and splendor of God however, it denotes the giving of thanks—a grateful acknowledgement and public confession of the greatness of God.

Having an attitude of thankfulness was not just for the Old Testament or worship in the temple. We see it in the New Testament as well, especially in the ministry of Paul.

Listen to what he writes to the churches:

To the church at Corinth:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4).

To the church at Ephesus:

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:15–16).

To the church at Colossae:

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).

To the church at Thessalonica

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

And remember, these were churches that were experiencing many problems and troubles. Paul writes long letters explaining how they are to live and serve together as sinners saved by grace. And yet when Paul thinks of them, he give thanks. He recognizes that each assembly is a miracle of the power of the gospel, a display of God’s glory in changed lives. Here were people who had been in darkness, worshipping idols and false gods, and now they are serving Christ and giving glory to God. The transformation of their lives is amazing!

We need to keep this in mind as well—as we live and serve here at Grace—as we remember and think of one another. We are a testimony to the saving power of the gospel and we have every reason to give thanks.

Paul instructs the churches—including us:

[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Let me encourage you to take time to give thanks. Think about God’s work in your life and in the lives of brothers and sisters here in the church. Where you see evidence of God’s grace and mercy—Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

[This excerpt is from a Sermon on Psalm 107 entitled “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So.” You can read the full Sermon  here.]

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

Christmas Guitar

It’s never too early to begin practicing music for Christmas!

Download a free PDF Songbook as my gift to you this Christmas season. It contains 30 Christmas hymns and songs arranged for Classical Guitar:

  1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel • VENI EMMANUEL
  2. Comfort, Comfort Ye My People • THIRSTING
  3. Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming • ES IST EIN’ ROS’ ENTSPRUGEN
  4. O Little Town of Bethlehem • ST LOUIS
  5. O Sing a Song of Bethlehem • KINGSFOLD
  6. O Come, All Ye Faithful • ADESTE FIDELES
  7. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear • CAROL
  8. Angels We Have Heard on High • GLORIA
  9. Angels from the Realms of Glory • REGENT SQUARE
  10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing • MENDELSSOHN
  11. The First Noel • THE FIRST NOEL
  12. What Child Is This?• GREENSLEEVES
  13. Gentle Mary Laid Her Child • TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM
  14. Away in a Manger • MUELLER
  15. As with Gladness Men of Old • DIX
  16. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence • PICARDY
  17. Who Is This So Weak and Helpless • EIFIONYDD
  18. Joy to the World • ANTIOCH
  19. All My Heart This Night Rejoices • WARUM SOLLT’ ICH MICH DENN GRAMEN
  20. See Amid the Winter’s Snow • SEE AMID THE WINTER’S SNOW
  21. Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella • BRING A TORCH
  22. The Coventry Carol • COVENTRY CAROL
  23. I Saw Three Ships • I SAW THREE SHIPS
  24. In the Bleak Mid-Winter • CRANHAM
  25. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day • WALTHAM
  26. Sing We Now of Christmas • FRENCH CAROL
  27. Good Christian Men, Rejoice • IN DULCI JUBILO
  28. How Great Our Joy • JUNST
  29. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen • GOD REST YOU MERRY
  30. Silent Night • STILLE NACHT

May you and your family find the peace of God in Christ and rejoice with “exceedingly great joy” in Him (Matthew 2:10).

Christmas Music for Classical Guitar

More music for Classical Guitar

Image above made with Unsplash

 

Music and Resources for Worship