Prisoners are captives. Labeled guilty for some transgression, they are incarcerated. Held against their will with personal freedoms revoked, they are at the mercy of their jailer. Although considered blameworthy, many prisoners are innocent of the evil they have been accused. Many of God’s prophets, disciples, and servants spent time in prison. Our Heavenly Father has a special place in His heart for those who are bound with chains.
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3 (NKJV)
Those guilty of crimes deserve consequences for their unrighteous actions. But what of those who are truly innocent yet unjustly convicted? How can a just God allow such injustice to prevail?
Consider the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). Betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, his troubles only increase after his master’s wife unjustly accuses him of attempted rape. Delivered into prison, he remained there for two years until the King’s cupbearer finally remembered him to the King as one able to interpret dreams.
Joseph did not deserve to be sold into slavery. He did not deserve prison for a crime he did not commit. But God allowed it. And the Scriptures reassure us that even though times were dark for Joseph, God always had his back.
“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Genesis 39:20-21 (NKJV)
God knew Joseph’s limitations and He knew his measure of faith. God tested Joseph but He also used Joseph’s time of adversity to mold his character. Joseph was transformed from a tattle-telling, spoiled, favored and wealthy youth into a wise and humble man of God. The dross of his very being was brought to the surface and removed by the hand of God, but only because of the hell he lived through during his early days in Egypt. Joseph was a captive of man but God eventually set him free, having prepared him to fulfill His will.
“Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.” Psalm 146:7 (NKJV)
There may be many distressing circumstances we find ourselves in, and some of them may even be unjust, as were those in Joseph’s life. However, by remaining faithful and accepting that God is ultimately in charge, we can be confident that God will reward our faithfulness in the fullness of time.
God showed Joseph mercy throughout his trial, giving him favor first with Potiphar, then with the jail keeper, and finally the Egyptian King.
Many churches have a prison ministry. Believers share the word of God with inmates and mentor those who long to live for Christ. Paul ministered to many while serving time in prison, including guards/jailers (Acts 16:25-34). God places us where we need to be according to His will and purpose.
Prison can also be a “door” that opens new opportunities and a fresh start on life. Prisoners who accept Christ as Lord and Savior witness first hand His promise to meet their every need. Doors and opportunities that were once closed open by God’s might, blessing the repentant sinner whose hope now rests in a loving Redeemer. God becomes their captor, not the judge who gave the sentence or the jailer who locks the cell door.
Can you grasp the image of a loving captor? In moments of adversity and sorrow, will you let God capture your heart? Can you comprehend being imprisoned in His love? Will you consider a time of solitary confinement as a blessing? Though God may apprehend and detain us, it is always for our benefit.
Consider those who have lost the freedoms we now enjoy. Remember them in your prayers and know that, “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV)
“’I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick or in prison, and come to You’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:36-40 (NKJV)