Midnight in a Roman Jail

Those who know the Lord God of heaven and earth have joy and peace unaffected by their outward circumstances because their confidence is in Him alone.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 4-6; Acts 16:16-40

Selected Verses

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:7-8

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to 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 everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  Acts 16:25-26

Reflections

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.

Think about it

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.

Reconciliation with God Brings Joy that Lasts

To be at enmity with God, our Creator, is a hopelessly depressing situation, but to be reconciled to Him brings joy and peace that lasts.

Today’s reading

Second Kings 9-11; John 5:1-24

Selected Verses

 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house. 2 Kings 11:20

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  John 5:24

Reflections

When Jehoash was crowned king at age seven, Jehoiada the priest, led the nation to renew their covenant with God to be His people.  Certainly, Jehoiada was the real leader of Judah and he led well.  The wicked queen Athaliah had been executed and the rightful heir to David’s throne, Jehoash, was inaugurated.  There was joy in the land as long as Jehoiada lived.

Jesus ministry brought division and conflict in Jerusalem.  He healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, but the Jews criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, calling God His Father, and “making himself equal with God”  (John 5:18).  Jesus made stupendous claims about Himself in this passage.  He said He only did what the Father was doing. The Son was perfectly in sync with His Father.  Jesus was giving life to whomever He would.  He said the Father had given Him all authority to judge.  Jesus said His word, if heard and believed, imparted eternal life and freedom from judgment and death.

Think about it

Jehoiada’s leadership brought joy to the land of Judah until his death. But neither the priest nor the revival he led would last forever.  Someone greater was needed to lead the people to a permanent solution for the problem of guilt and sin.  That One was Jesus.  His word brings life.  Do you have it?  Trust Him.  He and the Father give life to those who believe His word because through Him, and only through Him, we are reconciled to God. That is a basis for joy that lasts forever.