For their merciful act, Paul and Silas were cast into prison. This was clearly an effort of the recently expelled demon to restrain further gospel advance into its principality, which was the doorway to an entire continent.
From within their prison cell, the two beaten and bound missionaries began to sing praises to God. As they sang, an earthquake shook the area, resulting in the miracle of their jailer's repentance and the conversion of his entire household (vv. 19-34).
This cluster of events established a beachhead for the gospel on a new continent. Clearly, the original breakthrough of the gospel westward into Europe was not achieved without an apostolic experience in the sheer power of song.
The Bible supports the proposition that song is a mighty means of breakthrough and liberation. More than offerings of praise for what God has done, songs are also instruments of our partnering with His might for deliverance.
In Psalm 32:7, we are told that the Lord hides us and preserves us from trouble by encircling us with songs of deliverance. The song of the Lord on the lips of His people has a potential for contributing to spiritual overthrow, upheaval and breakthrough.
The Song of Birthing
Isaiah 54:1-3 opens with a paradoxical command:"Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing. ... For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations."
The irony here is that no one would direct a despairing reject to sing. In ancient Israel, a woman without children was disenfranchised, suspect of spiritual unworthiness and potentially subject to divorce.
Yet the prophet commands the woman to sing and, incredibly, directs her to start preparing a nursery for there are babies (plural) coming! (See verses 2-5.) A tapestry of joy is prophesied, complete with promises of widespread fruit and joyous consequences flowing from the midst of the singer's song.
In the Word of God, song and birth are linked together time and again (Job 38:7; 1 Sam. 2:1-10; Luke 1:46-55). The distinctive thing about Isaiah's words is that the song he calls for is not a joyous response to an impending birth. The song declares the promise and sets the atmosphere for its fulfillment!
When the Barren Sang
More than a decade ago, it seemed like just another Sunday as Mike and Cheri were seated with the congregation. They probably weren't thinking about the matter that morning, but Mike and Cheri were unable to have children.
They were new to our congregation, so I did not know this. Nor was I aware of their prayerful desire that after 11 years of marriage they might conceive a child.
That day my subject was "The Conceiving and Bearing of Life." Using Isaiah 54 as my text, I discussed God's call to worship and praise Him at any point of our lives that seems hopelessly unfruitful. During my delivery of the message, something very special took place.
I paused, sensing the Holy Spirit's presence and prompting. "Church," I said, "my message has not specifically had to do with natural childbearing but with life flowing into barren parts of our lives in other respects.
"Still, the Holy Spirit is impressing on me that there is a couple here this morning who has longed for a child, who has been told they cannot have one and whom the Lord wants to know He is present to speak to their need in a personal way.
"His word to you is this: 'Begin to fill your house with song, and as you do, the life-giving power of that song will establish a new atmosphere and make way for the conception that you have desired.'"
I didn't ask anyone to respond to that word. Rather, I simply went on with the message as planned, forgetting about the incident until nearly a year later.
I engaged Mike and Cheri in conversation prior to the Sunday they were to present their baby girl for dedication. After opening exchanges, Mike came to the point. "Pastor Jack, we wanted to talk with you for a few minutes because of this Sunday's dedication of our baby. There's something about it we felt you would want to know."
With that, he recounted the episode of that Sunday about 11 months before--of their childlessness, their prayer, the Holy Spirit's word to them and their baby.
"Pastor," Mike continued, "we went home that day and began to do what the Holy Spirit instructed us. We began to fill our house with song.