Earlier in the day, Paul and Silas had been stripped, severely flogged and then thrown into prison. So we now find them hours later holding their own praise and worship service to a rather captive audience of fellow prisoners and guards. They could have wallowed in their sorrow and pain, but instead chose to worship God. When we praise God in the midst of impossible situations, the atmosphere changes and with it, our attitude. Our eyes are taken off the incurable, the grief-stricken, the hopeless dilemma…and allows God to work in miraculous ways. It says here that the earthquake caused all the prison doors to open…not just the one to Paul and Silas’s cell, and that everybody’s chains came off…not just theirs. When our focus is on praise rather than on self-pity, everyone around us will be blessed.
Job couldn’t understand what had happened to him…he had just lost all his children and his livelihood. Yet here, he acknowledges God’s total sovereignty. We also will go through tragic times…times when we shake our head in utter bewilderment at the senseless acts we see and hear about. So we need to be reminded here that our Lord’s power has not diminished…His authority and supremacy has not waned in light of the increasing evilness in the world. God’s rule is still absolute…His dominion still remains established and true. We may not be able to understand…but we can echo Job’s words, “May the name of the Lord be praised.”
Earlier in this chapter Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) His answer here is – no one or thing can possibly come between us and Jesus. No rule or force of man…no point in time…no act of good or evil can ever cut the tie we have with our Lord. The bottom line is, there is nothing in creation that can keep us apart from God…for the entirety of creation is under His authority.
We look at the chaos today and we think the world is totally out of control. But Proverbs 21:1 reminds us, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.” Pharaoh foolishly thought he was the most powerful man in the world…arrogantly thinking that no one could usurp his authority. But Pharaoh wasn’t aware that the Lord was directing him and that he was just a pawn in God’s bigger picture. For God tells Moses in Exodus 7:3, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…” And in Romans 9: 17 Paul goes on to explain, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘ I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ ” So as we see the turmoil around us, we need to remember that the mighty hand of the Lord hasn’t changed…He still rules and reigns over all…He’s still in control.
These scriptures beg the question…”What are You asking of me Lord?” Foremost, Jesus is asking for commitment. Not just lip service, or Sunday only acknowledgement… No, He’s asking for sold-out, unwavering determination to follow Him no matter the cost. Jesus is also asking for conviction. That’s a gut belief that He died on the Cross and rose again for me so that I may have eternal life. Then too, Jesus is asking for conformity. He wants me to become more like Him. Finally, Jesus is asking that I give up control. Now this is probably the most frightening but the most freeing request of His…For to go deeper with Jesus means releasing command of myself and trusting Him more.
Take a moment to re-read the scripture above and allow it to sink in. If God is for you…what can possibly oppose you? If the Lord is over you, coming to your defense, protecting you, helping and comforting you in times of trouble…what evil can stand before Him? Isaiah 41:10 states, “So do not fear, for I am with you…I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” God is greater than any of your fears today…and greater than the evil in this world.
We’ve spent several days constructing a retaining wall in the back yard…and I don’t mind saying that strenuous manual labor in the oppressive heat of a Illinois Summer is hard! But now that it’s done, it was well worth all the sweat. Genesis 1:1 tells us that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Where we had cement pavers to build with, God called the universe into being…creating everything we see, smell, and hear out of nothing. For He is the author and architect of it all…bringing into existence that which was not.