“But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” – Acts 5:19-20.
These prisoners had been told not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. The high priest and all that were with him had been stirred to indignation by the multitudes of believers being added unto the Lord, and a multitude of the sick being healed. They hoped to put a stop to these marvelous works by threatening, and then by putting them into prison.
Praise God the angel of the Lord brought them forth. They were given the good occupation of all the Lord’s escapees to go, stand and speak the wonderful words of life. Thank God, we have been set free, and we also have the God-given liberty to boldly do the will of God in our lives, even in the face of threatening bondage.
These escapees hadn’t taken the easy way out, but endangered their lives by obeying the higher command. V. 29, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Having left the prison, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But when the high priest came, they sent to the prison to have them brought, and they found them not. They found the guards doing their job well, except for the fact they were guarding an empty cell. Let our adversaries’ men always be kept busy guarding an empty prison.
In a later prison break, we read of Peter being taken prisoner by king Herod. “Peter therefore was kept in prison; but prayer was made without ceasing of the church of God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me” – Acts 12:5-8.
The things that happened to Peter here may remind us of our experiences in various types of prisons. He seems to manifest great peace, an overcoming attitude in a very uncomfortable situation. I believe he got more rest than the two men chained to him. Oh, how we thank God for the light that was commanded to shine into our prison, to alert us of our liberty in Christ, and the truth that makes men free. He sometimes has to smite or shake us to make the chains fall off. It is also amazing the way He prepares us to move out in His will. In order to fully follow Him in His perfect will, we need our loins girt about with truth, our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, and be experimentally wrapped in the robe of His righteousness. We then may also declare, as Peter “declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison” – Acts 12:17.
Now as Paul and his companions went to prayer, a soothsaying slave girl agitated them many days. When Paul commanded the evil spirit to come out of her, it stirred up the wrath of those making profit from her acts. Then they caught Paul and Silas, and brought them to the magistrates, and stirred up the multitude against them. “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them” - Acts 16:23-25.
This event is such a wonderful testimony of victory even if the record ended right there. At midnight, in stocks, and with many stripes is not usually considered the most ideal time for praying and singing praises, but oh, thank God this is when the prisoners heard them. I am glad that God also still produces the same attitude and actions today in those who in their darkest trying hour completely trust Him. Sometimes we also are prisoners for Christ sake, that other prisoners may hear the joyful sound in the darkest places. Yet we certainly rejoice that the earth did quake, and the foundations of the prison shake, and opened the doors and loosed the bands. We greatly rejoice in the liberating of the prison keeper and his household. Thank God that we today who are constrained by love divine, are still able to encourage “prisoners of hope” to always “turn to the strong hold” of our faith. Zec. 9:12.
While Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the prison, the Word of the Lord was sent to encourage him to “call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” – Jer. 33:3. The prison for Jeremiah was, even though dark, damp and gloomy a sweet place of communication and revelation. A place to listen and to speak to the Lord. Yet I doubt if he complained when he got out.
It seems that the escapes we experience as we go on farther with the Lord, become more and more intricate. They aren’t always easily expressed or explained. They are not things that the flesh would boast in. II Cor. 11:30,32-33, If I must needs glory, I will glory in the things which concern mine infirmities. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me. And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”
At this time Paul provably escaped the edge of the sword, but how many of us would proudly tell how? We might be prone to tell it like this concerning the window. ‘The Lord just opened the windows of heaven and swept my through.’ In place of a basket, we would rather say a chariot of fire whisked me out of his grasp in the neck of time. When we would tell of the wall, who would tell that it just fell down flat and I walked over it, or better yet I walked right through it. Was not this a glorious deliverance for the man chosen to be the chief apostle of the church? Paul had to say I escaped by being let down. He was let down by the brethren. Has the Lord ever provided you such an escape? The names of those gracious saints who held the robe are not mentioned, but I am sure God has it on record. God had placed Paul’s life in their hands.
After this escape, Paul was “caught up,” II Cor. 12:2,4. He then was caused to behold glorious things that he could not talk about. Because of what he saw, he was turned down, in his request for removal of a thorn. He was turned down to escape being lifted up. Our Father always provides a way of escape for us, from captivity to carnal pride. He resist the proud and gives grace to the humble. He has provided for our freedom from the influence of the world, the devil and the flesh, wherein dwelleth no good thing.
There is coming so very soon that great escape, let us be ever and always expectant of it. “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” – I Thess. 4:16-17.