Zach Sewell: Brother’s Incarceration Inspired Collection of Stories About Biblical Prisoners

From time to time in this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following are the words of Zach Sewell; author of  “Prisoners in the Bible” To begin your self-publishing journey, get your free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

On December 23rd, 2008, a judge ordered one of my three older brothers to serve a prison sentence of up to five years. It was cruel timing for my family. Christmas Day, which was usually a happy occasion, was hollow. The pain and anxiety were so fresh for all of us that we could not bring ourselves to celebrate. We drove around a well-known neighborhood and looked at beautiful Christmas lights, but it was a painful drive, filled with fears and thoughts that we didn’t want to speak.

As weeks and months passed, we all went through the process of grieving. Equal to the grief I was feeling for my brother was the anguish I had for my parents. I hated that they had to experience having a child in prison. Nobody wants that for their parents.

SewellcoverA couple months in, my mother-in-law sent a letter to my brother in prison. In it, she talked about Joseph’s prison experience in Genesis. She shared with me what she had written. Her letter made me start thinking about other people in the Bible who were in prison. People who talk about a lot like Daniel and Paul jumped to mind, but then in the digging I came across more obscure people as well.

I knew prison is a prevalent theme in Scripture, but I didn’t realize how prevalent prison and experiences related to it were in the Bible. Beyond stories, there are expressions of God’s concern for people in prison, such as in Psalm 107:10-16. That chapter shows God’s heart not just for people who were in prison because of righteous reasons, but for people who had really messed up. That principle is true for people in the Bible, too. We have stories of people who were in prison because of their devotion to God, and people who were in prison because they made really bad decisions. In both types of situations, God worked powerfully.

The various prison stories in Scripture show how God can work in unique situations and in a unique way in each story. For some people, God brings them out of prison and for others He keeps them there. Paul experienced both ends of that spectrum during two separate incarcerations.

What stood out to me most in my research was that each biblical prison story has elements that people who are incarcerated today can relate to.

I spent three years writing Prisoners in the Bible. Lots of people have shared it with their loved ones who are in prison. It’s also been a good tool for prison Bible studies. Hearing from inmates who have read the book and have described how meaningful it has been in their walk with God has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Even though the book is written specifically for people who are incarcerated, the messages within the stories of the biblical prisoners have implications for all of us and can challenge each of us to strengthen our dependence on God in tough situations.

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books, are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page, by tweeting us @WestBowPress, or by emailing kgray@ westbowpress.com.  We may not be able to use every story, but we will read and consider them. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar and punctuation accuracy; as well as for space. 

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