Midnight in a Roman Jail
Today’s reading: Psalm 4-6; Acts 16:16-40
7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:7-8
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Acts 16:25-26
Those who know the Lord God of heaven and earth have joy and peace that is not derived from their outward circumstances but from confidence in His presence in every situation.
What do you do while you are held in stocks in a Roman jail at midnight? If you are Paul and Silas, you pray and sing hymns to God. Meanwhile, the other prisoners and, we may assume, the sentries and guards listen in. How can we account for such incongruous behavior? These Christian missionaries have what the Psalmist calls joy that the Lord has placed in their hearts. They have peace that allows them to trust God in a place that, for anyone else, could not be called safe. They pray and sing because that was what they normally did when they had time on their hands. Perhaps they were not comfortable enough to sleep, but they were peaceful and joyful enough to pray and sing.
God answered them in a dramatic way, with a great earthquake. The prison was rocked, the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Who was running that place? The same One to whom Paul and Silas prayed and sang. God is in control. He is always in control, at all times and in all places. He watches over His people down through the centuries, in David’s time, in Paul’s day, and right to us in this twenty-first century.
Have you learned to have peace and joy no matter what adversity comes your way? Could you pray and sing in prison at midnight? Could you have joy when your grain and wine has run out? Can you lie down and sleep with an army encamped against you? David, Paul, and Silas could. Learn to trust in God, as they did.
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