Message to PrisonersStudy No. 145
Giving & Sharing has received numerous letters from prisoners, asking for material to read.
Giving & Sharing is not a church, but a religious service, specifically for Sabbath-keepers. We were a little per-plexed how to deal with this unsolicited response, when many requesting our literature probably do not understand that the Bible Sabbath is NOT Sunday, but the Bible Sabbath is actually Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
When I considered that most prison "ministries" reject the Bible Sabbath, along with vast portions of the Bible, I realized that prisoners really need to be given Godís Truth as it applies to them. If only prisoners knew the way to happiness and joy! If nobody else will bother to show them the way, why donít I do it?
The Eternalís message to prisoners is really the same as to all people. A prisoner has been brought so low in life that he or she just may be at the right point to respond to the Eternal. The rest of us "good, law-abiding folk," in our smug self-righteousness, are all too often above repentance, incapable or unwilling to restore and rebuild the destructive results of our sins. Actually, most people outside of prison are prisoners, or slaves, to their sins. They cannot keep from destructive habits, such as drug and alcohol abuse, addiction to sexual sins, anger, laziness, greed, selfishness, etc. We should not think it surprising that many prisoners, when released, soon commit crimes again and return to prison. According to Godís plan, crime (sin) will soon come to a climactic end.
There is a way out of this mess right now. It is not pleasant. Some may hate me when I tell them what it is. But it is the only way out. Hear me, and then decide for yourself if you will act upon what the Bible tells you to do.
My Prisoner Friend
Prison life can be very drab. It is obvious why prisoners want to read. Some years ago, I began corresponding with a prisoner who professed to believe in the Sabbath. I remember several visits with him when he was an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. After passing through several steel gates, I came to the visiting room where prisoners clothed in blue jeans sat and talked with their visitors. As I spoke with my friend, who was jailed for armed robbery, I wondered what crime the other prisoners had committed. My friend counted the days until he finished serving his time.
I tried to help my friend get established, giving him some money for the basics. Instead, he bought a television set that he later abandoned when he moved to Colorado. He had "lost" a wide margin leather Bible we gave him while in prison. Sabbath-keeping brethren in Denver helped him get a construction job. He visited us once for Thanksgiving when we lived in Wyoming. He stayed for a long weekend, and nearly ate us out of house and home. He quit or lost his job and went back to being a drifter. The last we heard from him was when he phoned from a bus stop in New Mexico. My wife Shirley says he wanted us to send him money. Shirley refused, because all our help in the past was wasted. It would not surprise me if he went back to prison.
Looking back, I cannot tell whether my friend was really interested in the Truth, or whether he merely wanted somebody to help him, once he was released from prison. We and several others invested much time and money in hope of his rehabilitation. It was disappointing to see him slip into his old ways.
Not every prisoner is like my friend. It is possible for a prisoner to become genuinely interested in following the Almighty, and, with His help, turn his life completely around. Working with prisoners takes special skills and a special calling that we do not have.
Material published by Giving & Sharing is directed toward helping Sabbath-keepers become grounded in the Truth of the Bible. Our literature is not directed toward converting unbelievers. But, that does not mean that God cannot use our literature to help others. And, God has the skills, and can call and convert anyone.
The Bible and Prisons
Most of the Biblical examples of prisons show righteous people being incarcerated by unrighteous rulers.
Joseph was put in prison for refusing to commit fornication with a married woman, Genesis 39:20. God gave Joseph favor while he was in prison, and eventually after a few years, Joseph was delivered by God from prison and used by Him to save Egypt and Josephís kin from a great famine.
In Judges 16:21, Samson was captured by the Philistines, had his eyes taken out, was bound in brass fetters, and was put in prison, and forced to grind meal. Samsonís sin of fornication with Delilah, resulted in a dreadful penalty. Yet God had a purpose and a use for Samson. With Godís power, Samson pulled down the Temple of Dagon. Through Samson, the Almighty broke the yoke of the Philistines over the Israelites.
The righteous prophet Micaiah was put in prison by wicked King Ahab of Israel for prophesying the truth, but God took care of Ahab just as Micaiah said, I Kings 22:23-38. Likewise, King Asa of Judah put the seer Hanani in prison for prophesying Godís message against him, II Chronicles 16:7-10. Shalmaneser King of Assyria put wicked King Hoshea of Israel in prison for conspiracy with the Egyptians, II Kings 17:3-4.
King Zedekiah of Judah put Jeremiah the prophet in prison for prophesying that the Babylonians would take Jerusalem, Jeremiah 32:1-5; 33:1; 37:15, 17-21; 38:6, 13, 28; 39:14-15. Yet the Eternal brought to pass the prophesy He gave to Jeremiah, and in turn led Zedekiah away captive in chains to a Babylonian prison, Jeremiah 52:11,
When David was in a cave hiding from his enemy, King Saul, he cried out to the Eternal, who was his only refuge against his many strong foes and persecutors. David cried out to the Eternal,
Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shall deal bountifully with me, Psalm 142:7.
At the return of the Messiah, the kings of the earth shall be gathered together like prisoners, and shut up in prison, Isaiah 24:21-22 (compare Psalm 149:8).
"For the LORD heareth the poor [humble], and despiseth not His prisoners," Psalm 69:33. Yes, the Almighty hears the groaning of the prisoner, and releases from spiritual bondage those appointed to death, Psalm 102:20. One could call Psalm 146 the "prisonerís psalm," for it relates much to prison life: Donít put your trust in princes or legal procedures. Put your hope in God alone. "The LORD looseth the prisoners," verse 7. He raises up those who are bowed down low, but turns upside down the way of the wicked.
Satan has the world in a prison, under his evil sway and influence. The day is coming when Satan, old Lucifer himself, will be imprisoned, Isaiah 14:16-17.
The Almighty through His Son, our Saviour Jesus, came to open the eyes of the blind, and bring out of prison the prisoners who sat in darkness, Isaiah 42:5-7, 61:1-2, Luke 4:16-21. "The LORD is well pleased for his righteousnessí sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable. But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law," Isaiah 42:21-24.
The Messiah was taken to prison, to die and lead us all to true freedom under His law, Isaiah 53:8.
Do you think you are badly off in prison for a crime you committed, or are framed being innocent? Read Lamentations 3:25-40. Notice, "all the prisoners of the earth," means all the children of men. The inhabitants of this earth are all prisoners to one extent or another. We all have our "cross to bear." As the saying goes, stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.
Bible Crime and Punishment
This worldís criminal justice system is a travesty. The ways of our Creator, as detailed in the Bible, are totally different. The Bible emphasizes capital punishment for serious crimes, and restitution for less serious crimes. The Bible does not authorize nor support a system of prisons and jails.
Godís laws of capital punishment are totally different than the laws of mankind administered today. There must be two or three witnesses before someone can be convicted of a capital offense. The witnesses must be the first ones to throw the stones to execute the convicted person, Deuteronomy 17:6-7. Here is a list showing crimes (sins) punishable by stoning:
Adultery Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24; John 8:3-5
Bestiality Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20:15-16
Blasphemy Leviticus 24:10-16, 23; John 10:30-33
Child Rebellion Exodus 21:15, 17 (cursing or striking a parent); Leviticus 20:9 (cursing parents); Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (stubborn, rebellious, gluttonous, drunkard); Romans 1:30, 32
Contempt Deuteronomy 17:5, 12-13 (contempt of court); Hebrews 10:28
Fornication Deuteronomy 22:23-24 (fornication with engaged virgin)
Homosexuality Leviticus 20:13; Romans1:26-28, 32
Idolatry Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:1-10, 17:2-5; Luke 19:27
Incest Leviticus 20:11-12
Kidnapping Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7
Murder Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:12, 14, 28-30; Leviticus 24:17; Numbers 35:16-21, 30-34; Deuteronomy 19:11-13, 21; Matthew 26:52; Romans 1:29, 32; Revelation 13:10
False Deuteronomy 22:20, 21 (she
Virgin marries, deceitfully claiming to be a virgin)
Perjury Deuteronomy 19:16-21 (in capital crime cases)
Rape Deuteronomy 22:25-27
Sabbath- Exodus 31:14-15, 35:2; Num-
Breaking bers 15:32-36
Negligence Exodus 21:19
Witchcraft Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27
These crimes are punishable by burning:
Bigamy Leviticus 20:14 (marriage to both mother and daughter)
Whoredom Genesis 38:24 (daughter-in-law); Leviticus 21:9 (daughter of a priest)
This crime is punishable by death, but the method is not specified:
False Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Note
Prophesy that Jehu killed the prophets of Baal with the sword, II Kings 10:18-25.
If you have committed one of these crimes, chances are you are not even in jail! That is how rotten our society has become, that Godís laws are held in contempt. But if you have committed a capital crime according to Biblical Law, and your sentence has not been death as specified in the Bible, then you are living under manís grace, which is in defiance against Godís Law.
What should you do? You need to repent as King David did of his sin of adultery and murder against Bath-sheba and Uriah (see Psalm 51 for his example). If you get out of jail, you have a responsibility before the Almighty Creator to live a clean life, and offer some kind of restitution to the victims against whom you have committed evil. You have a responsibility before the Almighty to teach others not to commit sins like you did, and offer the sacrifices of righteousness (Psalm 51:13, 19).
Other Crimes ó Restitution
Non capital crimes in the Bible are generally punishable by means of restitution. This means paying back, or compensating, the victims you have wronged.
The best example is theft. If a man steals a ox or a sheep (or a goat), and kills or sells it, then he must restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep, Exodus 22:1. If the stolen goods are found in his hand, then he must restore double, verse 4. See also Exodus 22:5-15. Verses 16-17 give an example of restitution as it applies to the sin of fornication with mutual consent. Our Saviour is returning for the restitution of all things, Acts 3:21. Restitution, here and in the future, is part of Godís plan for mankind.
There are many other principles of Biblical Law. You may find them in the first five books of the Bible, and magnified throughout the rest of the Bible. (Write for our booklet, Biblical Law.)
Being in prison does NOT satisfy Biblical laws of restitution. Instead, serving a prison term builds up a greater debt that the prisoner must pay back later. In the mid-1980ís, it cost an average of $20,000 of taxpayerís money per year to take care of one prisoner. The law-abiding citizens are being victimized twice! Prisoners, convicted for crimes they have actually committed, have the moral responsibility to offer restitution to their victims once they get out of prison. They also have the moral responsibility to pay back in taxes, $20,000 or more, for each year they have served in prison. That is a very heavy burden, but the Almighty absolutely requires it. No wonder we say that todayís prison system is an abomination before the Eternal! Instead of directing convicted criminals to work to make restitution, the prison system adds to their spiritual liability. But, that does not mean prisoners are free from Godís requirement for restitution.
Listen! You must repent of your sins first. You can do that right now, even in jail. And when you repent before God, resolving never to sin again with His help, God forgives you and you are clean before Him. But, you are not finished with your repentance! You must offer restitution. This applies to prisoners, and those who are not prisoners. You may have to serve more years in prison before you can begin to pay restitution. However, a wise person will find ways, even before release from prison, to begin the process (such as writing letters of apology to the victims, taking advantage of training while in prison so as to get a good job when you get out, etc.).
This is what I meant when I said earlier that there is a way out of this mess right now. It is not pleasant, because it requires hard, hard work. Yet Biblical restitution is the only way out. Decide for yourself if you will act upon what the Bible tells you to do. Here is your formula for success:
Repentance + Forgiveness of Sin + Restitution + a Life of Overcoming and Growing in Grace and Knowledge = Salvation and Joy in the Lord
Zacchaeus was a rich thief and scoundrel. When he came in contact with Jesus, he was convicted of his sins, and vowed to give half his goods to the poor, and repay fourfold for anything he had taken falsely. Jesus said to him, "This day is salvation come to this house . . . ," Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was filled with incredible joy, as he knew his sins were forgiven, and he had a working plan for full restitution. Zacchaeus was going to let nothing prevent him from fulfilling his plan of restitution. God expects this kind of response from prisoners. Are you being convicted by the Master?
Resolving Bad Attitudes
A few prisoners have written us as a result of someone placing a notice in The Jubilee paper. Some of these responses are peppered with words like "captive," "prisoner-of-war," or, "Zionist Occupation Government." If convicted of a crime you actually committed, you are not a captive, you are not a prisoner-of-war. You are not the victim of some "Zionist Conspiracy." Youíre just serving prison time in a system of human injustice. Change your attitude! Realize that you are required by God to offer restitution to your victims when you can.
But, if you are in prison for a crime you did not commit, that is a different story. You may be suffering persecution for righteousness sake. In this case, you are still required to respect the government court system that unjustly put you in prison. Romans 13:1-10 shows that we must continue to respect even an unjust government. This is extremely difficult to put into practice. I have yet to hear from a prisoner who sorrowfully admits his crime, and speaks of his/her restitution plan once released. I hope this article produces such plans, and that these plans are fulfilled. I cannot do it for you, you must do it yourself, with Godís help and His leading.
I donít want to visit a prisoner who is contemptuous of our government, bad though it is. Nor should Giving & Sharing, a nonprofit organization, waste funds on those who do not wish to learn about Godís laws. However, it is an honor and a privilege to visit and serve those prisoners who have, and/or seek, the Holy Spirit of God, for in so doing, we are serving the Messiah Himself, Matthew 25:31-46.
Are you experiencing drab and dreary prison life? Realize that the Eternal has a plan, a purpose for your life. You know the way back to Him. It may seem like a heavy yoke, but truly, His burden is light. May the Almighty grant you repentance and restitution, the path to joy in the Lord. W
Worksheet For Personal Study
Crime or Sin I have committed:
Punishment for this crime or sin according to principles of Bible Law:
My Restitution Plan:
Acts of Restitution to My Victims:
Things I am doing right now:
Things I will do when released:
Taxes I owe the Government for my Prison Stay: