Today the French celebrate "Bastille Day," a day on which the rebellious mob of the French Revolution overwhelmed the security of France's most famous prison, the Bastille, and released its prisoners. I have a proposal this year to remember on this day God's gracious act of regeneration. It is a bit incongruous, I suppose to liken the Sovereign setting free the rebels, as opposed to the rebels overthrowing the sovereign, but perhaps the irony will provide a much-needed reminder of the work of our Most High King!
6I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
It is by regeneration that our eyes are opened. It is by regeneration that our bondage to sin is broken, and the shackles of slavery to the flesh are shattered. It is the Holy Spirit working in regeneration that opens our eyes to the truth, so that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
8Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
This again has the same concept. I should point out that both passages have a double fulfillment. A first fulfillment was in the return of Judah from Babylon. The second and greater fulfillment is in our salvation from sin.
Zechariah 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
As you can see, the prophet Isaiah is not alone in describing God's work of salvation in such terms. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates, but he does so on the basis of the blood of the covenant: the blood symbolized in the water of baptism.
This is not simply my teaching, but the teaching of Peter the Apostle, who wrote by divine inspiration:
1 Peter 3:18-22
18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
So then, we may glorify God singing Psalm 102:
19For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the LORD behold the earth; 20To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; 21To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; 22When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
Here's one proposed metered version from Scottish Metrical Psalter:
He from his sanctuary’s height
hath downward cast his eye;
And from his glorious throne in heav’n
the Lord the earth did spy;
That of the mournful prisoner
the groanings he might hear,
To set them free that unto death
by men appointed are:
That they in Sion may declare
the Lord’s most holy name,
And publish in Jerusalem
the praises of the same;
When as the people gather shall
in troops with one accord,
When kingdoms shall assembled be
to serve the highest Lord.
Praise be to our Gracious Prison-Breaking Savior!