Praise That Resounded from the Inner Prison
Paul and Silas imprisoned
Today’s text narrates the incident that took place in Philippi where the Apostle Paul and Silas were thrown in prison. After being thrown in prison they were beaten, stripped and beaten with rods many times (Acts 16:22-26). Paul and Silas were thrown into an inner prison which is a deep prison (Acts 16:24). But Paul and Silas praised God and sang hymns even in this inner chamber of the prison (Acts 16:25). As a result, God performed this miracle that is beyond any human imagination.
Miracles inside the inner prison
Inside the prison there was a great earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison house (Acts 16:26a). With this earthquake, one would think that the entire region would have shaken but this great earthquake only shook the foundations of the prison house were Paul and Silas were kept. The word “shake” in Greek is σαλεύω (saleuó) which means to agitate or shaken. As we live our lives we come across many people who have a heart like that of concrete but if God brings about a great earthquake the foundations of that heart will be shaken. Secondly, all the closed doors in the prison opened. The prison doors were shut, but they opened immediately (Acts 16:27). In our lives, we experience many doors being shut which bring great suffering in our lives but our God is a God who will open the doors that were shut (Rev 3:8). Thirdly, all of the people who were bound in the prison were unfastened (Acts 16:26). These prisoners were bound with rope which prevented them from moving at all but amazingly because of this great earthquake God’s mighty work happened and instantly, their chains were unfastened and the ropes were unfastened too. It does not matter how deep your inner prison may be, through prayer all things can be unbound and unfastened.
The hymn that resounded from the inner prison
The hymn that resounded from the inner prison was a hymn that was sung about midnight (Acts 16:25). This “midnight” is when it’s at its darkest hour. Paul and Silas at the darkest night prayed to God and sang hymns. At the darkest hour, Jonah prayed from the belly of a great fish (Jonah 2:1). This amazing hymn of Jonah concludes with thanksgiving to God (Jonah 2:9). As a result, the Lord commanded the fish to release Jonah and the fish vomited him upon the dry land (Jonah 2:10). The time the Israelites left Egypt was at midnight Exod (12:29). This midnight is also speaking of the darkest hour, midnight. Secondly, the hymn that Paul and Silas sung was praise that resonated from the deepest pain. Paul and Silas were stripped of their robes, beaten with rods and struck with many blows on their bare flesh, 39 times (Acts 16:22-23). Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner prison where they were also tortured many times. How can they sing hymns and give praise to God in such excruciating pain? This teaches us that we must never give up, be in despair or blame others but pray to God with hymns (Psa 150:6).
The kind of praise lifted up
This was a praise that surpassed complaints. In human thoughts, the Apostle Paul wanted to deliver the gospel to Asia and when he tried to go, the Holy Spirit prevented him from going (Acts 16:6-8). That night, a vision appeared to Paul and a man of Macedonia appeared before him and said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul realized that God’s will was not for him to go to Asia but to go to Macedonia. In Macedonia, the very first city was Philippi (Acts 16:12). It was here that Paul healed a woman who was possessed with an evil spirit (Acts 16:18). Her masters ceased Paul and Silas and turned them over to the Roman magistrates so that they can be beaten and thrown in prison. Paul and Silas could have grumbled against God, but instead they gave thanks to God and began to sing hymns so loud that even the prisoners around them could hear them singing. May we never complain against God but sing deeply from our hearts so that we can truly experience the freedom and liberation from the inner prison that we may be in.
Conclusion: Praise from the inner prison resulted in a great work of evangelism. The “jailor” actually awoke and saw the prison doors opened. He awoke due to the great shaking of the earthquake and immediately thought, “I am going to die, because I allowed for the prisoners to escape.” Immediately he drew out his sword and was about to kill himself but Paul shouted with a loud voice and said, “Do not harm yourself for we are all here” (Acts 16:27-28). The jailor fell down before Paul and Silas and after bringing them out, the jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:28-30). Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31). The jailor brought Apostle Paul and asked him to preach the Word to the rest of his family members and his whole house believed and were baptized (Acts 16:33-34). This teaches us that our suffering is all a part of God’s amazing and invisible providence to save households. May we not only experience liberation but also impart redemption for many people around us.