Sometime last week, I heard about some people that had been wrongfully accused of crimes they did not commit and were subsequently imprisoned as a result. Now, I have never been to prison but I know a few people that have been for periods of time ranging from one night, to a few days to weeks even. And what I can tell you without any doubt is that it is not a pleasant experience. I can therefore imagine how much more unpleasant it must be for those who have had to be in prison wrongfully.

In scripture we know of people who were cast into prison like Joseph, John the Baptist and Paul and Silas to name just a few. While pondering on the issue of being put in prison (rightly or wrongly) some things struck me. The first thing is that there is a severance between the prisoner and the world outside; no access, no contact. (I am aware that there is an underground system in the prison that can make things happen, but please let us focus on an ideal situation here.) The second thing that struck me is that the jailer (or the authority who ordered the jailing) controls the prisoner and the activities in the prison cells. There is no freedom. Sadly, there are also prisons that cannot be seen with the naked eyes and they are just as real as the physical ones. What is sadder still is that some of the inmates in these prisons are not even aware that they are behind bars.

Usually there are walls that surround a prison and then degrees of gates to pass through before one gets to the particular gate to each individual cell. In order to go in or out of any of these gates one must use a key or some kind of pass. So whether it is a visitor to the prison or someone being released from prison, a key or pass must be used to let them in or out.  Without keys to let in or let out, access and contact are virtually impossible. The beheading of John the Baptist was ordered by a king who was in authority at the time and who had ordered John’s jailing in the first instance. John could not go out to get help nor could his disciples come in to prevent his execution. But there is ONE who does not need to use keys to get into or get people out of prison. He used an earthquake to get Paul and Silas out. “They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Acts 16: 23 – 26 NLT God does not need the permission of a jailer to get one out of prison. God can simply go ahead and break down gates as well as cut through bars of iron. “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” Isaiah 45: 2 NIV

Only God can save us from prison. We can praise Him or we can cry out to Him for help. When we find ourselves in situations where, though we are alive, it appears we are living in obscurity, that is a prison and it’s time to start praising God or calling out to Him for help.

When we are constantly being overlooked or bypassed for favours or positions that we deserve and merit, there are prison gates that need to be broken. Our praise and our cry to God for help can break those gates. When we are limited in our minds, when we have an attitude of fear, or when we clearly refuse to see opportunities and possibilities beyond our current realities or when we just cannot dream; prison gates need to come down.

“Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery.

They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High.

That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them.

“LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.

He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains.

Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron.”  Psalms 107: 10 – 16 NLT

When Jesus died and rose again, He had broken every gate, every ancient door and He had cut through bars to let us out and set us free.