Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! - Acts 16: 25-26 (NLT)
American music icon Wilson Pickett once sang about waiting til the midnight hour, when love would come tumbling down. Two thousand years before he sang the blues however, the Apostle Paul and Silas sat in prison waiting til the midnight hour on God. The story is overflowing with such great theology for us to grab a hold of today when we too are waiting on God. Sometimes it seems as if we too are waiting and waiting for God to move, or save us, or deliver us. Joseph waited 14 years between the promise and the manifestation - the majority of those years in prison for something he didn't even do. The woman with the issue of blood waited over a decade, trying all the help the world had to offer before she simply reached out for the hem of the garment of Jesus. The first lesson we need to grab a hold of today is that if you find yourself in a waiting period of uncertainty, you are in good company.
The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. - 2Peter 3: 9 (NLT)
Was God not ready while Joseph sat in prison year after year? Of course not. Joseph wasn't ready. He wasn't ready for the next season God had for him. A season of great importance and leadership that would save all the nations around him including God's people. Was God not ready to heal the woman with the issue of blood? Of course not. Based on the text, He was probably waiting for the woman to stop pursuing the solutions of the world and start pursuing Him. These are important lessons for us today as we wait on God. Sometimes, it is God waiting on us. Waiting for us to get over the bitterness of our situation. You see, Joseph would not be the leader he needed to be if he still harbored hatred and resentment for his brothers or even Potiphar's wife. Sometimes God is waiting for us to turn fully to Him for our solution. The Bible says the woman spent all of her savings trying to have the professionals of her world solve her blood issue only to exhaust all of her funds and see her condition only get worse. Beloved - you cannot expect the carnal world to solve our spiritual problems. Sometimes, God is waiting on us. Back to Paul and Silas. How exactly did they end up in prison?
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn't escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. - Acts 16: 22-24 (NLT)
Sometimes life has a way of beating us down, stripping us of our dignity and our bodies feeling like wooden rods have been taken to them. Don't fall for the candy coated smiling preachers with thousand dollar suits asking you for your "seed." Life is real and sometimes, even as a Christian, it can be brutal and harsh. Jesus never promised we would avoid hardship. He did promise we can overcome it through Him. But the timing is always up to God. From these verses explaining the backdrop to the prison story however, we see two more lessons to grab hold of today. The first is that we may find ourselves in our prison for no fault of our own. Paul had delivered a slave girl of a demon but because that demon allowed her to tell fortunes (those demons are in the same business today by the way. Don't mess around with "psychics" or the occult beloved) her owners stood to lose a lot of money. So they trumped up charges and rallied the mob to their cause. Sometimes we are just ridiculous in what we expect from the world. Justice? Fairness? Equity? Loyalty? Oh beloved do not expect these things from a world that cares only about themselves at the end of the day. Joseph stood on principle and refused to have sex with Potiphar's wife and for his righteous stance he was thrown in prison for over a decade! The Bible doesn't specify but there is no reason to believe the woman with the blood issue did anything to deserve that condition. What's the lesson for us today? Do not waste your time trying to find fairness or reason in how you got to your position today. Do not bemoan the past because there is nothing you can do about it. All we can do is seek God in our present, trusting Him for our future.
The second lesson from the backdrop is that we cannot expect easy treatment. There is a lot of poor theology out there today. Many Christians are deceived into thinking that God cares about our comfort more than our character. That somehow God was OK with watching His only Son brutally crucified but He doesn't want us to be remotely inconvenienced. Look at Paul and Silas here. They are not just thrown in prison but they are beaten down, taken to the inner dungeon and had their feet clamped in stocks. Yes God prospered Joesph in prison and he found favor with the warden but do you think this was a pleasant experience for him? The valley is supposed to be deep. The desert is supposed to be hot. We must understand that God is perfecting us.