Thursday, March 7, 2013

Farewell Philippi (Acts 16:27-40)

Isn’t it funny how God uses a seemingly isolated experience/insight to inspire new directions in our lives and fresh insight into His Word?!  That is exactly what God did with me and Psalm 27:1 last week – “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation…” (Amplified).  In presently studying the jailer from Acts 16 – his call for light and his desire to know the way of salvation – I could almost hear Paul using Psalm 27 (vs. 1 and beyond) to minister to the jailer in that moment.  The new direction this insight inspired was a deliberate reading of the book of Psalms.  There are so many gems I’ve been missing because of my satisfaction with superficial knowledge of a few of the biggies – Psalm 23, 119, 139.  So in the last week, I have begun including one psalm in each day’s study (working backward from Psalm 150 to Psalm 1).  …Some of you may be thinking that I’ll finish reading the book of Psalms about the same time we finish our study of Paul’s second missionary (through Acts 18:22).  Lol…  You may not be far off. 

For now, we’re going to catch back up with Paul and Silas in Philippi by way of another verse from Psalms.  I read it this morning, and it reminded me of our most recent Sunday school lesson:
            “Bring my life out of prison, that I may confess, praise, and give thanks to Your name; 
           the righteous will surround me for You will deal bountifully with me.” (Psalm 142:7)

We started last week with Acts 16:27 and concluded with Acts 16:34.  In these few verses – and the few hours of time depicted by them – the jailer went from the “point” of suicide to jumping for joy because of his (and his family’s) newfound belief in God and Christ!  That being said, there was still the legal matter of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment.  It was still the jailer’s charge to guard them from escaping.  So when in verse 35 – the very next morning – “… the magistrates sent policemen, saying, Release those fellows and let them go,” can’t you just imagine the relief the jailer must have felt in receiving this message and delivering it to Paul and Silas?!

…Grab your Bible (if you haven’t already) and read it for yourself.  While you’re at it, go ahead and read through verse 37...

The jailer’s relief at the quick release of Paul and Silas must have turned to nausea when Paul‘s response was, “… No, indeed!  Let them come here themselves and conduct us out!” (vs. 37).   The magistrates wanted Paul and Silas to walk away with a lesson learned, but it was Paul who was teaching the lesson that day.  The magistrates came fearfully, and apologetically they brought them out of the prison.  In that moment, I’m sure that Paul expressed his gratitude … maybe even in the presence of the magistrates, but it wouldn’t have been them he was thanking.  Instead, I imagine Paul saying words similar to David’s in Psalm 142:7.
            You have brought “my life out of prison, that I may confess, praise, and give thanks to Your name; 
                       the righteous will surround me for You will deal bountifully with me.”

Now released from prison, Paul and Silas made one more stop before leaving Philippi – Lydia’s house.  There they were surrounded by God’s righteous ones in Philippi, including Luke and Timothy.  Luke tells us that Paul and Silas (1) encouraged the believers – perhaps by recounting the ways in which God had dealt bountifully with them during their (24-hour) imprisonment – and then (2) they left.  As simply and quietly as that … they “departed” (Acts 16:40).  Does it seem kind of anticlimactic to anyone else … given the crescendo of events throughout the rest of the chapter? 

As we have looked at Paul and Silas’ last day in Philippi with the backdrop of Psalm 142:7, I ask you to reflect on your own journey.
1.      What prison God has brought you out of?  If you don’t think you’ve ever been in a “prison,” I ask you to step lightly.  Even the jailer himself had his own prison to be brought out of.
2.      Did your release (or your lifelong freedom) prompt you to “confess, praise and give thanks to” the name of the Lord?
3.      In seeing Paul and Silas surrounded by believers at Lydia’s, think about the righteous ones with whom God has surrounded you.  Remember righteous doesn’t mean perfect.  Another aspect of our identity in Christ is that, in Christ, we as believers have become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
4.      As Paul and Silas look forward to new cities and the inclusion of new believers, how are you expecting God to deal bountifully with you this week/month/year? 

I look forward to seeing God deal bountifully with Paul and Silas as we move forward in our study, and I hope that you will share how He is dealing bountifully with you.  Now What?  “Every day [with its new reasons] will I bless You … yes, I will praise Your name forever and ever.” (Ps 145:2).

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