Deliverance from Darkness
(10) Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and irons, (11) because they had rebelled against the words of God and had spurned the counsel of the Most High. (12) So he humbled their hearts with hard labor. They fell and (there was) no one to help. (13) Then they cried out to Yahweh in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (14) He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and tore apart their bonds. (15) Let them give thanks to Yahweh for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men, (16) for he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts through the bars of iron.
Two verses in this segment are virtually word-for-word repetitions of verses found in the previous segment (cf. vss 13 & 15 with vss. 6 & 8). These statements will each be repeated twice more (vss. 19 & 21 and vss. 28 & 31). This helps us see how the entire psalm is unified in its structure. Two words, “darkness” and “shadow of death” (vss. 10 & 14), are repeated to emphasize the message of this particular segment.
I. The distress of those held in darkness for rebellion (10-12)
II. Yahweh’s deliverance of those who cry out to him (13-16)
When those confined in darkness because of rebellion cry out to him, he delivers them so that they can praise him.
So far, the psalmist has employed two vivid images to convey the futility of living apart from God: wandering aimlessly in the wilderness in desperate need of food and drink (vss. 4-9) and being confined in chains in the darkness of a dungeon (vss. 10-16). The first, in the previous segment, shows us that only God can lead us in the way we should go. Otherwise, we would wander in the wilderness far away from him. The second in this paragraph proclaims that only God can liberate us from the darkness of our bondage to sin and death. Otherwise, we would never be free to pursue the life he desires for us.
Two verses from Psalm 119 portray the very same truth set forth in this stanza: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (Ps. 119:67), and “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps. 119:105). When we trust and obey the Word of God, we receive the direction that our wandering lives need and the deliverance that sets us free from the dark prison in which we have been confined.