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.

Strength for Today; Hope for Tomorrow

God, who is unchanging, gives His people strength to do His will today and hope that someday our struggles and burdens will end when we see Him.

Today’s Reading

Job 19-20; Acts 9:23-43

Selected Verses

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me! Job 19:25-27

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.  Acts 9:31

Reflections

Job continues his complaint against God in vivid terms. He has been abandoned by everyone he knows. But suddenly he seems to recall that he has a Redeemer, One who will save him. That Redeemer is alive and will reveal Himself after Job has finally died. God has stripped poor Job of every comfort and dignity of this life, but there will come a meeting. Job will see his Redeemer.

The church had been devastated with persecution, but God had turned it to good by sending out His people to proclaim the good news of Jesus throughout the nearby nations. Saul went after them but found Jesus himself. He then became a preacher of the gospel he had been seeking to silence. He had to flee for his life from his former allies. Meanwhile a measure of peace came to the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. The church grew spiritually and numerically. The disciples were “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Think about it

No matter what your situation today, seek to walk in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. If you are suffering, like Job, remember that your Redeemer is alive. He awaits you when this life is over. As the old hymn goes,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(from “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by T.O.Chisholm 1866-1960)

Authority and Faith

Those who hold significant authority in this world need God’s help and mercy, but some find it hard to believe in Him. We can learn from two examples below.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 6-8; John 4:31-54

Selected Verses

And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”  I Kings 7:12

The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  John 4:53

Reflections

The king of Israel heard that the Syrian army had fled, leaving their equipment and food behind.  Even though Elisha had already prophesied that there would be abundance of food within a day, the king suspected a trick.  He assumed that Elisha was wrong, so he was not expecting some kind of miraculous intervention.  But the prophet was right and the king was wrong.  Did his position as king cause him to be more self-confident and less willing to believe God’s word through His prophet?  It seems that those who have the most power and wealth sense the least need for divine assistance.

But this is not always the case.  When Jesus arrived at Cana, an official of King Herod the Tetrarch went to Jesus requesting healing for his son.  The official hoped that Jesus would come to his home and heal the boy, but Jesus rebuked him for seeking signs and wonders as a basis for faith.  The man implored him again and Jesus sent him on his way with a promise that his son would be well.  The healing occurred at the hour Jesus had spoken. Jesus was being constantly tested by the people who requested signs, but, in the case of the official, Jesus tested him to see if he believed enough to return home with only the assurance of the Lord’s word. He passed the test and believed, as did his whole household.

Think about it

Having power and wealth does not help a person to believe the truth.  It may even hinder faith.  What makes a person believe is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in his or her heart.  No one comes to Christ without the drawing of the Father (John 6:44).

If you believe God, it is not because you have some inherent wisdom to do so.  It is His doing completely.  You believe because He drew you.  He drew you because He wanted to.  You responded because He gave you a heart to believe.   For that He deserves all your praise.

Seeking Darkness or Light

Whether you seek darkness or light says a lot about your true spiritual condition. Today we read of the worst example ever and a warning from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 21-22; John 3:1-21

Selected Verses

There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.  I Kings 21:25-26

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3

Reflections

Those who do evil avoid the light.  They are not concerned about entering the Kingdom of God.  They run from God, rather than seek Him.

Ahab exemplified a man who “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  On a whim, he ordered Naboth executed on trumped up charges because he had property that Ahab wanted.  He worshiped idols.  He was completely self-centered.  Whenever he didn’t get his way he was “vexed and sullen.” His conniving wife, the evil Jezebel, urged him on.  Ahab’s death came by God’s providence even though he had disguised himself in battle.  As prophesied, the dogs licked up his blood in the vineyard he had taken from Naboth.

Jesus gave the Pharisee Nicodemus a stern warning.  No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again, being born of the Spirit.  Yet, Jesus goes on to say, it is not as if there are people who are desperately seeking to enter the kingdom and cannot find a way.  The fact is that people love darkness, not light, because their deeds are evil.  They hate the light.  If they did what was true they would come to the light.

Ahab sought the darkness.  All those who are not born of the Spirit seek the darkness.  None of them are concerned about entering the kingdom of God.

Think about it

How about you?  Have you been born again?  If so, you will do what is true.  You will flee the darkness and come to the light.  You will love the light not the darkness.  If you are not sure, but are concerned about making sure that is a good sign the rebirth has taken place or is taking place in you.  Pray for God to do His work of bringing new spiritual birth to your soul.  I’ll see you in His kingdom.

Unquenchable Joy

Joy springs up in the life of those who have God’s Spirit in them.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 10-12; Galatians 5

1 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:1-3

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Judah and Israel were concerned about national security and relief from the oppressing nations. Isaiah came to them to speak of a Holy God whom they had offended. He was justly angry with them. Israel would be defeated by Assyria. Judah was on probation. But Isaiah also gave them hope of a future in which they would know God’s salvation. They would be comforted in the knowledge that His just anger was turned away.

The sweet promise “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” brings to mind Jesus’ words in John 7:38,  “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus was describing the Spirit that all who believed in Him would receive.

Paul tells the Galatians that in Christ they have freedom: freedom from their sin, guilt, and condemnation under the law. They have the Spirit of God and He bears fruit in their lives: love, joy, peace, etc.

There can be nothing to compare with the comfort which comes from being totally forgiven by God. No more just anger against us. If the Spirit of God lives in us, how can we not have a deep joy that springs up like water from a well? Let the joy of your salvation fill you today.