“Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time” (Jer 37: 16)
“When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison” (Acts 24: 27).
“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined” (Gen 39: 20). “When two full years had passed…” (Gen 41: 1).
I don’t know what it feels like to spend a night (or longer) in jail, but I do have some experience of feeling confined. At least in the sense of experiencing restrictions, either because doors of opportunity were not opening or because the organisation I was working for seemed reluctant to release me into new things. Or even hear new ideas and perspectives.
I am guessing that you might have lived through something like that too. Most people have.
Many years ago, I felt a call into Christian ministry, but a long time passed until I found a place where others around me confirmed that call and encouraged me to step out. I would sometimes wake from a dream where I am about to preach to a congregation (or lead them in worship), but then something happens to stop it at the last minute. Several guitar strings break at once, or traffic stops me from arriving at the venue on time.
I guess my sub-conscious mind was reflecting the feeling that life was forcing me to wear a straitjacket. I had so much to give but nowhere to express it. I felt confined.
I remember listening to a sermon by the great UK preacher, Terry Virgo, around that time. He was speaking from Isaiah 49 and drew attention to verse 2: “God concealed me in His quiver”.
Ps Virgo felt the Lord wanted to say that we are created as God’s arrows. We are made for flight and action. We are designed to have the greatest impact on a world desperate to know God’s love and truth. But there are seasons in our lives when He deliberately conceals us in His quiver. For a time. It might be a long time.
I wonder how Paul and Jeremiah and Joseph each felt when they were imprisoned. Paul was on his way to Rome, and we might imagine him penning some of his most important letters whilst in the jail cell. But he didn’t. In fact, we have no idea how he spent the time.
Occasionally Paul had opportunity to speak of his faith before Roman officials and Jeremiah occasionally spoke to messengers from the king enquiring about the threat of Babylonian invasion. But the rest of the time – who knows?
The other thing Terry Virgo said was that the archer in ancient times sometimes wore his quiver over his chest. The arrows were next to the archer’s heart. We may never know why God confines us for a season, but we do know that we are never far from His heart, and he will shoot the arrow when the time is right.