Unstoppable. Acts 12.1-25
When God is on the move, he is unstoppable. Often God moves in response to the fervent prayers of his people.
Acts chapter 12 is another chapter that I have taken several days to devour... a couple more to decide how to attack it, and what I wanted to extract from it to make application to us - today.
Here's what's happening: while grace abounds in Antioch1, back in Jerusalem, the persecution against Christians has intensified. Is the gospel going to be snuffed out? Acts 12.1-25
Well, here's the summary of this wild chapter that chronicles God's maneuverings:
First, let's just say it looked grim for the cause of Christianity, particularly around Jerusalem at this time. We know the folks were struggling through a famine - as had been prophesied. In order to gain popularity with the Jews, King Herod
3has James beheaded. To further please the Jewish leaders, he throws Peter in jail. Was this the first time Peter is jailed? By my count, it is the third. And it is Herod's intent to put him to death as well-immediately after Passover.
However, all the followers of Jesus are praying for Peter in prison during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a weeklong observance. Herod places him under a secure guard of four squads of four soldiers each, rotating in three-hour shifts at night (Vegetius De Re Militari 3.8 - the most influential military treatise in the western world from Roman times to the 19th Century was Vegetius' DE RE MILITARI.)
In verse five, we see, ", BUT the church was earnestly praying to God" for him.
Always look for the 'but, God' or the ', but' in Scripture, because God is about to change things up!
", BUT the church was earnestly praying" - fervent, constant prayer - for the week of Unleavened Bread - earnest: The word constantalso has the idea of earnest; literally, the word pictures someone stretching out all they can for something. "The verb ektenos is related to ektenes, a medical term describing the stretching of a muscle to its limits."
Do not miss this: While in prison, heavily shackled - Peter sleeps. Even though he is to be executed, he is at peace. Never underestimate the power of prayer. "God is still on the throne and we are still on his footstool, and there's only a knee's distance in between."5
Peter sleeps so soundly that though there was a light around the angel, he had to hit Peter to wake him up! Then he tells him step-by-step what to do until they are out on the street. Peter takes himself to where the prayer meeting is being held, and when he knocks on the door, Rhoda is so excited when she sees him in the little peephole, that she doesn't even open the door!
Peter must have known where his best friends would be--Mary's house (she's John's mother)-and he goes there straightaway. When he knocks on the door, the maid, Rhoda forgets to let him in and just runs to tell everyone he's back. They all think she's nuts or worse, that Peter's dead and she's just seen his angel. Eventually, everyone opens the door and sees Peter and starts freaking out. Peter's out of prison ... time to praise and thank God!
The next morning, the soldiers and Herod are pretty confused about what happened to their prisoner. Herod questions the prison guards and then has them put to death.
Later, Herod is sitting in front of his subjects and they start chanting about how he is a god, not just a mere man. Now it's God's turn to be angry because God will not be denied his glory. An angel of God strikes him down and Herod is eaten from the inside out-likely a tapeworm-- and dies.
Let's look at this: Chapter 12 begins with impossible circumstances - -James, the apostle, has been executed -Peter is in prison, about to be executed -Herod is triumphing in all his glory
Chapter 12 ends with - -Peter released -Herod dead -and the Word of God triumphing, growing, spreading . . .
What happened? GOD'S PEOPLE WERE PRAYING!
God is unstoppable - and he loves to work through the prayers of his people.
1 - Acts 11.29-30
2 - Bible Gateway, Acts 12.1-25
3 - Jewish Encyclopedia, Herod I
5 - Jim Elliot