by Eben

Taken from the Book of Acts, this is one of the most famous events in the early first century Church's New Testament record of the acts and exploits of the Apostles. Set aside by the Holy Spirit, sent forth by God to open up new areas for the Kingdom of God by preaching the Gospel, Apostles Paul and his assistant Silas launched forth bravely from Antioch in Syria. The physician Luke (or Lucanus) is also present at some point, but he is not thrown into prison with them in Philippi. It is Paul and Silas's story, which stands alongside some of the greatest to found in all of scripture, and not the least reason being that they discovered together the unconquerable power of praise in the midst of the most unpraiseworthy circumstances.

A tearful man in rough-sewn dress

Cried to Paul within a dream:

"Help us, sir, in our duress,

Breach Macedon with Christ's cross-beam!"


O hear the cry of prison-bound,

Of low estate we pray to Thee;

Afflicted souls, still lost not found

Await the turning of Thy key.

So off Paul sailed to Philippi--

Roman colony a chief;

No one marked him, not one eye;

His welcome? Sunk upon a reef!

So Luke and Silas, plodding Paul

Walked the streets through empty days;

Busy throngs filled every hall,

For buying, selling was their craze.

On Sabbath day they took their leave;

City gate they passed on through,

Out to where they ceased to grieve,

A place of prayer for just a few.

The riverside was holy ground.

Women gathered there for prayer.

Seeking ever (not yet found),

The Most High God was their one care.

"So let us reason," spoke first Paul;

Scarlet sin shall be as snow;

Crimson stains from Adam's fall,

Each can in Christ be cleansed and go!"

A woman, Thyatira-born,

Cried aloud, "O Lord, cleanse me!"

Selling purple to be worn,

She chose pure white for all to see.

Her heart was opened by the Lord;

Saved, immersed in Christ's own death;

All her family, one accord,

New-born in Christ, in-breathed His Breath.

Another day, on way to prayer,

Shrieking turned Paul full around;

Voice inhuman in its sound--

A slave girl cried, with unbound hair.

"The servants of the Most High God!"

Cried the demon seizing her;

Lashing like a Roman rod,

She struck at them, a pricking burr.

Then one day Paul spoke to it:

"Vacate her, in Jesus' Name!"

Throwing one last, spiteful fit,

The demon fled, and with it, fame.

This girl brought her masters gold;

Witchcraft was the demon's bent;

Future things through her foretold

Heaped lucre higher than her tent.

And when they saw their gain was gone,

Brutal men seized Silas, Paul;

Dragging them with faces wan

Into the magistrate's big hall.

There was no justice practiced there.

Lawlessness enjoyed full sway.

Judges only by their chair

Turned wild beast and dog that day.

They tore and beat both men near death;

Jews, they said, who upset peace;

Condemned to rod and lash, each breath

Was agony without surcease.

The Called-to-Macedon were locked;

Dungeoned souls, they laughed to see

Sons of Israel chained and stocked

And thrown head-down at Gentile knee.

Then darkness, curses, spittle, phlegm--

Prison foul rose up each side;

Wounded, bruised from neck to hem,

To Paul and Silas Hell yawned wide.

Yet praying in the Spirit gave

Strength and love no man e'er knew;

Thanking God whose love can save,

They raised a Song both old and new.

Bleeding in their chains they sang

Psalms of thanks to Jonah's God;

Praise raised up where cursing rang,

And sense of sin dropped its sure rod.

And when their praise rose heaven high,

Prison doors burst open, out

Thrust stones with fearful sigh

As heaving struck the earth about.

The men in prison cried in fear,

Pagan gods were cursed by name;

Some called out as death drew near

For Christ to take away their blame.

Then suddenly the tumult stopped,

Outer doors hung all released;

Chains and fetters all were popped,

Crib of Mercy rocked then ceased.

Thus Love had set the poor men free,

Jailor woke in mortal fright;

Moon crept in each crack to see,

And stars shone bright amid the night.

He drew a sword to pierce his heart;

Paul cried out: "Thyself harm not!"

All are here, our bonds apart!"

Then Jailor sprang to ease their lot.

So with a torch he ran to where

Paul and Silas sat in night;

Falling down before them there,

He cried to God in his lost plight.

"Believe," they said, "that Christ is Lord;

You, your house, so shalt be saved."

Nuggets from Paul's gospel poured,

The entire prison floor was paved!"

So, softened in his bitter face,

Jailor took them to his home;

Bathing in Christ's blood and grace,

His star was lit in heaven's dome.

He washed their stripes, each bleeding side,

Soothing them with ointment rare--

Fragrance of the One who died

Did run off both their face and hair.

Rejoicing, he laid them both down,

Softest beds he gave to them;

Each he clothed with costly gown,

With royal stain upon the hem.*

Then Jailor took a rough-sewn robe

Himself he clothed, with feet left bare;

Humbly slave-marked on ear lobe**--

The Church of Philippi most fair!"


*Any high-placed officials or nobility fallen into disfavor, would lose not only their positions but the Roman state confiscated all their possessions, customarily.

**Roman slaves as opposed to free Roman citizens could not be distinguished by their clothing ordinarily, only by the slave mark on the ear lobe could a slave be identified. By marking himself a slave, in this account we seek to identify the converted jailor and ourselves, as "slaves" to Christ, which is meant by the Greek word, "doulos," meaning "bond-servant," or "slave."

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