Acts 16: 16-26

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 18She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.

19When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."

22The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.

As He is so apt to do God has been speaking to me out of this particular passage for some time. I don't know that I still understand all of what He is trying to show me, but I am struggling to listen and to learn. Every Sunday morning we are reminded that God's word is living and active, and I am finding that so true in my life. Passages and stories I have heard or read a thousand times over mean something new everyday.

I seem to be learning just as much from what isn't on the page as from what is.

There is a lot of narrative missing from this account. A lot of humanness that just isn't shown.

Paul and Silas were trying to do the right thing. They did do the right thing. They freed this girl from her torment. They gave her the gift of peace...and for this they are jailed! Can you imagine? And not only do the people who lost money get angry, the whole town does. everyone. There is no mention of even one person saying "Frank, these guys did a good thing. Let's not get so bent out of shape." Just lots of anger...aver a healing! Over the freeing of a slave girls' soul and mind.

For this good thing, this kind act, they are beaten and abused. Thrown into the pit of all pits in jail.

They had to be discouraged. I know that's not written in the story. I haven't heard it preached often, but I just don't buy that the praise songs they were singing were the happy happy ones, right from the start.

These were the praises of broken and discouraged men. Men kicked around for doing right. The praises offered out of a desperate need to be closer to God because the world just didn't have anything to offer.

I think these are the most difficult praises to sing, yet the most essential. Praises offered to the God who does not change, in circumstances that we hope will. Praise offered to the author of all life when all that surrounds is marked by death.