Prison, Providence, And The Lesson Of John The Baptist

Our understanding of God’s Providence, His divine guidance and care to fulfill His purposes, often comes into question when we find ourselves in a dilemma where we can’t understand our circumstances. Said another way, there may be times where we find ourselves in senseless situations that are completely out of our control. Our need is dire, and we have no choice, but to throw ourselves at the mercy of a Sovereign God. (Which is where we all must get to eventually, some get there sooner than others.)

We often think of providence in a lighthearted, purely positive sense, where God’s supernatural care gets us out of jams. For instance, we’re late for work, but every redlight turns green, or in terms of near misses, such as the lightning strike was eight feet from my house, or that out of control car missed my bumper by inches. 

Looking at scripture, one recurring theme where we see God’s providence, turns out to be far from lighthearted. It’s found repeatedly in prison stories where His people are unjustly thrown, facing death, enduring awful conditions, and their faith is stretched in ways we can’t imagine. It’s exactly where God wants them, they’re in His hands. The outcome uncertain, but God… It’s through the furnace of affliction where we must learn to trust Him, and where He receives the most glory. 

By the way, prison can take many forms. We don’t have to be behind bars or facing execution to be trapped in a desperate place. Whatever form prison may take in our lives, it’s precisely where God’s people must learn to trust, wait, and depend on Him. It’s where we cast our burdens upon Him for He cares for us. And we have an Advocate interceding, the Man of Sorrows, who has been there. 

When we think of the many prison situations in the Bible, we often remember the positive outcomes. For example, Joseph (falsely accused and jailed, but God…), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (framed to a fiery furnace, but God…), Daniel (in the lion’s den, but God…), Paul in chains…

But what about the negative outcomes? What about all those martyred for their faith, like Stephen? What about John the Baptist – losing his head? 

God’s plans and purposes are not always positive from the standpoint of our desired outcome. God ultimately provides deliverance for His people through Christ and the cross, where the ultimate injustice, the ultimate mishandling of a trial, the ultimate wrongful death, brings total forgiveness and healing to prisoners of sin. Through his death and resurrection, Christ our Substitute, saves us from the eternal punishment and death we all deserve (mercy), while at the same time providing eternal life that we don’t deserve (grace). 

We may live through difficult and senseless times, we may be rescued from whatever prison we’re in, or we may die like John the Baptist, but God…through Christ, has provided eternal life to those who put their faith and trust in Him. Though we may die, yet shall we live in eternal joy. Life in the presence of the One we can worship and enjoy forever. That, my friends, is the ultimate providential care and guidance that He uses to accomplish His purpose. Christ is worth dying for. And on our journey to the Celestial City, we too must learn, to live is Christ, but all praise be to God, to die is gain. 

Innocent

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Don’t send me away in anger
To the hell you’ve reserved
Don’t send me to fiery torment
Though that’s what I deserve
Don’t forget about your mercy
Please remember your love
I’m innocent in You, O Lord

For you declare me innocent
Hidden from the wrathful flood
You declare me innocent
By the Righteousness of God
You declare me innocent
Cleansed by priceless blood
I’m innocent in You, O Lord

Don’t count me among the wicked
Though I’m a hypocrite
Don’t see my pride, lust, or failures
Which I have to admit
Don’t forget undeserved kindness
Cause I’m clinging to it
I’m innocent in You, O Lord

Pardoned, my guilt is clear
Adopted, I’ve been brought near
Forgiven, no sin remains
Restored, with a heart that’s changed

Behind the lines

Psalm 26

Shepherd, Savior

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Shepherd, Savior – hallelujah!
You found me starving far away,
You make me go down to pasture,
Then keep me there, never to stray.

Shepherd, Savior – hallelujah!
You lead me by rivers of peace,
You sing to me, restore my soul,
And cause my doubts and fears to cease.

Shepherd, Savior – hallelujah!
You guard me with your voice and staff,
You call my name, watch over me,
And walk me through shadows of death.

Shepherd, Savior – hallelujah!
You prepare a great feast for me,
You bless me with your bread and wine,
Then dare to stoop and wash my feet.

Shepherd, Savior – hallelujah!
You cause my joy to overflow,
You are good and full of mercy,
For all my days and evermore.

Behind the lines

The LORD Is My Shepherd…

The Twenty-Third Psalm

Love Remained

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All was beauty, all was song,
All was evil, all was wrong,
Destroyed, drowned, every town,
Love remained.

Altogether, all one tongue,
All confused, all tools hung,
Silenced, cursed, dispersed,
Love remained

All enslaved, all plagues come,
All rescued, Almighty won,
Complained, fed, cloud led,
Love remained.

All God’s people, all twelve tribes,
Altar of bronze, all the scribes,
Religion, pride, great divide,
Love remained.

Almighty comes, all angels sing,
Alleluia, all praise the King,
Despised, tried, denied,
Love remained.

All in sorrow, all the shame
All completed, all the pain,
Forsaken, crowned, renowned,
Love remained.

All astonished, all relieved,
All death conquered, all believe,
Risen, Lord, adored,
Love remained.

All have heard it, all made known,
All have seen Him, all below,
Returned, King, anthems ring,
Love remained.

All is beauty, all is song,
No more evil, no more wrong,
Renewed, changed, unstained,
Love remained.

The Blood Dripped

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The blood dripped on the broken ground,
Covering the sand and stones,
With each drop the earth trembled,
And the Son of Man groaned.

The blood dripped and the dust was stirred,
Moved by Great Weight and the Wind,
The dust was blown away by Love,
For this Man had never sinned.

The blood dripped as the flies gathered,
To drink from the Son of God,
Their feet washed by His royalty,
A foretaste of what’s to come.

The blood dripped as He breathed His last,
Under a darkened sky,
Then it flowed down the metal spear,
Mixed with water from His side.

The blood dripped on the rough cut wood,
Made for murderers and thieves,
The tree without roots would bear fruit,
Nourished by the Prince of Peace.

The blood dripped, the blood dripped,
From the Son of God…

Behind the lines

Hebrews 9:22…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

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