God has a few stories about prisons in His Word. I think about Joseph being thrown in prison after being falsely accused by Potiphor's wife. There were prophets who were thrown in prison for sharing a word that the King or religious leaders of the time did not appreciate. John the Baptist was put in prison by a political leader who didn't appreciate his observations either. Two of my favorite New Testament accounts are Peter's imprisonment, recorded in Acts 12 and Paul's imprisonment in Acts 16. I wrote about Peter's imprisonment in 10/24/11 (http://citychatchicago.blogspot.com/2011/10/monday-musings-unexpected-freedom.html). I was reading in Acts 16 this week and came across an account of one of Paul's imprisonments.
"But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the prisoners were listening to them."
Paul is well known for his encouragements, maybe challenges, to be JOYFUL in all circumstances. In this passage, we see him practice what He preaches. He and Silas have been severely beaten with rods and then put in prison. They were then thrown into the inner prison and their feet were fastened in the stocks. Not only that , but the charges against them were false and motivated by greed. It's one thing to be accused of something that you know you did (still not fun) but to be accused unjustly is truly gut wrenching. If anyone had reason to complain or withdraw into a pouty silence, it was Paul. But . . . here he and Silas are -- singing and praying -- at midnight no less. They had the attention of the other prisoners and apparently the guards.
When the earthquake hit, their chains fell off and the doors of the cells opened. But, unlike the earlier account of Peter's dramatic prison release, Paul and Silas did not leave the prison.
"When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.'"
Why did Peter get to walk out of prison and Paul chose to stay? Well - God was up to something different. The jailers life was spared and he came to know Jesus as his Savior - he and his household.
So - it begs the question . . .
Can you be in a prison inside
or outside of the prison walls?
Paul and Silas were free whether they were inside or outside of the prison. The guard, who had the freedom to leave after his shift, was actually the one who was captive.
Paul's willingness to stay in prison and share the message of the gospel brought freedom to this guard and his household.
I love how the Lord turns things upside down and inside out. I love that captive men can be free and free men can actually be captive (and then be set free).
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners." Isaiah 61:1
Are you captive or free?
Are you captivated by Jesus or a prisoner of this world?
Are you in a prison of your own making?
Are you a little too comfortable in those chains?
Perhaps you are in a prison that is not of your choosing - whether by circumstances or an illness. Maybe you, like Paul and Silas, have to choose to praise the Lord even in that hard place. Be guaranteed that the Lord will use that, just as He did in this account.
No matter the answer to these questions,
Jesus can set you free.
Not only can He, but He longs to set you free.
Life awaits you . . . just outside those walls.