Monday, July 17, 2023

          In Acts 12, we find that Peter has been imprisoned.  James was “put to death with the sword” (Acts 12:2).  The reaction of the Jewish leadership to James’ death was so favorable and supportive that Herod decided to arrest Peter too.  Opposition to the gospel and those who proclaimed it was heating up rather quickly.  All this happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a memorial to the Passover and God’s breaking of Pharaoh’s strongarm hold over the people of Israel.  The Bible tells us that Peter was arrested and then guarded by four squads of four soldiers in each squad (Acts 12:4)...or sixteen soldiers.  That is not a small force to watch over one prisoner.  He was well-surrounded and probably unable to escape by any human means.  Luke added this detail about Peter’s imprisonment, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).  The Church prayed earnestly for this apostle.  The word earnestly can mean continuously and relentlessly.  They did not give up in their prayers.  They persisted.  That is a good lesson for us to consider—rather than fading in prayer we want to persist in it.  And maybe persist even more when the circumstances look bleak or humanly impossible.  These early Christians believed that the Lord was at work even when they could not necessarily see His actions.  We often need to hold to this truth too.
            But not long after Peter was imprisoned, the Lord began to work in visible ways.  He began to move in a mighty way to set Peter free.  We read, “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists” (Acts 12:7).  Those sixteen soldiers were powerless to stop the inbreaking of God’s power and authority.  The angel then guided him to a safe distance away from the prison and finally departed.  In his own words, Peter expressed and made sense of what had happened to him, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen” (Acts 12:11).  He confirmed this miracle that the Lord had done for him.  But this miracle would also be an encouragement to the early Church.  We see at least four truths in Peter’s words that we need to consider today.
            First, we see Peter’s confidence and certainty.  He said “I know without a doubt.”  He knew what God had done.  No one else deserved the credit or praise.  All glory was due to the Lord alone.  We want to be faithful to give thanks to the Lord for what He has done for us.  We want to praise Him for answered prayers.  We want to acknowledge and name the works that we see He has done—in us and in the lives of others.  Do you routinely speak about what the Lord has done for you?  Do you turn your situations into a testimony or story about how God has worked in your life?  Most of us prefer happy endings to sad ones.  And God writes some amazing stories today in the lives of other people.
            Second, Peter emphasized the Lord’s power.  God was (and is) far greater than a squadron of soldiers or the world’s most secure prison facility.  The Lord is not bound by human walls and prison cells.  Peter’s own words might have inspired someone else to come to know the Lord in a personal way.  We can trust our trials and battles to the Lord.  Joshua knew this as he led Israel in conquest of the Promised Land.  John knew this as he recorded the details of the final Revelation.  It can be easy to talk about our trials but we might be better served to talk more about God’s prevailing power. 
            Third, Peter believed that God had more for him to do.  His life was not over.  The end had not come for him or the gospel movement.  When we might be ready to write an ending or place a period on something, God could choose to place nothing more than a comma.  Often, God is writing a new beginning when we are ready to write an ending.  We are to stay hopeful and to stay watchful for where God could be working and moving.  We keep watch through prayer, Bible study, worship and asking God to reveal to us what He wants us to see and to know.  God does not always give us everything at once or everything we would like to know but He does reveal all that we need to know and when we need to know it.
            Fourth, Peter teaches us patience.  We stay faithful to God and what He has for us to do.  Even as we anticipate the future and where we might have new opportunities, we are to stay faithful where we are with what we are doing.  It might seem odd to think that Peter could serve God in prison but that was his mission field for a moment.  Acts does not tell us what kind of impact Peter might have had on the soldiers guarding him or his fellow inmates.  Acts does tell us about Stephen being stoned while a man named Saul (later called Paul) looked on at the scene.  Do you think God might have used the faithfulness of Stephen, even to a martyr’s death, to impact Paul?  Whatever God has for you to do or to pursue in the course of a day, do all you can to be all there!  Have a great Monday.  Remember you can share our worship with others at      

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