After a severe whipping, they threw them into prison – commanding the jailer to guard them carefully. Having received his orders, he threw them into an inner cell and secured their feet in the stocks. Around midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and began to sing hymns to God.
When Paul and Silas were arrested, unjustly, and severely beaten, we can understand why they might shout curses and ask God why he would reward their faithfulness with such agony.
But, instead, around midnight the prison echoes with the sound of singing.
Ben Robertson, an American journalist, describes in his book, I Saw England, the time he was sent to England to cover the bombing of London during World War II. He flew into London on Saturday night and was met with one of the worst air raids of the war.
The bombing continued through the night, and fires erupted throughout the city. As he looked around him, Robertson observed a huge circle of fire for ten miles all around London.
The all-clear alarm sounded at one in the morning. Robertson went to his hotel room, nervous and exhausted. He threw himself on his bed and cried, “Oh, God, I don’t want to live another day. I can’t go through another night of hell and horror like this.”
Ben fell asleep with the window open. He was awakened on Sunday morning by music. Curious, he got up and went outside looking for the source of the music.
Across the street, he saw a Christian church that had been reduced to rubble by the bombing raid. The roof was gone and only portions of the walls remained.
But there, standing amidst the ruins, was the choir, the rector, and the little congregation – gathered for worship on Sunday morning.
The congregation was not only singing – they were singing triumphantly.
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is his new creation, by Spirit and the Word
From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.
Robertson was overwhelmed by these valiant believers. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw in the world something that was unshatterable . . . something that was indestructible – the spirit and power of Jesus Christ within his church.”
Falling on his knees, Ben Robertson prayed, “Oh, God, now I gather strength and courage to live another day. I will go on . . .”
Prisons walls and misfortunes were never meant to muzzle the sound of a good tenor.
(copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)