The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out.

(John 1:5)

 

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying  and singing praises to God,
while the other prisoners listend.
(Acts 16:25)

In April 18, 2018, 1,500 policemen searched for slavetraders all over Germany. Criminals exploited Thai prostitutes. Raids were carried out in more than 60 brothels. These women were victims of smugglers. They collected about € 16,000 and € 36,000 for the illegal entry into the EU. Each women had to work off in the brothels. The public prosecutor said, the heads of this gang are a 59-year-old Thai woman and her 62-year-old German partner. They came in remand prison.A further 56 people, including 41 women, are now being investigated for smuggling foreigners, pimping and forced prostitution.

 

The exploitation of women was also a reality in ancient times. The sermon text for this Sunday reports about it: In Philippi (in Greece today) the apostle Paul and a young woman meet (Acts 16: 6). Paul is on the way with his friends to worship. The young girl is a fortune teller. She belongs to men who make good money on her. Divination is a good deal. The young woman is a means to an end.

 

Suddenly this girl behind Paul and his team is running and starting screaming: “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved!” Acts 16:17
 

The fortune teller immediately realizes that Paul is a man of God.

 

That's how it happens days for days. The girl keeps pursuing Paul and Silas and screaming. She is driving Paul up the wall with her screaming. He does not want demonic power to proclaim God. God does not want divination. People should not ask the spirits of death or invocation, but turn to the living God (Isaiah 8:19). Everything else is idolatry.

 

Paul realizes that this girl is under duress. She has to act that way. But he wants to bring freedom to this enslaved girl. He wants to bring the freedom that Jesus Christ is giving. Freedom above occultism, freedom above human dependence. That's why he turned to the demon and said:

 

“In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” (Acts 16:18) Immediately, this girl is free about her occult burden. Remember: "Christ has set us free!" (Gal 5:1) "God paid a great price for you, so do not become slaves of anyone else." (1 Cor 7:23).

 

That brings consequences. The pimps lose their source of income. The profit of this woman is over, finally! But now Paul and Silas are endangered. They are being dragged to the city government. Anti-Semitism becomes audible: "There are Jews!" This is a public mood against Paul and Silas. Then a brazen lie is said: "These rebels are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do!"

 

Without hearing, without trial, the two men are beaten with a whip. After the torture, they go to jail. The feet squeezed in a wooden block. Is there a risk to escape?

 

It looks like the wrong had been victorious. It looks like darkness in the hearts and minds of the Philippians had killed the light of the gospel. But it is exactly the other way round: the light of God displaces the darkness. It becomes true what the apostle John says in John 1:5, "The light keeps shining in the dark, and darkness has never put it out."

 

At midnight, the light of God shines brightly in the prison cells. Paul and Silas sing praises to God. There is no hate speech to the pimps. No insults to the judiciary. No accusations against God.

 

Paul and Silas pray and sing. They praise their great god. And all inmates listen.

 

God answers the praise of his witnesses: an earthquake shakes the prison. The walls wobble and the doors open. Shackles fall from the hands and feet of the prisoners. That upsets the prison chief in a panic. He sees the open doors. Everyone fled! That's his end. He takes the blame for this disaster! He wants to kill himself.

 

But Paul saves him in his despair: "Don´t harm yourself! No one has escaped!" (Acts 16:28)

 

What happens is the decisive change in the jailers life. He asks about God. "What must I do to be saved?" A man wants to get out of the darkness. A man yearns for a new life with God. He asks for the meaning of his life. He suspects: it can not go on like this. I don´t want to live up to now!

 

Paul is helping: "Have faith in the LORD Jesus, and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home.” (Acts 16:31) He is baptized at that night, he and everyone in his home.

 

The Bible does not tell us what happened to him later. The bible also doesn´t tell us about the girl who was freed from her demonic pimps. Perhaps they both found their way into the Christian parish in the home of Lydia (Acts 16: 11-15). In Philippi a Christian parish came into being. Paul later writes to this Christians (Phil. 1:9/11):

 

"I pray that your love will keep on growing and that you will fully know and understand how to make the right choises.” And: “Jesus Christ will keep you busy doing good deeds that bring glory and praise to God.”

 

Love had triumphed, the shadows of darkness had gone away. Joy was coming! The darkness could not kill the glory light of Jesus Christ.

 

I wish you a blessed week with the blessing from Philippians 4:7:

“Because you belong to Jesus Christ, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel!”

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© 2020 Hans-Peter Nann, Frankfurt am Main