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God’s Word: Embracing Us in Love
Acts 16:16-40: Paul and Silas are beaten and put in jail after freeing a girl from enslavement to an evil spirit. While in jail, they sing and pray, and a strong earthquake shakes the jail doors open. Paul and Silas do not leave, and the jailer becomes a believer.
Today’s Scripture: Acts 16:25b
Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
16 One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a young servant woman who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” 18 She did this for many days, until Paul became so upset that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her!” The spirit went out of her that very moment. 19 When her owners realized that their chance of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. 20 They brought them before the Roman officials and said, “These men are Jews, and they are causing trouble in our city.21 They are teaching customs that are against our law; we are Roman citizens, and we cannot accept these customs or practice them. ” 22 And the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be whipped. 23 After a severe beating, they were thrown into jail, and the jailer was ordered to lock them up tight. 24 Upon receiving this order, the jailer threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet between heavy blocks of wood. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped; so he pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself.28 But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don’t harm yourself We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for a light, rushed in, and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 30 Then he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your family.” 32 Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. 33 At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. 34 Then he took Paul and Silas up into his house and gave them some food to eat. He and his family were filled with joy, because they now believed in God. 35 The next morning the Roman authorities sent police officers with the order, “Let those men go.” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The officials have sent an order for you and Silas to be released. You may leave, then, and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the police officers, “We were not found guilty of any crime, yet they whipped us in public—and we are Roman citizens! Then they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Not at all! The Roman officials themselves must come here and let us out.” 38 The police officers reported these words to the Roman officials; and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. 39 So they went and apologized to them; then they led them out of the prison and asked them to leave the city. 40 Paul and Silas left the prison and went to Lydia’s house. There they met the believers, spoke words of encouragement to them, and left.
Why were Paul and Silas put in jail? Why did they refuse to leave when the earthquake struck? How did they bear witness to their faith while in jail? What can you learn from the actions of Paul and Silas?
When I was returning our grandson Alex to his family after a visit, the traffic seemed especially challenging. Fast-maneuvering cars blocked me from the correct toll lane, forcing me to go through a lane where only cars with a prepaid pass are permitted, which I didn’t have. Alex told me that my license plate would be photographed and a ticket might be mailed to me. I was frustrated because a penalty would have to be paid even though my infraction was unintentional.
For the ancient Jews, a violation of God’s laws committed even in ignorance was taken very seriously. The Old Testament recognized and provided for unintentional sins through appropriate sacrifices: “If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments . . . let him offer to the Lord . . . a young bull without blemish as a sin offering” (Lev. 4:2-3).
Old Testament sacrifices were more than a reminder that accidental wrongs have consequences. They were given in anticipation that God in His grace would provide atonement even for wrongs we didn’t realize we were doing. He did this through the death of Jesus in our place. God’s grace is far greater than we could ever imagine!
God’s will and our hopes
From: Our Daily Journey
What’s the difference between making a risky decision and stepping out in faith? How can we know if what we’re hoping for is something that God has for us or if it’s something of our own making?
Barely a few inches long, the image on the sonogram looked like something from a science fiction movie. With distinctive little nubs for hands and a clearly defined head, I could see the promise of the one who was to be our firstborn. Still unknown were the gender, personality traits, and distinctive qualities to fill out the picture of the now-beating heart. Capturing the image of this little life in the womb, the sonogram pictures were treasures for my husband and me. They reminded us that what we couldn’t see with our naked eye was indeed real, though hidden.
The capacity to produce and bring forth something seen from the unseen is inherent in all living things (Genesis 1:12,24). Humans are unique, however, in our ability to hope. We live in hope because—though marred by sin—we carry the DNA of our Creator (Genesis 1:27).
For the believer, seeing something we hoped for come to fruition isn’t about raw human ability. We base our hopes on the hard foundation of this truth: God fulfills what He designs (Psalm 139:13,15-16; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 6:18). Like the formation of a child in its mother’s womb, however, the fulfillment of a hoped for outcome in life takes place in stages—many of them imperceptible with the natural eye.
Seasons of waiting can be difficult, for our emotions become especially heightened in times of protracted delay. When the questions—from ourselves and others—pile on top of one another, we must choose to settle ourselves on the “strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19). For whether a hope is realized or not is based in God’s perfect plans. Our role? Stay focused, be patient, and accept His loving will in hope.