The Aftermath of Events the Over Slave Girl Resulting in Paul and Silas in Prison
The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 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! 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.Acts 16:20-27
Read both accounts in comparison:
Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.Acts 12:4-10
What a remarkable passage! Each time these Christ-followers are put in maximum security prisons miraculous things happen. In this case the response of Paul and Silas is remarkable in itself. These two men have been beaten severely. They were stripped in the middle of the market place and beaten with wooden rods, like getting the cane over and over. Literally the perpetrators rained many blows on them. The verbs are imperfect signifying on-going action. Jewish beatings were limited to 39 lashes of the whip or strokes of the rod or cane. But Roman punishment had no limit. Those inflicting the punishment didn’t count. The perpetrators continued on until they grew weary. “When they had inflicted many blows” is translated here as a severe beating. You can bet it went past the limit of 39 for both Paul and Silas. I wonder what Silas thought. Did he say, “I am in this because of you Paul.” “I hardly said a word but you’ve got us into this by what you said.” Both Paul and Silas were “teaching things against their customs” meaning preaching Jesus, but only Paul was the one who became exasperated and challenged the spirit in the girl. How did Silas feel about that?
Both men were then thrown into prison and put in the stocks. There is no indication that their heads were in the stocks, rather emphasis is laid on the fact that their feet were secured. You have been beaten black and blue, likely to the point where you are battered and bleeding and now you are stuck in the dark, chained and bleeding, body racked with pain. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE DOING AT THIS POINT? I am sure praying and praising around midnight would not normally be on your mind. I don’t imagine any of the other prisoners in the jail would have been doing that. Luke tells us specifically that Paul and Silas were doing the praying and praising close to midnight; the other prisoners were listening. I normally think of lots of questions when I read the text of the Bible. Did the others object to these two praying and singing and praying and singing and praying and singing all night? It has been a long time now since their beating in the market place but here they are close to midnight still praying and singing. Again the verb is an imperfect active action signifying the on-going nature of their praying and praising. Just how long did they keep it up? Notice specifically that Paul and Silas are blending prayer and praise together, seemingly switching back and forth between the two. I know what that is like. I grew as a Christian in the Friday night men’s prayer meeting switching back and forth between prayer and praise for at least two hours sometimes longer, and yes on occasions until close to midnight.
What about the reaction of the other prisoners? Did they want Paul and Silas to shut up and go to sleep? Hardly! The verb used here [epakroaomai] is an interesting one. It is a rare verb only used in this one place in the Bible.
It has two meanings, the rarest of which is:
- 1) to listen with pleasure to music.
- 2) a technical medical word for ausculation, the tortured sound made by lungs under stress.
What is described here are the wheezes and rattling (rales) of tortured lungs straining to get the sound out.
That my readers is amazing! It’s a miracle in itself. That Paul and Silas would keep singing and praising when their lungs were at bursting point as a result of the beating. Despite the fact that their bodies protested their action they continued until close to midnight. Were the other prisoners begging for them to stop? No, quite the contrary. Luke, the Doctor, has used a special word here which indicates the other prisoners hung on every word, every prayer, every song Paul and Silas uttered. I imagine they were held spellbound by what these two were doing. Their fellow prisoners were well aware of the pain inflicted by the beatings. They likely had had the same done to them. But in all likelihood their cases were legal and bone fide. Likely as not they were in prison because they deserved it. Paul and Silas on the other hand were there illegally, with no trial nor specific charges laid, AND THEY WERE INNOCENT of anything other than preaching Christ crucified.
Yet still they used every last breath in their tortured lungs to praise God and to pray and ask Him for release and exoneration. I am fresh from singing the song in worship, “It’s Your breath in my lungs so I’ll pour out my praise, pour out my praise to You only.” I wonder if Paul and Silas knew that one. What an appropriate song to sing back to the One who gave you breath in the first place with lungs tortured and wheezing because of your beating.
Are there times when you don’t want to lift your voice in praise to God because you have a headache? I think you might want to rethink that one. Might I even dare to say Paul and Silas were singing at the top of their tortured lungs. Singing with all their heart and soul to the maximum their bodies would allow. Little wonder that God gave them a miracle.
As I have been writing this Gem I have been singing the above “Lungs Song” and a song that surfaced from the recesses of my mind stored up years ago based on Habakkuk 3:17-18. It just popped into my mind at the appropriate time and I still remember all the words after all these years. Amazing.
- Though the fig tree does not blossom
- and there be no fruit on the vine.
- The produce of the olive fail
- and there be no crop in the fields.
- Though the flock be cut off from the fold
- And there be no herd in the stall.
- Yet will I rejoice in the LORD
- Yet will I rejoice in the LORD.
- I will joy in the God of my salvation.
- God the LORD is my strength.
Sing these songs with me and praise the One who gives you breath, gave you life and saves you from yourself.
If you don’t know the tunes make it up. Sing a new song to the Lord. Don’t worry about what it sounds like. There are only two of you listening. You and the LORD and I promise you He will love the sound. If He responded to Paul and Silas in the way He did, I am sure He is going to love your sound too, pitch perfect or not.
A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.James Crook
Only (s)he who can see the Invisible One can do the impossible.Ian Vail
When your focus in worshipping Him is truly in Spirit and Truth you won’t care what it sounds like, nor who is listening.Ian Vail
Just give it your all and sing at the top of your voice.Ian Vail
Whether your voice has a rough passage out or not; God, your Heavenly Father, loves every note.Ian Vail
Read today’s Gem in its entirety and sing these songs with me now.