TITLE: We Heard Singing
By Jody Day
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We Heard Singing
My father is Chief Jailer at the prison in Philippi. I have been his apprentice for a year now. I will work as a guard for the rest of my life; it is expected of me. I love and respect my father but I wonder what he would say if he knew that until last night, I felt as lost and empty as these pitiful prisoners.
I have no problem with the fate of murderers and thieves, but some cases are hard to take. A young man was thrown into our jail who was slave to a master very well known in Philippi for his cruelty. He had been caught stealing food from his master’s house. He explained that his wife was nursing a new baby and needed the extra food. The master beat him to a pulp. His face was pulverized, hardly recognizable. I’m afraid the beating left him blind and crippled. The young man begged for mercy and this seemed to anger the master even further. He took a dagger and sliced the slave’s tongue in several places. The last thing the poor man heard in the sunlight were the cries of his wife as the master sold her away. I don’t know what happened to the baby.
The slave seemed bent on doing himself in. His body crumpled into a shudder of pain and anguish, he crouched to the corner of his cell and beat his head against the stone wall over and over again.
We received two more prisoners that night. Paul and Silas were arrested. They had angered the merchants of Philippi. The magistrates ordered my father to guard them personally. After several hours I begged my father to sleep. He gladly accepted my offer to relieve him, but he insisted on staying near the prisoners. He had shackled them in stocks in the inner cell of the prison.
“How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the
shadow of your wings,” they began to sing softly. They repeated that phrase over and over. Blood caked on their mouths, yet they were singing. The poor slave stopped whimpering and beating his head against the wall. Paul and Silas began singing another song about redemption, healing and forgiveness. The slave began shifting his mangled body away from the dark corner and into the light. He turned his damaged ears toward the singing. He was quiet and his breathing became steady. I thought the commotion was over for the night, but again I was wrong.
Suddenly an earthquake violently shook the prison. The shackles, chains and stocks fell away from every prisoner and every locked door flew open. My father awoke and was shocked at what he saw. How would we restrain them all? He drew his sword and moved to fall on it.
“Stop! Don’t harm yourself, we are all here,” Paul shouted. My father fell before Paul and Silas. “What must I do to be saved?” he cried.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” I knelt with my father and confessed faith in Jesus Christ. We took them both home, dressed their wounds and gave them something to eat. Our whole family believed and was baptized. Paul and Silas prepared to leave town but first stopped by the prison.
“We must leave now, my brother,” Paul said to the slave. “Our friend Lydia has sent you some food and clothes and some bandages as well. The jailer here will dress your wounds.”
The slave put his hand through the food opening on the cell door. He flailed and reached, trying to touch his new friends.
“Open the door, Cedus,” my father said. I unlocked the cell door and pushed it open. The poor slave fell to the ground before me. Paul bent and lovingly grasped the arms of the slave and pulled him to his feet. Silas put his arm around the wretched one’s shoulders. The filth and stench in the cell were overpowering, but Paul and Silas didn’t seem to notice. They embraced him and kissed his head. They put their hands on his wounds and prayed for his healing. The slave cried and would not let them go. They began to sing again. They sang into his mangled ears until he was quiet. My father began to dress his wounds.
I am leaving with Paul and Silas today. My father has given his blessing. I don’t know where this new life will take me, but I must follow after Christ. The emptiness is gone. The poor slave seems filled with hope as well. There is hope for both of us now. We heard singing.
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