Darkness blanketed the stonewalled dungeon as dense odors of death and decay hung in the air. They could hear the rattling chains and the whimpering and whispering of rapists, murderers, and other violent criminals imprisoned in adjoining cells. Paul and Silas sat with their feet painfully secured in the well-used stocks. The stones were cold. The air was damp. The missionary duo winced with every slight movement as the open and unbandaged wounds on their backs oozed, sticking to their cloaks. A Roman prison was hell-on-earth.
A few years earlier, Peter and John had been flogged (Acts 5:40) and imprisoned (Acts 5:18) for proclaiming the Resurrected Jesus. Later, when James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded, Peter was incarcerated, awaiting a similar fate. The night before his scheduled execution, Peter, “bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison” (Acts 12:6). Because Peter, like the Great Houdini, had a reputation for breaking out of jail (Acts 5:19), the authorities took exceptional measures to secure him.
As Peter snoozed peacefully between the armed guards, “an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, ‘Quick, get up!’ And the chains fell off his wrists. ‘Get dressed,’ the angel told him, ‘and put on your sandals.’ And he did. ‘Wrap your cloak around you,’ he told him, ‘and follow me.’ So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him” (Acts 12:7–10).
I’ve never been shackled to Roman soldiers, but I’ve been in a tough spot or two. That story reminds me that my God is always able to secure my delivery!
As Paul and Silas sat in Philippi’s dungeon, they knew God was near and that He understood their plight, so they began to pray and sing. “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms. Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms!”
“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26).
Rocks creaked and cracked! Dust, dirt and debris rained around them. Heavy iron gates hung precariously from broken hinges. Perhaps Silas, in stunned amazement, whispered, “Hello God!”
Later, Paul remembered, “Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25).
He also recalled Christ’s ever-abiding words, “My grace is sufficient for you!” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Today, right now, sing... “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure...” because His “grace is sufficient!”