A famous preacher once said, “Anyone can sing during the day…it is easy to sing when we can read the notes by the light of day…but, the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by. Songs in the night can only come from God…they are not in the power of men.” When you’re in pain, the midnight hour is not the easiest time for a sacred concert. But, God gives “songs in the night” (Psalms 42:8), “By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me -- a prayer to the God of my life.” It may be easier to sing during the day, but we need to allow God to bring out the songs in us when we need them, and particularly when it is difficult.
Satan is at work in Philippi (Acts 16:16ff). There is a demonized slave girl there who has been making her masters wealthy by telling fortunes. This girl has a lot of audacity, as she has been following Paul and Silas around harassing them, saying “these men are servants of the Most High God who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” This is true of course, but…this is an example of, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” – her words are dripping with sarcasm. After a few days of constant irritation, Paul gets tired of it so he casts out the demon that has been abusing her. Now that Paul has cast out the demon, the girl’s owners source of income is now gone. Now, we have a problem. This angers these unscrupulous fellows who have no genuine concern for this girl, only the income that she has been providing. So, these men turn on Paul and Silas and deliver them over to the city magistrates, who then convene a kangaroo court against them. It is not difficult -- these men are Jews causing trouble in a Roman colony, which is what Philippi is at this time. Paul and Silas have their robes stripped off, are beaten and then put into the city prison. Paul later recounts this among the persecution he received for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23, 25).
Paul and Silas are in this dark, dank dungeon, fastened in some kind of foot stocks, and likely bound in another way…not to mention that they are in some serious pain. And what is it that these two are doing? Well, instead of complaining, or calling down lightning from God upon their enemies, they are singing! This is not exactly the set of circumstances that most of us would choose in order to be worshipping God. Yet, we don’t always get to choose our circumstances. Paul and Silas are men of great faith and despite their discomfort and pain, their hearts are focused above! Praise is a powerful tool…it is relaxing and disarming. Can you imagine the expressions on some of the other prisoner’s faces there? Some surely are impressed…while others probably think that they are crazy.
Now, there is something greater at work here. God responds…not because He has to – but, He does…much the same as when Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace. God rewards faith…He is faithful! The foundations of the prison are shaken, opening all the doors and loosening the prisoners’ bonds. They could all flee, but they all remain where they are…perhaps out of terror, perhaps out of bewilderment. Paul takes command, and no doubt, the fear of the Lord is on these prisoners, who at this time are thinking…there is something unique about these guys. Now, Paul fixes all of his attention on the jailer…the man he is truly interested in…in order to win him for Christ. Roman law is such that if a guard would lose a prisoner, he would be given the same punishment the prisoner would have received. It would seem, therefore, that some of the men this jailer has are killers, because he would rather take his own life than face public shame and execution. Paul rescues the man, “Hey, we’re all here -- don’t hurt yourself!” Paul’s saving him, physically, leads to his spiritual salvation, which is terrific!
Now, the city magistrates realize their mistake…having beaten and jailed Roman citizens, which is not a good thing…they have some serious egg on their faces – and Paul makes certain that it stays there! The magistrates want Paul and Silas to sneak away quietly, so as not to raise a ruckus, but Paul says…“Oh, no…not going to happen!” Paul insists that they escort him and Silas out of town, which surely is done…and so continues the ministry of Paul. God is a God who keeps His promises – He blesses those who seek Him and praise His name. When we walk with the Lord and faithfully praise His name throughout our lives, good things are going to take place!
Life isn’t always going to be rosy…sometimes there are thorns. But, it is all a matter of perspective – our perspective. Praising God is something that we can do no matter what the circumstances. We come together to do so here on Sundays…and we can and should do so at other times throughout the week – Monday through Saturday. We just can’t do it with a heart that is empty and a spirit that is dry. We must be filled with the Spirit – He will give us songs in our hearts, just as He did with Paul and Silas when they were jailed…perhaps, even in the night.