God Steps In
God, increase my faith in Your Word and Your power.
Read Acts 12:1–19a
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 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.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “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.”
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHave you ever experienced violence?
Today’s reading begins and ends with executions. In most developed countries the church is marginalized, but our struggles with “new atheism” don’t usually involve death. For some of our persecuted brothers and sisters, however, this is indeed their story. Violence motivated by religious hatred is at work. Herod uses it to hold on to power. Peter is imprisoned and is in danger of losing his life (2–4). Then God steps in.
Elements of this story might make us smile. Peter’s astonishment at the angel’s arrival, and his sleepy stumbling out to the street. Poor Rhoda’s amazement when Peter shows up at the door, too bewildered to let him in. The earnest pray-ers inside have been asking God for… what? We aren’t told. Would they have had the faith to ask that the prison doors would be opened, or were they praying that God would comfort Peter in what were possibly his last hours? What a surprise awaited them!
Don’t lose the force of the story of Peter’s release from chains. It was God’s supernatural intervention through an angel that secured his freedom. He is the same God. He can, and still does, intervene today, and he is Lord over all regimes, good and bad.
Have you ever been in bondage to offense? Forgive your oppressor and do so quickly. Christ died to set us free!
Pray today for the families of believers who have been put to death—even if you do not know their names or where they live.