Jesus declared that he had been sent “…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…”.
There are three accounts in the book of Acts of his disciples being freed from jail, and each is slightly different.
In Acts 5 the apostles had been thrown in jail for obediently speaking about Jesus and healing people. But overnight an angel miraculously opened the prison gates and brought them out, telling them to go to the temple and continue speaking words of life. Which they promptly did – much to the confusion of those who had arrested them.
Sometimes the path of deliverance simply involves me ‘keeping-on keeping-on’; just continuing to do what the Lord has called me to do. Eugene Peterson described discipleship as ‘a long obedience in the same direction’. That is often the way that leads me to freedom.
In Acts 12 the situation is more deadly. Peter has been cast into prison, chained and closely guarded, with the likelihood of execution the next day. With the church family praying intensively for him, an angel once again intervenes during the night. Chains fall away, locked doors open by themselves, and the prison guards are rendered comatose. (And Peter himself seems quite sleepy throughout the whole episode!) Having been miraculously freed and reunited with his friends, Peter wisely chooses to go away to another place where he is less at risk.
Sometimes I need the impassioned, prayerful support of friends to gain the freedom I seek. And having been released from what has kept me imprisoned, I need to choose carefully, and steer clear of situations where I could be placing myself back in danger.
And then in Acts 16 Paul & Silas, having expelled an unclean spirit from a slave girl (and thereby undermined her master’s income) were beaten, thrown in jail and chained. However, as they spent the night singing praise and praying, an earthquake caused all the doors to burst open, and all their chains to fall off. (Perhaps more angelic involvement – see Mt 28:2) Yet this time, although able to escape, the disciples choose to remain exactly where they were, to the utter amazement of the jailer. And this proves to be a turning point. The jailer and his family become disciples of Jesus, the authorities have to publicly apologize for their injustice, and the newly planted church in Philippi is encouraged.
Sometimes I am called to remain for a time in a hard place, even though I would much prefer to flee. But if I will cling to him, my loving Father knows how to bring unimaginable good out of each situation, no matter how testing. It requires a choice on my part: to prayerfully trust him, and to consciously invite him into my situation. ‘Singing praise while imprisoned’ is neither easy, nor is it a special ‘technique’ to gain freedom. It is simply an expression of humble submission. But we should never underestimate the remarkable ways that God can work with this. Our enemy has never understood the power of submission. #calvary.
So today, Spirit of the Lord, the proclaimer of freedom to captives, help me to distinguish:
When to find freedom by pressing on in faithful obedience.
When to welcome the way of escape as the opportunity to move clear of danger.
And when to simply wait in what may seem like prison, singing my trust in you until the day dawns and I can see all the incredible good that you are bringing to birth.