Acts 16:22-24 NKJV
“Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
Paul and Silas had been arrested, beaten and thrown into jail. The jailer was instructed to keep them securely locked up. He put them in the inner prison and fastened their feet in stocks. From the deepest, darkest part of the prison at the darkest time of the night, a song of praise and honor unto God arose. Paul and Silas began singing a hymn to God. Not about God, but to God. They were ministering to the Lord in their time of need. They were desperate men.
Acts 16:25 NKJV
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
The word “hymn” is mentioned very few times in the Bible. Hymn means a song of praise or honor to God, also to praise or to extol (praise highly, commend.) A hymn is addressed directly to God. Psalm 113-118 are known as the hallel. Hallel is the Hebrew word for praise. The word hallelujah comes from the word hallel. Psalm 113-118 were sung as a hymn at every Passover and parts of these Psalms were sung at other Jewish holidays. Jesus would have sung these Psalms at the Passover prior to going to the Mount of Olives on the night of His arrest.
Matthew 26:30 NKJV
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Mark 14:26 NKJV
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Psalm 113 and 114 were sung before the Passover meal and Psalm 115-118 were sung after the fourth cup of wine was poured, with Psalm 118 being sung at the very end of the Passover seder.
What hymn did Paul and Silas sing to God in jail? Could they have sung all or part of Psalm 113-118? Paul would have known the Hallel. He had recited it on many Jewish holidays and on other occasions.
Romans 15:11 NKJV
“And again: ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!’ ”
Paul knew that one of the natural outcomes of being filled with the Spirit is singing unto God in every situation and in every circumstance.
Ephesians 5:19-20 NKJV
“…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to sing (and say):
3) spiritual songs
* psalms – The 150 Psalms (a collection of songs, prayers and poetry), plus other psalmlike poems throughout the Bible. The Psalms were the “songbook” of the early church. The Psalms express praise to the Lord.
* hymns – Compositions addressed directly to God.
* spiritual songs – Songs about your Christian experience. Also songs that praise God.
In his letter to the church at Colosse, Paul instructed them to teach and admonish each other in psalms, hymns and in spiritual songs.
Colossians 3:16 NKJV
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
As we offer hymns to God we must acknowledge who God is, how we feel about Him, and His authority. When we look at the hallel (Psalm 113-118) we see that the Lord‘s name is above all names, that He is always with us, that He is trustworthy, that He will deliver, that He is worthy of praise, and that He is the Great I Am.
I. THE LORD’S NAME IS ABOVE ALL NAMES.
Psalm 113 is a praise to God’s for His greatness and His grace.
Psalm 113 NKJV
“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord,
Praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down
The Lord’s name is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high,
Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat Him with princes- With princes of His people.
He grants the barren woman a home,
Like a joyful mother of children.
Praise the Lord!”
During Biblical times there was a close association between a person’s name and their identity. When you praise (bless) the name of the Lord you set your thoughts upon His character. The Lord is King of all. He has supreme power and authority. He is the God over all. He is not limited to a certain group of people or a certain area. He is supreme over all the earth and over all the heavens. There is no one or nothing that compares to the Lord God.
God does not have to draw close to us, He chooses to draw close to man. Desperate people (the poor, needy, lost and sorrowful) have a special place in God’s heart. In the natural realm a good father will stoop down and pick up his child when it is hurting. God is a good Father to each of us. When we are hurting, He stoops down and picks us up. God always hears the cries of His children.
Genesis 4:10 NKJV
“And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.’”
Exodus 3:7 NKJV
“And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.’ ”
Psalm 84:2 NKJV
“My soul longs, yes, even faints
For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 119:145 NKJV
“I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord! I will keep Your statutes.”
Matthew 14:30 NKJV
“But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ ”
Mark 10:47 NKJV
“And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
Luke 18:7 NKJV
“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, through He bears long with them?”
Hebrews 5:7 NKJV
“who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear..”
The Lord will always respond to injustice and religious persecution of His people. God will avenge His people, in His time.
II. THE LORD IS WITH US
Psalm 114 is a praise to God’s for His deliverance with miraculous intervention. No matter what we are facing, God is with us. We are not alone.
Psalm 114 NKJV
“When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion. The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you turned back?
O mountains, that you skipped like rams? O little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of waters.”
The presence of the Lord is more important than “things”. When God’s presence is with us nothing else matters. Nothing else is more important. God is in the midst of His people no matter where they are or what they are going through. We do not serve a God that is far away or that is sometimes present. He is with us always. He lives with us, and His protection can always be counted on. He is our defense.
Psalm 46:1-11 NKJV
“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is
with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am
God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Joel 2:27 NKJV “Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God
And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.”
Matthew 18:20 NKJV
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
God can step into every situation and change it. His presence is truly awesome. He is our refuge. As a Christian we have peace knowing that God is present with us.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”
Paul knew his relationship with God. He knew that the Holy Spirit was living in him and that he was God’s dwelling place. He was at perfect peace, knowing that God was with them, even in the midst of their troubles.
Ezekiel 37:27 NKJV
“My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
2 Corinthians 6:16 NKJV
“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple
of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them
And walk among them, I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.’”
God delivers His people from bondage and He provides for their needs. He gives salvation and physical blessings. Paul knew and believed beyond a shadow of doubt that God was able to deliver them with miraculous intervention, just as He had in the past. Paul was committed to the Lord and he placed his trust solely in Him.
Psalm 5:11-12 NKJV
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You: Let them ever shout for joy,
because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You. For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.”
III. THE LORD IS TRUSTWORTHY
Psalm 115 is a prayer to God to vindicate His honor by delivering His people. The Lord is the only true God and the only God deserving of our praise and worship.
Proverbs 3:5 NKJV
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.” The Lord is worthy of out trust and He will always bring salvation and deliverance to people who put their trust in Him.
Isaiah 48:11 NKJV
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”
In the end, God’s honor will be vindicated.
Psalm 115 NKJV
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth. Why should the Gentiles say,
So where is their God?’ But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield. The Lord has been mindful of us. He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron.
He will bless those who fear the Lord,
Both small and great. May the Lord give you increase more and more,
You and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s;
But the earth He has given to the children of men. The dead do not praise the Lord,
Nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord
From this time forth and forevermore.”
As Christians we must place our trust in God alone. God protects and cares for His people. He is our help, refuge and shield.
Psalm 94:22-23 NKJV
“But the Lord has been my defense,
And my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought on them their own iniquity,
And shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The Lord our God shall cut them off.”
Paul knew that as long as he was alive he was to bless the Lord. He knew that the Lord was his shelter and protection from danger and trouble.
IV. THE LORD IS OUR DELIVERER
Psalm 116 is a praise to God for prayers answered in the past and for deliverance from imminent danger of death.
Psalm 116 NKJV
“ ‘I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful
The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
I believed, therefore I spoke,
I am greatly afflicted.’ I said in my haste, ‘All men are liars.’
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord’s house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!”
The Lord hears our cries and our prayers. God always meets the needs of His people. When we are surrounded by the enemy, and overtaken by trouble and sorrow we must remember to cry out to the one who can deliver us.
Psalm 18:6 NKJV
“In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”
God is full of mercy and compassion. His kindness goes beyond what we can ever expect or understand. His love for us is unending, it never fails.
Psalm 145:8 NKJV
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.”
We must determine in our heart to praise the Lord at all times. Praise Him for the times that He has delivered you in the past and for the deliverance that He is providing in your present situation.
Psalm 146:1-2 NKJV
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
We must praise God in an audible manner, both in public and in private.
Isaiah 12:2-6 NKJV
“ ‘Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: ‘Praise the Lord, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent Things; This is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!’ ”
V. THE LORD IS PRAISE WORTHY
Psalm 117 is a praise to God for His love and His truth.
Psalm 117 NKJV
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you people!
For His merciful kindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”
We are to “laud” or to speak well of God. Also we are to praise and extol God. As Christians we are to sing a song or hymn of praise to God. Paul knew of God’s great love and merciful kindness toward him. He had experienced firsthand God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. He knew the truth about God. He knew that God is our loving creator and that He deserves our worship and praise.
Romans 1:18 NKJV
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
God’s Word always remains true. If God has told you that He will do something for you, He will. His Word is truth. There is no end to His truth.
John 17:17 NKJV
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
When we walk in truth we will have a real relationship with God. We will walk according to God’s Word.
Psalm 100:5 NKJV
“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.”
Paul walked in truth therefore he was able to sing a hymn unto God about His great love and truth. Like Paul, we are to lift up the name of the Lord because He is forever true, loyal, faithful, kind, right, and honest.
VI. THE LORD IS THE GREAT I AM
We must recognize the Lord for who He is. He is the Great I Am. Whatever you need, He is it. Whatever you have need of, the answer is found in Him. We must acknowledge that God is our true source. Our help is not found in man, only in our God, our Father.
1) The Lord Is On My Side – With God Almighty on our side what do we have to fear? Even when we are surrounded with impossible circumstances, we can proclaim with confidence, “the Lord is on my side!”
Psalm 118:1-9 NKJV
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let Israel now say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron now say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’ Let those who fear the Lord now say, ‘His mercy endures forever.’ I called on the Lord in distress; The Lord answered m and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side;I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man”
With God on our side what can man do to us? When our trust is in the Lord, we do not have to fear the enemy. When storms are raging all around us and even when we are in the chains of the enemy, we can have an abiding confidence that God is on our side.
Psalm 56:3-4 NKJV
“Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word),
In God I will put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Paul was able to praise because he knew that God was on his side, that God was for him and not against him. He praised God for who He was, despite being locked up in a dirty, dark dungeon. Even though it might have seemed that they was all alone, Paul and Silas knew that God was there with them.
Psalm 118:10-11 NKJV
“All nations surround me,
But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me; But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.”
2) The Lord Will Triumph – Paul was able to praise because he knew that the Lord would triumph. The Lord will destroy our enemies. Even when we are completely encircled by our enemies, we can rest in the peace of knowing that our Lord will triumph over our enemies. Our help comes from the Lord. Because of His help we will triumph.
Psalm 118:12-13 NKJV
“They surround me like bees; They were quenched like a fire of thorns; For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. You pushed me violently, that I might fall, But the Lord helped me.”
Paul knew the Lord as his help. No matter how difficult the circumstance, God will empower us and give us strength to triumph over our adversary. Throughout Paul’s life, God continually empowered him and gave him strength to preach the truth.
2 Timothy 4:17-18 NKJV
“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and forever. Amen!”
3) The Lord is my song of strength – Paul knew the Lord was his song of strength. He was able to praise God and rejoice because he knew that the Lord would deliver him and that he would live to declare the works of the Lord.
Psalm 118:14-18 NKJV
“The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is
exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.”
Exodus 15:2 NKJV “The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will exalt Him.
My Father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”
Isaiah 12:2 NKJV
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become by salvation.”
4. The Lord is my salvation
Psalm 118:19-21 NKJV
“Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You,
For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.”
Paul was able to praise because he knew Jesus as his Savior. He knew that Jesus was the gate or door to salvation. We can praise God because we know that Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin and He rescues us from an eternity separated from God.
5. The Lord is my chief cornerstone
“The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Paul was able to praise because he knew Jesus as his chief cornerstone. God can turn rejection into direction. When people refuse to believe you or believe in you, God can turn the situation around. When faced with rejection for Christ’s sake we can still rejoice because we know that God will use it for His glory, if we keep our eyes on Him.
6. The Lord is my God
Psalm 118:25-29 NKJV
“Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord,
And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horn of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You: You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.”
Paul was able to praise because he knew the Lord as his God. He knew that his praise blessed the Lord. He declared in the chains of the enemy that the Lord God was his God, and that he was going to exalt His name. Nothing was going to stop him from honoring and lifting up the name of the Lord. Paul glorified the Lord even in his darkest hours. He knew that the mercy of God never runs out.
As Paul and Silas began to minister to God by telling Him what He meant to them and how much they loved Him, power was released. Power to break chains and shackles, power to open doors, power to save, power to heal, and power to restore. Our praise (blessing the name of the Lord) not only has an effect on us, it effects those around us. Through praise, chains and shackles are broken, doors are opened and freedom (salvation) comes.
Paul and Silas were not the only ones in the deep, dark dungeon. There were other men there also. It is quiet possible that many of them had lost all hope. Not only were the other prisoners physically in bondage, but they were also in emotional and spiritual bondage. They were depressed and oppressed by the enemy – they were in the chains of the enemy.
When Paul and Silas began to pray and to sing a song of praise to God (hymn) the other prisoners were listening. As they sat there in the dark listening to Paul and Silas minister to God their faith was renewed. Hope began to replace despair. Even though everything around them still looked dark, the light of God began to fill the place.
Acts 16:26 NKJV
“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.”
When we are “put in a dark place” we are not the only ones there. Just like the prisoners around Paul and Silas, many around us have lost hope. Many around us are in the chains of the enemy. If we will pray and sing a hymn (hallel) to God, the Light of God will fill the place. In the Light of God, evil cannot stay. Doors will be opened and chains will be broken. Not only will we be set free but those that are depressed and oppressed will be set free also.