Worship Can Set Captives Free
As we worship God, He is always doing a thousand things we cannot see.
The historical events in Ezra 3 and the parallel prophetic words in Zechariah 4:6-10 show us that God is leveling mountains as we worship Him. He is removing obstacles and making a way where there seems to be no way. He gives solutions and reveals mysteries (Psalm 25:14). He lifts up our head and is a shield around us (Psalm 3:3). He sits enthroned upon our worship (Psalm 22:3). Seriously, the list goes on and on.
Yet, there is one thing that we can see woven throughout the Scriptures regarding worship…it’s huge…we can’t afford to miss it…this broken world can’t afford for us to miss it.
As we worship Jesus, he brings FREEDOM.
As we worship Jesus, we are subsequently choosing to align our hearts and minds with the TRUTH, for He is TRUTH (John 1:14; 14:6), and the TRUTH sets us FREE. As we worship God, we are very practically choosing to live by and set our minds on the SPIRIT (Romans 8:6) bringing life and peace, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is FREEDOM (2 Cor. 3:17).
“The hour is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” (John 4:23)
So we have it that the invitation to worship God is also the prescription for FREEDOM.
Few people in history have taken the words of Jesus or the person of Jesus as seriously as the Apostle Paul. He understood the significance of worship. He had caught a hold of the reality that as we worship God in spirit and truth, he brings FREEDOM. Therefore, NOTHING could keep Paul from singing to Jesus. Nothing.
Paul was intent on making Jesus known everywhere he went. One night he had a dream of a man in Macedonia saying, “Come! Help us!”. So Paul took it as a sign from God that he should go to Macedonia and make Jesus known. He and Silas packed bags to head to Macedonia (no small trip because Macedonia was 150 miles from where he was currently…by foot).
He arrives at Philippi, a city in Macedonia, and begins to share the love of Jesus. A woman named Lydia believes, along with her household. But then things start to get messy. Paul casts out a demon from a young slave girl who was a fortune teller, and she loses her ability to fortune tell. This upsets her owners because they had been making tons of money off her. So, they stir up a protest against Paul and Silas that turns into a riot that turns into Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown into prison. And here we pick up the story in Acts 16…
“23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
If you’re Paul, what are you doing in this situation? Where is your heart? Thoughts? What’s your next action? In faith, you have obeyed God and He has led you to this situation and nothing seems to be going right, your back is bleeding, leaning against a dirty bacteria infested rock wall, your feet are in uncomfortable stocks as a disease infested rat scurries across the floor, it’s late, it’s dark, and you’re tired. Where are you at? Bitter? Offended? Gossiping or complaining about how this place and these people are idiots? Depressed? Discouraged? Not feeling the whole relationship with God thing at the moment?
“25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them…”
No rocking worship band, not even an iPod, extreme physical discomfort, in the midst of a bunch of criminals, wondering if the dream God gave was an illusion…and they are praying and singing hymns! Seriously?! Straight up singing love songs and praise to Jesus. What was going on in those prisoners’ minds as they listened to the Paul and Silas duet? They had never seen or heard anything like this before.
For the Apostle Paul, God’s unchanging character was the source of unchanging worship. God’s character had not changed. So his worship wasn’t about to either.
Theologians actually have a strong indication that the hymns Paul and Silas were singing were from the ‘Halal’, which consists of Psalms 113-118. These were the most common “hymns” for the early Jewish believers, and they would have known them by heart. Here are some of the verses from the hymns they were singing…
• Psalm 113:5-6 – Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, 6 who looks far down on the heaven and the earth? 7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.
• Psalm 115:3, 12 – Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us.
• Psalm 116: 1, 12, 17 – I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
• Psalm 117:2 – For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
• Psalm 118: 22-24 – The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I imagine as they began to sing the Presence of God filled the jail. As they sang Psalm 114: 7, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” guess what happened?
“26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
FREEDOM. Literally. The door opens and their chains fall off. But, not just their doors and not just their chains. Everyone around them experiences FREEDOM. When we worship God, doors open and chains fall off. Their choice to worship God in the midst of a difficult circumstance catalyzes literal doors opening and literal chains breaking. But that is not the best part, nor the only FREEDOM that results…
“27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.”
What?! Prisoners don’t dare move. Mad respect for Paul and Silas. They saw and heard everything and realized that hanging with Paul and Silas would be better than running for the door. The jailer trembles and falls at their feet, he obviously had made the connection between the songs being sung and the events that had just taken place.
30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
When you see someone worship the living, true God in the midst of that kind of difficult circumstance, and then see the miraculous unfold in response to the songs of worship they are singing…you hustle and get the point. What must I do to be saved? Tell me. Everything. Tell my wife, my kids, my employees, everyone. Who is this God? How can I know Him like you know Him?
This family experiences true FREEDOM, the doors of their hearts opened, the chains of sin forever broken, the darkness lifted…forever…because two men decided to sing and worship God while they were jammed up in a difficult circumstance.
Imagine with me, what would happen if we became a people that passionately worshipped God like Paul and Silas?
Father God is seeking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth because He desires to bring FREEDOM in you and through you…His eyes are on you now…you have His undivided attention.