16:23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 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 chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
God is love. That's what He says. God can do anything but violate our freedom. That's what He says about Himself. He rescued Daniel from the lions but permitted Paul, Silas, Timothy and probably Luke to be beaten viciously and put in prison. Either God is a liar or He had a very good reason for permitting that kind of suffering for men who did not deserve it.
I have had several people tell me they doubt God's power and love because the world is full of suffering. I have had some of those same people and others tell me they doubt God's goodness because of the judgments in the old testament like the flood and Sodom. When I put those two charges against God side by side I see us doubting Him for not intervening in the affairs of men and then doubting Him when He does.
Let's look at the situation in Philippi. These people know almost nothing about God. To them Paul and his crew are just spewing another religious theory which was fine until $$$ got involved. At that point something had to be done and the people rose up against them. Could God have struck the mob with blindness like he did the rapists in Sodom? Sure He could have. He could have intervened in countless ways but He didn't. Finally bloodied and beaten the men are in maximum security prison in shackles. Now God intervenes. An earthquake rocked the prison opening every door and breaking the chains from the walls. The chief jailer wakes and finds the prison open. He is about to kill himself when Paul stops him with the news that they are still there.
So violent was the society that the jailer knew he'd be beaten and likely killed for falling asleep on the job and to avoid all that was going to kill himself. At least it would be quick and less painful.
Do you see what happened?
When Jesus was facing the cross in the garden of Gethsemane He prayed to His Almighty Father who is Love and said "If it is possible let this cup (this entire situation) pass from me."
His Almighty Father who is Love never said a word. He never intervened. He never cushioned the blows or held back the hammer. There was no response from heaven and no cavalry of angels. Nothing but midnight silence.
Because to save us it was not an option to intervene. Paul and his team could have been snatched away from Philippi but what about the jailer and his family? What about others in the city who would hear the story of the innocent men who were beaten and locked up and refused to run away even when an earthquake set them free? How many people will be in the kingdom of God because our all loving God permitted His team in Philippi to suffer unjustly?
You see God is love. A love that will not let us go. To serve Him is to suffer with Him for the benefit of others.
"In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world." - Jesus