To set up the story, let me tell you a few things that have been going on. Peter, John and the disciples are spreading the Good News about Jesus throughout the region. Hundreds and hundreds of people are embracing the Truth, and it's exciting! But just as it is today, there are people who simply will not see the truth. Saul, later called Paul, is one of them. In Acts 9:1 we read, "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples." And he wasn't alone. King Herod and the Jewish leaders wanted to put a stop to the disciples mission.
That's where our story picks up. In a nutshell:
King Herod has James, the brother of John, killed. (Breaks my heart every time I read that.) Peter is arrested and thrown in prison. It's not looking good. He is chained and surrounded by guards. But just when things look impossible, an angel comes to Peter and he escapes.
Here are the lessons I take away from this passage of scripture:
- Bad things can happen even when you're following Jesus. James is killed (v.2) and Peter is arrested (v.3). Sometimes we think that once we accept Jesus as Lord nothing bad should ever come into our lives. But that just isn't true. Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
- People were praying for Peter. A group of believers gathered together and prayed "earnestly" (v.5) for Peter. That is what we are called to do for one another. God most definitely hears our prayers. Revelation 5:8 describes golden bowls in heaven full of incense, "which are the prayers of the saints." Our prayers are a pleasing aroma to God.
- God has a plan. Peter is sleeping in prison, bound with not one but two chains, with a guard on either side of him. There are sentries standing at the door. There is no possible way for him to escape. Does that stop God? Absolutely not! God had plans for Peter and not even an impossible situation was going to prevent it from happening. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)
- Joy comes when we trust God. Peter walks out of prison, thinking he's dreaming. But when the angel leaves him on the street, a free man, he knows God did this. When he arrives at the house where the disciples have been praying all night, they're amazed to see him. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)
- Death comes to everyone. I almost feel sorry for the guards who woke up to find Peter missing. After Herod had a thorough search done, he gave orders for the guards to be executed. I hope Peter had a chance to share the Gospel with them, but we'll never know if they were ushered into paradise, as James most assuredly was! Better to die for God than for a king. (Revelation 20:11-15)
- There is only one God! "I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5) When Herod is praised as a god (v.22) he is struck down by an angel of the Lord. And...gasp!...he is eaten by worms. Herod clearly became full of himself and forgot Who deserves all the praise and glory.
- The Word of God can't be stopped! Despite the efforts of Herod, the Jewish leaders, and the guards, "the word of God continued to increase and spread." (v. 24) Despite the negativity we see today against the Bible, against the Church, and against Believers, the Word of God can't. be. stopped! God is in control today just as He was in control back when this story took place. Nothing and no one will stand in His way.
As the title of this blog and the accompanying verse declares, "I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as follower of the Way." (Acts 24:14)
I wouldn't want it any other way!
This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Bangladesh, Georgia, South Korea, Slovenia