“And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison…But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were loosed.” Acts 16:20-26
For preaching the Lord Jesus Christ and for putting an abusive slaveholder out of business in a certain city, Paul and Silas were accused of being “troublemakers” and thrown into the town jail. They were beaten and their feet were placed in stocks. But these Holy Spirit-filled men of God knew that,
However grim the circumstance, having a song in your heart in the night brings strength, power, and deliverance.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a clue as to what is happening in the world today, and how those who remain faithful to the LORD will someday be given eternal gladness and a song in their hearts once the darkness of this present night has been lifted:
“…In the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of His people, and heals the wounds inflicted by His blow…an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck—to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction…YOU shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept, and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.” Isaiah 30:26-29
The setting is one of discipline and judgment – God’s loving discipline of His own dear children, and the eventual righteous judgment upon the nations and rulers whom He used to accomplish that discipline. The people of God had taken their eyes off the LORD, the Rock of Israel, and looked elsewhere. They looked to other nations to be their models – they looked to their philosophies, their forms of government, their ideologies, and their theologies. As a result, they became confused. There were so many competing “ways of seeing truth” that there could never be unity amongst themselves, let alone in the world at large.
God always gives us what we ask for – in our actions, if not in our relentless pleas. When people turn away from God, to a certain degree they depart from what has often been called “the ark of safety.” This is a form of God’s loving discipline, i.e., to temporarily remove His hand of protection. Whether this discipline works or not will depend upon the heart of the chastised. “The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay.”
According to Isaiah, God allowed a certain nation to be the instrument by which He disciplined His own children, and then poured out His judgement on that very same nation, lest it come back and besiege His beloved people. He spoke of the brokenness of God’s people, and the wounds inflicted by His blow when He would eventually judge those nations. This concept is difficult to accept, but it is a fact of life: The negative consequences of our actions cause everyone around us – even the innocent ones – to feel the blow.
But invariably comes God’s promise of mercy! Those who choose to come back to the LORD will experience God’s forgiveness and healing:
“In the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of His people, and heals the wounds inflicted by His blow, YOU (God’s obedient people) shall have a song as in the night…and gladness of heart, as when one sets out to the sound of the flute to go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.”
In the current world situation when our human circumstance feels so dire and sometimes even hopeless, God’s promise is that,
If you keep a song of praise in your heart in the darkness of the night, the dawning of the day will ultimately come, and its morning light will break through!
“SING PRAISE TO THE LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5