165. PETER’S IMPRISONMENT – POINTS I GLEANED FROM MY STUDY OF ACTS 12:1-19

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 3)

Acts 12:1-19 reads:

  • Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
  • And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
  • And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
  • And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
  • When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
  • And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
  • And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
  • But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
  • Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.”

Based on the above scripture, I gleaned the following points:

POINT 1 – THERE IS POWER IN PERSISTENCE AND THE UNIFIED PRAYER OF BELIEVERS (Verses 5 &12)

No matter the issue, God loves persistent faith, one that does not give up and refuses to relinquish hope because a believer knows that God definitely has the solution and is the only one capable of solving the problem.

When Peter was taken and with the threat of him suffering the same end as James the brother of John, the church (those who believed in the resurrection of Jesus), did not throw their hands up in the air and give up. No. The Bible states that: “Peter therefore was kept in prison: BUT PRAYER was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.”

God also loves it when believers come together in unity with like-mindedness and genuine love and concern for each other, whether it be for prayer, praise or to read his Word. As I wrote in another Article, there is strength in numbers and unified prayer is fortified prayer. Due to Peter’s predicament, the church came together to pray together and God heard their unified prayer and answered it.

When Peter was released by God through his angel from the prison, the Bible states that he went to “…the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.”

POINT 2 – GOD HAS THE POWER TO COMPLETELY DELIVER (Verses 7 & 10)

Peter did not just have one problem. He had several. Not only was he in chains and stuck between four guards but he was also in prison. And not only was he in prison but he was, it seems, in the third ward of the prison. And not only was he in the third inner ward of the prison but there was an iron gate at the end of it all.

The angel of the Lord came and did not just grant Peter deliverance from his chains (the first problem) but took him from where he was past the first ward (deliverance from the second problem) and then past the second ward (deliverance from the third problem). When they passed the second ward, the angel did not abandon him there (although I am sure Peter would have been grateful for how far God had taken him). There was still the problem of the iron gate, the last and fourth problem that Peter had. Notwithstanding, God took care of it and opened it miraculously for Peter to go through.

The angel did not even abandon him there but accompanied him until they had passed through one street. In fact, it was only when Peter had been completely delivered that the angel took his leave.

The lesson here is this: Even if you’re facing ten (10) problems, have faith in God for COMPLETE deliverance because he is a God that completely delivers. Don’t resolve in your mind to ask him for help with one problem and then plan to ask him for help with the second, when he finishes the first. Oh no, not so. Ask him to blow your mind and to deliver you from ALL of your problems, at the same time.

God is not just the God of deliverance. He is the God of COMPLETE deliverance. King David attested to this fact when he said in Psalm 40:1-3, that when he was in a horrible pit, God didn’t just take him out of it but he also took him out of the miry clay and then also set his feet upon a rock and then also established his path and then also put a new song in his mouth.

David, who like Peter, could not help himself where he was and so needed God’s complete deliverance, said:

  • “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”

In contemplation of God’s complete delivering hand in his life, David concluded in verses 4 and 5:

  • “Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust…Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

POINT 3GOD MAY MOVE SO SWIFTLY, UNEXPECTEDLY AND SUDDENLY WHEN HE IS READY TO DELIVER US, THAT WE MAY NEED TO BE JOLTED OUT OF OUR STUPOR WHEN IT HAPPENS (Verses 7- 8)

When God is ready to move us forward and to shine his light on our dark situation because we have been stagnant and dry for so long, sometimes it requires him to hit us out of our stupor, sadness, depression and feeling of hopelessness.

The suddenness of the thing can have us not really believing that it is happening but in that moment, we have to get ourselves together, snap out of it, be of good courage and strong.

When the angel came and found Peter sleeping, the Bible says that the angel ‘smote’ him to wake him up. The scripture reads: “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly”.

POINT 4WHEN GOD SAYS IT IS TIME TO GET UP AND MOVE, IT IS NOT OUR PLACE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO, HOW OR WHY, JUST TRUST AND OBEY (Verse 8)

When God says it is time to move, it is an authoritative command. We would be foolish to question or say, “God that cannot be done!”

When the angel smote Peter and his chains fell off and he told him to put on his sandals, Peter did not ask the angel if he was crazy. He did not say to him, “Don’t you see these two guards and that I am in the third level of the inner prison and that there is an iron gate at the end of all of it? Put on sandals to go where and how?”

Despite the realities and the seeming impossibilities, the Bible says that Peter obeyed.

The lesson here is this: When God says to get ready for a journey, don’t ask where to, why or how, even when you are facing a gigantic wall. Just trust and obey. Even where he gives the instructions in parts, our responsibility is to obey whatever he has said and wait for further directions.

When the Lord says, like he did to Peter, take off your prison garments and follow me, we must do it just like Peter did and follow him. We must realize that where God is taking us, there will no longer be need for such garments and cast them from us willingly.

Peter had no idea what the angel was going to do or how. His tired, feeble mind, could not even begin to process it or work it out but he just obeyed and followed him. He had no idea what would come of it or where he would end up but he followed him.

Sometimes, blind faith and obedience, leads to the best places.

POINT 5EVEN IF GOD DOES NOT GIVE US ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS AT THE BEGINNING BUT CHOOSES TO DO IT IN PARTS, WE MUST OBEY UP TO THE POINT THAT HE HAS REQUIRED AND THEN AWAIT HIS FURTHER DIRECTIONS (Verse 11)

Notably, it was only after Peter chose to obey this first instruction, that the second was given. After he had obeyed by putting on his sandals, the scripture states that the angel then said “…Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.”

This reminds me of the Israelites when they were in bondage in Egypt. God told them to get ready to leave Egypt but he did not give further instructions as to what they would do after they left. Then, after they had departed, in Exodus 14, they found themselves facing a sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit behind them and on chariots. They had not a clue what was next or how God would deliver them but they had obeyed up to that point. They did not know what was step 2 but God, who is the beginning and the end, had a plan. He made a way miraculously by parting the Red Sea for them and they passed through to the other side.

POINT 6GOD CAN MOVE SO QUICKLY, UNEXPECTEDLY AND POWERFULLY, THAT WE THINK WE MUST BE DREAMING WHEN HE WORKS (Verses 9 -11)

When God moves, sometimes it is so quick, unexpected and powerful that we do not believe our eyes. We think we must be dreaming.

The children of Israel (referred to as Zion) in Psalm 126, had been in captivity and seemingly without hope for so long, that when God suddenly came and did his thing and completely delivered them from all of their troubles, they could not believe it. They thought they were dreaming.

Psalm 126 reads:

  • “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

When God took the chains off of Peter and then took him out of the different wards of the prison and then beyond the iron gate, it was only after he had passed through a street and the angel had departed, that he really woke up and recognized that he had not been seeing a vision or dreaming but that what had just transpired and his new found freedom were for real!

The scripture states of Peter following the angel out of the prison:

  • And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.”

POINT 7GOD OFTEN DEFEATS THE EXPECTATIONS OF MEN (Verse 11)

The reality is that sometimes you can be in such a fix and have so many problems and be so completely outnumbered by adversities, that everyone around you thinks that your goose is certainly cooked.

The Jews all expected Peter to be executed the next morning and were convinced that he was done and without hope…but God. They failed to realize that even if God did allow Peter to die the next morning (which he didn’t), he was not just the God of deliverance but the God of the resurrection.

Nevertheless because God loves to inject his hope in seemingly hopeless situations and because he is a God that can bring any situation back, he delivered Peter “…from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.”

They had already condemned him. They were singing: “He is finished! Sure and inevitable death!” But God who sitteth in the heavens and laughs, the one who who has men in derision (Psalm 2:4) was humming a different tune.

POINT 8GOD CAN MOVE SO QUICKLY, UNEXPECTEDLY AND POWERFULLY TO CHANGE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE, THAT IT COMPLETELY SHOCKS EVERYONE: YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR ENEMIES, THE CRITICS, THE UNBELIEVING, THE NAYSAYERS AND EVEN YOURSELF (Verse 11-16, 18-19)

When God does his thing, he does it so well, so quickly and so powerfully that he shocks you, your friends and your foes. Sometimes he comes through for a person in such an unexpected way, that the person he delivered, needs time to gather his thoughts together, so as to fully appreciate all that God has just suddenly done without asking anyone’s permission.

In verse 9, Peter concluded that he was dreaming and having a vision when he was in the process of being delivered but in verse 11, when he found himself out on the street and completely free, he had to take some time to ‘come to himself’ to recognize that it was no dream but true. He then took more time as verse 12 tells us, to ‘consider the thing’ privately.

Peter’s friends, the people who genuinely cared about him, had been praying all night without ceasing, that God would not allow Peter to be executed the next morning but when God delivered him and brought him to their very door, while they were still in the process of praying, they too needed time to process what had happened.

God had come through quicker and bigger and more powerful than they ever thought he could and would. The Bible says that they concluded that the girl who had answered the door when Peter had knocked and had then announced that Peter was at the door, was “mad”. It also says that when they came out and saw him with their very own eyes, that “they were astonished.”

Then finally, whenever God delivers his people, there is always an uproar in the enemies’ camp. They are always perplexed trying to figure out how, when, why, who, after the thing has already been done.

The Bible states in verse 18 that, “…there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter” and how wicked Herod looked for him but could not find him.

When God brings you out, some enemies will commission a search to look for you where you last were. Your empty space in a barren place, will stand as a testament like Jesus’ empty tomb and it will declare, “He is not here. He is risen.”

(Written on 27th January, 2016)

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