Decisions During Deliverance

Jailhouse rock_An excerpt from He's Still Working Miracles-7.png
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
— Acts 16:16-34

Another thing that intrigues me at this point in the story is a detail that I didn't notice for many years of Bible reading and study. Once again, I place myself in Paul's shoes (or Silas', depending on which one had smaller feet). I'm in prison. I'm tired and weary, but still, I'm praising God. I hear a low rumble, and the earth all around begins to shake. The cell doors swing open, and the shackles on my hands and feet fall to the ground. My response? “God truly does respond to the praises of His people.” And with that, I would have made a run for it. After all, the miraculous events could not have been mere coincidence or accident. It had to be the work of God. “God wants me to go free!”

But Paul and Silas must have been so in tune with God that even with their freedom on the line, they knew God's will was for them to remain where they were. And there they sat with nothing holding them there except their desire to do God's will. That amazes me, but what amazes me more is the realization that Paul and Silas were not the only prisoners freed that night. According to the Bible, all the doors were opened, and all the chains were loosed, yet none of the prisoners fled. Talk about an overlooked miracle! Here we have a ragtag group of prisoners, likely imprisoned for life or facing a death sentence. The chances are that most of them were justly convicted. Surely, each of them would have jumped at the chance to taste freedom. Yet they remained. 

I appreciate that God doesn't give us all the details in the Bible. I like how He leaves some of the “minor” facts out so that we must use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. I don't know about you, but I have a great imagination! I love to fill in the blanks, and I have some pretty good ideas about why the prisoners didn't flee, but for the sake of time, I'll share with you my favorite.

Do you remember the angels and the flaming sword that God placed in front of the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned? I like to think that every cell (except for the one for Paul and Silas) had one of those angels guarding the entrance. Yes, the bands were loosed. Yes, the doors were open. But who's to say there wasn't a grinning angel standing in each doorway and saying, “Go ahead, make my day”? (I told you I had a good imagination!) 

Regardless of how it happened, nobody escaped the prison that night despite the fact that there were no obvious obstacles to prevent it. When God has a plan, nothing can thwart it. And the object of God's plan was about to make his grand entrance.

Join me tomorrow for part seven of Jailhouse Rock!

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