Bible Reading Day 193

by markburlinson

Day 193: July 12 (Acts 16:16-40)

Good morning!

As Paul and Silas stay with Lydia in Philippi, they join in with the rhythm of life for the believers there, and they are on their way to the place of prayer one day when they meet a slave girl who is demon-possessed. Luke does not record for us how her demonization came about, but slavery and oppression make it easy for demons to find a place in a person’s life. In this case, the demons decide to try to derail Paul and Silas’ mission by having the girl appear mad, and shout out the truth about them. Truth alone is not enough – the shouting is truthful (they are servants of God and they are telling people how to be saved), yet it does not serve their purpose to have a demonized slave girl shouting this all the time!

A long time ago when I was helping to lead a church plant in inner London, one frequent visitor to our services was a rather wierd older lady, who could be relied upon to shout out loudly at some point of the service “I’VE BEEN HEALED!” Even if that had been true, it mostly scared or worried any seekers and visitors present.

Finally, Paul was not willing to let the poor girl suffer any longer, and he told the demon to leave. This infuriates her owners who stir up a riot against Paul and Silas and they end up thrown in jail, locked in the inner dungeon, with feet clamped in the stocks. Was that fair? No. Was that right? No. Was it just? No. Paul and Silas have every reason to be frustrated, angry, and upset.

But that is not what Luke records: instead they are praying and singing hymns to God! This is unusual in jail, and all the other prisoners are listening. Then there is a massive earthquake, all the prison doors fly open and the chains of all the prisoners fall off! When God sets His people free, it is not just His people that get free!

Of course the jailer is terrified – his life depends on making sure these prisoners don’t escape, and now they are all free! Assuming he’s about to be executed, he is going to kill himself until Paul shouts out “We are all here!” The jailer is so shocked that he immediately asks how he can be saved. If being saved can enable you to sing in jail, and singing in jail gets you immediately set free, then the jailer wants to know how to get in on that! Paul and Silas explain to him and his household how to be saved, and they are all baptized that very night.

Presumably they all went back to their cells, because in the morning the city officials tell the jailer to let them go. Paul and Silas have no problem submitting to authority. But that does not mean they are an easy pushover! Instead they explain to the jailer that they have beaten and imprisoned two Roman citizens (which is unlawful in the Roman empire). That makes the officials pay attention! They come and apologize, and beg them to leave town! So they go to Lydia’s home, encourage the believers, and then leave.

So what has happened to you recently that was unjust? Can you sing about it? How do you need God’s intervention to set you free? It’s almost certainly less difficult than the circumstances God overcame to set Paul and Silas free! Expect Him to act (and probably surprise you)!

Have a great day!