Paul and Silas
16One day on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl. She had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. 17The girl followed Paul and the rest of us, and she kept yelling, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved.”
18This went on for several days. Finally, Paul got so upset that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” At once the evil spirit left her.
19When the girl's owners realized they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. 20They told the officials, “These Jews are upsetting our city! 21They are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do.”
22The crowd joined in the attack on Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off the two men and ordered them to be beaten with a whip. 23After they had been badly beaten, they were put in jail, and the jailer was told to guard them carefully. 24The jailer did as he was told. He put them deep inside the jail and chained their feet to heavy blocks of wood.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened. 26Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail to its foundations. The doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.
27When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. 28But Paul shouted, “Don't harm yourself! No one has escaped.”
29The jailer asked for a torch and went into the jail. He was shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas. 30After he had led them out of the jail, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
31They replied, “Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home.”
32Then Paul and Silas told him and everyone else in his house about the Lord. 33While it was still night, the jailer took them to a place where he could wash their cuts and bruises. Then he and everyone in his home were baptized. 34They were very glad they had put their faith in God. After this, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home and gave them something to eat.
35The next morning the officials sent some police with orders for the jailer to let Paul and Silas go. 36The jailer told Paul, “The officials have ordered me to set you free. Now you can leave in peace.”
37But Paul told the police, “We are Roman citizens, and the Roman officials had us beaten in public without giving us a trial. They threw us into jail. Now do they think they can secretly send us away? No, they cannot! They will have to come here themselves and let us out.”
38When the police told the officials that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, the officials were afraid. 39So they came and apologized. They led them out of the jail and asked them to please leave town. 40But Paul and Silas went straight to the home of Lydia, where they saw the Lord's followers and encouraged them. Then they left.
In this moving story we find four miracles of grace.
First, a slave girl is set free. In the name of Jesus she is freed from demonic possession and from human economic exploitation. Thank you, Lord!
Second, human beings worship God in really crummy circumstances. Luke says that around midnight, while lying on the cold floor of the prison, unjustly incarcerated, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing praises to God” (16:25). Talk about miracles! I would not have blamed them if they felt sorry for themselves. Right? That they were praying makes sense; as they say, “even atheists pray in fox-holes.” But that they were singing hymns of praise? Miracle. God had given them grace to respond to their crummy circumstances by turning to him in praise. And as a result they were free. Before the earthquake shook! Praise opens our eyes to the full reality; yes, the chains; but also the living God. And they realized afresh that they had not been abandoned. Thank you Lord!
Third, an earthquake takes place that frees Paul and Silas from prison. The thing about this earthquake is that it seemed to know just where to shake and not to shake! It had one specific purpose – loosen the chains that bind the messengers of the good news! Thank you Lord!
And fourth, a jailer comes to saving faith in Jesus. He is stunned by all he witnesses. He figures that he is in danger of being executed for allowing prisoners to escape, and that he would do the honourable thing for a Roman, and commit suicide. But he hears the good news, believes, and joins his whole family in the adventure of salvation. Thank you, Lord!
Dear God, You continue to work these miracles in our time. Will you especially work the miracle of being able to lift our hearts in praise to you in any circumstance? Then we will be truly free. In Jesus’ name. Amen.