In today’s reading, we find incredible descriptions of the difference in worldview that exist between Jews and Gentiles, between those enslaved to the ways of the world and those set free by faith in God.
Paul and Silas are imprisoned. They should be sulking at best or enraged at worst for their unfair treatment and imprisonment. Instead, we find them singing hymns of praise—at midnight! The result of their joy is mind-blowing; it causes an earthquake, and the prison doors swing open.
I wonder whether the earthquake and opened doors come about because of Paul and Silas’s prayer and singing or whether these things come about because of their faith that God works according to God’s holy and perfect will. In the scene that follows the earthquake, we find a description of how an entire household comes to faith in Jesus. We see, therefore, that the previous events (the enslaved woman’s spirit, Paul and Silas’s worship, and the earthquake) serve as catalysts for the jailer and his entire household to be baptized after they come to believe in God.
Recently, in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe stepped down after nearly forty years in power. Many lauded his resignation and now hope for a more fair and humane government that “will sort out things.” In a similar fashion, nations around the world often look for a reprieve from oppressive regimes. Let us remember, however, that God will only open our prison doors in order to serve God’s kingdom purposes.
Holy God, we come into your presence to ask you to listen to the cries of the oppressed—those who are ill-treated, those who are being treated unfairly. We pray this in the name and Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.