Joyful jail time
Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods.
23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape.
24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.
26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!
27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself.
28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.
30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”
32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.
On June 9, 1963, Fannie Lou Hamer and six other black passengers stopped to eat in a diner at a Greyhound bus terminal in Winona, Mississippi. They sat at the “white only” lunch counter. Winona Police Chief, Thomas Herrod ordered the group to go to the “colored” side of the depot. They refused and were arrested and jailed. Each of them was severely beaten, but Fannie’s received the worst. Ms. Hamer never recovered fully.
What happened in Hamer’s heart afterward is perhaps even more remarkable than what happened in the jail. Although the whipping left her body severely damaged, her spirit emerged hardened for righteousness.
Hamer spent the night in silence, but a day later, while still in jail she started to sing. Known for her resonant and inspiring voice, the same mouth that had been screaming in pain just the night before began sounding the strains of freedom.
“Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.
Had no money for to go their bail, let my people go.
Paul and Silas began to shout, let my people go.
Jail doors open and they walked out, let my people go.”
Doing the right thing often results in harmful downsides. When adverse consequences emerge, we always have a choice: complain and gripe or be grateful and rejoice.
REFLECT & PRAY
Courage and cowardice lurk in each of our hearts. We imagine both fleeing from danger and standing firm.
Father, I long to have the courage to stand firm for You. It should not take the risk of a severe beating, jail time, or immolation to force me to decide. Encourage me to stand for You right now and keep right on standing!
Standing for the Father sharing truth and bringing joy to others and suffering the consequences, is not a matter of conscience or ambivalence. We have an imperative. The only question is will we follow it.
Imagine the scene in Acts 4 and 5, more and more people are accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior. They are drawn by the gospel and the miraculous power wielded by the apostles. The religious leaders are alarmed and confront them.
The apostles were unintimidated and went returned to the streets preaching the Word. The religious authorities are astonished and have them brought before them to threaten them again. The apostles were busted for publicly proclaiming the truth.
“It is a tense moment. They have been duly warned, and now they can be convicted and severely punished. Peter, as always, speaks up for the group. Putting in positive form . . . this bold apostle now declares for all time: We must obey God rather than any human authority!” (Acts 5:29) (Chalmer Ernest Faw).
And so it was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up?
15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.
18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.
23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
Acts 16:34 And he [the Philippian jailer] brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
The Greek word translated rejoice is agalliao. Agalliao means to exult, rejoice greatly, experience ecstatic joy and delight. This word is not used by secular Greek writers. In the New Testament, it always signifies a deep spiritual joy. “Their hearts were singing” (UBS).
Jude 1:24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault