But wait! There's more . . .
We see naked guys, or at least guys half clad with school letters painted on their bodies, chanting and cheering at the top of their lungs.
But these guys were totally naked and then beaten, and yet singing?
Were they daft? Who would do such a thing?
Brainwashed? Members of a new cult? What was it that caused Paul and Silas to sing God's praises after they had been stripped, whipped and then beaten with rods?
They were convinced to the very core of their beings that they were serving the one, true and living God, the one who had willingly been stripped, beaten and then crucified for them. What's more they knew the difference in their lives since Jesus; their lives had been forever changed by their relationship with him. Paul and Silas knew meaning, peace and purpose since they chose to trust in Jesus.
No matter what befell them, no one could take away what they experienced inside. Not arrest. Not beatings. Not being imprisoned or locked in stocks. They could not help singing God's praises - they loved him so!
In their praising, God's love was activated. Did Paul remember that praise and worship had moved God to action a thousand years earlier? Remember with me.
I love a good story, and this is a good story! Here's the scene-Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, is made aware that his people are about to be attacked by a 'vast' army. To say that his back is against the wall is an understatement, but what is his response? Jehoshaphat prays to God for help and declares a fast. Since he is a respected leader, the people heed his words. From the temple courtyard, he starts his prayer with adoration, and then recalls how God has taken care of the Jewish people up until this point. He concludes his prayer with, "we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
The Lord hears his prayer and sends a message to the people: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army." And then God tells them why: For the battle is not yours, but God's. Jehoshaphat takes his strength from this word from God and in turn further encourages the faith of his people in God's deliverance.
What are you up against, friend--trying to fight, control or solve on your own? God is saying,
'do not be afraid or discouraged . . . the battle is not yours, but God's.'
Could we stop right here, and pray? From Southern California to New York, down to Florida to Italy, Switzerland, to Egypt and Nigeria, the Philippines and Japan, Pakistan and Myanmar---let us join together in prayer: Dear God, we know that there are those of us who are up 'against it' right now, but thankfully, nothing escapes your notice, and nothing has caught you by surprise.
So, Father--won't you take our situations--the cancer diagnosis, the test results that will soon be given, the political unrest across our land, the marriage that is struggling, the...? We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you, Lord. We put our faith in you, and ask at the same time, will you increase our faith?
We will not be afraid, we will not let ourselves be discouraged. We take you at your word--the battle is not ours, but yours. Our trust is in you, Jehovah Jireh, our provider. Come, move in our lives. In your powerful name we pray, Amen.
Meanwhile back on the hillside with Jehoshaphat . . . what happens? Well, as his men are marching down to face the battle, Jehoshaphat appoints men to sing praises to God-- (can you just imagine what the opposition was thinking as they heard them coming? Crazy Jews)-- so sure of the victory God had promised them (verse 17). The opposing armies then turn on each other, destroy one another, and Jehoshaphat's men never have to fight. Isn't that crazy? Oh, how I love this story of God's faithfulness!
Once again, we see how different things are when we are operating in God's economy--God didn't just help J's armies, J's men never had to fight the battle! Not much has changed in 3000 years. God is still willing . . . no, not just willing, but wanting to fight our (just) battles. Surrender to God whatever concerns you today; go ahead, he's big enough. Perhaps you might even feel led to fast and pray.
Do not be afraid or discouraged ... For the battle is not yours, but God's!
Jehoshaphat's story? 2 Chronicles 20. Read it! Be encouraged.