Singing In Chains
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,” (Acts 16:25, ESV)
I’ve often shared my astonishment of this passage. Intrigue, conviction, astonishment all flow at the same time when reading the midnight account. While it is not our desire to suffer punishment, it should be our desire to suffer well.
Reading this verse out of context can carry an assumption about Paul and Silas. It might appear they were prison ministers bringing people the gospel. It’s not as if they ran over time for the evening Bible study. They were more than zealous for the work of the gospel.
Paul and Silas were actually prisoners. They themselves were in the ‘inner prison’ and their feet were placed in ‘stocks,’ (Acts 16:24). Their condition was horrid. Each has been ‘dragged’ before judges, the crowd attacked them, they were ‘beat with rods,’ and after they were beat with ‘many blows’ they were imprisoned, (Acts 16:19-23). All of which was after many days of opposition in ministry by a woman who had a ‘spirit of divination,’ (Acts 16:16-18).
To say the least, life was a struggle for these men. Any servant of God might be downtrodden. It’s hard to believe Paul and Silas were all bubbles and rainbows. Assuredly, soft melodies of contentment was not at the heart of their song.
Joy and hope came out in song as they rested in something other than physical comfort. Happiness and satisfaction rested in something greater than lodging. Paul and Silas were established firmly in the faith. Even in pain and apparent failure they were singing.
These men sang to the great God of creation. They sang to the Savior of their soul. The songs were to God for His mercy and grace, even as they suffered dearly. The gospel is precisely good news because it takes hope and places it beyond this fallen and flawed world which is full of pain and suffering. By God’s grace may we sing with such joy even as the mountains and sky fall into the sea.