“I will sing of Your mighty strength and power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy and loving-kindness in the morning; for You have been to me a defense and a refuge in the day of my distress. Unto You, O my strength, I will sing praises; for God is my Defense, my Fortress, and High Tower, the God Who shows me mercy and steadfast love.”
Within the bowels of the dungeon, stood a man shackled in chains. His eyes stared, unfocused. For hopelessness dulls the senses of men.
Time had transported the man chained against the stone wall, into a stagnant existence. No longer could he determine day from night, nor did he care. But as the sound of a commotion outside drew near, increasing into cries from an angry mob, the ear of the chained man was captured. He could hear the massive door to the dungeon open. As it did, sounds from the mob, the cracking of whips, increased in volume. He felt a burst of fresh air rush through the stinking prison, announcing the arrival of another man. Followed by the clamoring of boots upon the narrow stone steps.
Torches lit the stairway leading down to the prisoner’s chamber. Casting shadows, encased in golden light to dance upon the walls. Moments later, the soldiers appeared, pushing into the chamber two, new prisoners, not one. At the commander’s order, the two men were shackled to the floor. The chained man watched, taken back by the deep, purple bruises swelling on their beaten bodies. What had these men done to warrant such severe abuse? The commander addressed the jailor, threatening, if the two men escaped, it would cost the jailer his life. Snatching a torch from an iron bracket on the wall, the commander turned and left the dungeon, taking with him the golden light.
Shocked by the commander’s threat, the jailor stared at the two men, feeling a moment of compassion. But experience and fear, pushed his compassion away. Rubbing his forehead, he assigned a fresh set of guards to watch over the two men and retired to the comforts of his private quarter’s where he could rest. The chained man shook with hatred for the guards. Anger bubbled inside of him causing his body to shake. The sight of the guards, always brought back memories of his life that was lost. Memories the chained man struggled to forget. A draft, cooled by the dungeon’s stony depths, circulated through the chamber, caressing the chained man, sending gooseflesh down his arms and legs. Trembling, the man stood, in his chains, forgotten, caught in the clutches of hell.
Somewhere in the darkness, the new prisoners groaned. They were stunned that death had passed them by. Moving slow, for every movement brought fresh ripples of pain, they inched their bodies as close together as their shackles would allow. Quietly, talking. Their words fell like feathered whispers, rising and falling, growing in strength, echoing off the dungeon’s walls. Some of the prisoners began to curse, when they realized the two men were talking to God. Praising God, as if God was in the dungeon with them. As if God was listening. The chained man wondered if the two men were mad. New prisoners always made frantic pleas to God when they first arrived, but never spoke words of praise. In time, their voices stilled, once they realized that God wasn’t listening, that God didn’t care. Still, the praises of the two men grew in strength. They lifted their voices, empowered by faith that seemed to know no limitations.
As the praise increased in volume, the cursing men shouted profanities, mocking and stupefying the two men’s faith. Yet, the psalmists, raised their voices louder. They praised without desperation, but adoration accompanying every word. Their words transformed into songs. Songs that resonated through the dungeon’s chamber. As the chained man listened to the melodic strains, he felt a stirring of hope. A foreign energy had somehow pierced through the dungeon’s walls causing tears to stream down his face. The prisoner’s shouting profanities yelled louder, with faces bibulous and red. Insane men babbled and cackled, gyrating up and down. The guards looked at each other bewildered and alarmed, as the uprising intensified into uncontrollable bedlam.
The chained man barely noticed the tremor that shook the earth until the dungeon’s foundation began to shake. He stood in terror, as ear-piercing sounds from the shaking intensified. He felt the wall vibrate against his back. The shackles around his wrists and ankles cut into his flesh. The dungeon lurched and shifted, sending boulders from the ceiling crashing down. When unexpectedly, the chained man’s shackles opened and he fell to the ground, unhindered. With eyes closed and teeth grit, the man waited for the deadly strike that would surely hit him at any moment. He welcomed it. The floor shimmied and shuddered beneath his hands and knees. Boulders continued to fall from above. The dust was so thick none of the men could see. Breathing was difficult. The thundering sounds of the walls falling in drowned out the men’s cries of panic… Then… the quivering stopped. Boulders became stones. All was still, except for a showering of loosened pebbles.
Sunlight, coming from the shattered roof, spilled down through the settling dust. The men were scattered; every one of them free from his chains. For several minutes there was silence, no one dared to make a sound. The unexpected freedom was so astonishing that it rendered the men unable to move. Not one, instigated the desire to escape. The silence was broken by the frantic jailer bursting through the dungeon’s door, downing the stairs. Seeing the prisoner’s free from their chains, he pulled his sword from its sheath in fear, readying his hand to plunge the blade into his heart. The new prisoner, named Paul, yelled for him to stop. Reassuring him that every one of the prisoners was accounted for. The jailor’s life was safe!
Stunned, the jailer moved to step forward, but his legs buckled beneath him. As he fell, Paul, and the other named, Silas, went to his aid. The jailer marveled at the respectful way they treated him and remembered their cause. They spoke of Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified. Whose followers, like these men, believed he rose from the dead, calling him the Messiah, the Son of the living God. A hush descended upon the prison as each man realized they were in the presence of the supernatural. Humbled, like small children, they waited to be told what to do next.
The free man stood. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he examined the scars on his ankles and wrists. He looked at the open shackles hanging from what remained of the dungeon’s wall, savoring the pleasure of moving his unhindered limbs. Waves of emotion gripped his heart as he listened, while the jailor asked questions about Jesus. As Paul answered them, the free man believed. The seed of hope inside of him grew, expanding as the dawn rising over the horizon, stirring him with its powerful love. He never knew there was such love! Falling to his knees he realized the light of Salvation had conquered his darkness forever.