Acts 12: “Expect the Unexpected”

Oh wow…it has been quite a while since I last posted, hasn’t it? But so, so much has happened in the past 6 months…there’s so much to write about, and I will. I have ideas for a bunch of new posts that I hope to write soon. πŸ˜‰ But for now, with the National Bible Bee being in just 2 weeks, I decided to just hop on real quick and write a bit about what I’ve been learning.

When we found out that the Study Passage for Nationals was going to be Acts 12-28, I was honestly a bit overwhelmed. What a huge amount to study in just 3 months! But I have an amazing study group with some of my Bible Bee friends, and we decided to do a study one chapter a week together. I don’t know what I was expecting…but when I jumped into studying about Acts 12, I was honestly surprised about how much God was showing me through it! This is an incredible chapter, and I want to share a bit of what God taught me through it. :))

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.

~Acts 12:1-4~

So basically, this chapter begins with King Herod Agrippa I taking James (the brother of John) suddenly, and putting him to death. But this wasn’t the end of it; when Herod saw that the Jews were pleased by James’ death, he went and took Peter as well, and put him into prison. Peter was sentenced to be put to death after Easter.

I can only imagine what the church was going through. James was their beloved friend, their brother, their leader…and there is nothing like the pain of losing someone you love. But in the midst of their heartbreak and mourning over James, yet another thing was thrown upon them…Peter was taken as well, and was sentenced to the same fate as James.

What must have been going through the mind of the church at this time? James’ death was very sudden: there was no warning, and I doubt the church was expecting it. The same with Peter’s arrest. It would be so easy to give in to despair, to give in to fear…how would the church respond?

They prayed.

 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

~Acts 12:5~

They prayed without ceasing. In fact, the word used in Acts 12:5 for “without ceasing” that was used to describe the church’s prayer for Peter –ektenes- is the same word that was used to describe Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. The church was praying, and they were praying hard.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” ~James 5:16

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.

~Acts 12:6~

I find this verse so amazing. Go back and read that again.

Think about that for a second. Peter was in prison, and this was the night beforehis planned execution. And what was he doing?

Sleeping.

I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed or worried about something, I cannot sleep. I don’t even have to be stressed…if I just have alot on my mind, I’ve found that I don’t sleep well at all. How was Peter sleeping before the night of his execution?! And if you read a little farther, he was sleeping so soundly, that even an extremely bright light did not wake him!

When we are in Christ, we do not have to fear anything. Even in the face of death, God can give us perfect peace. This comes from the assurance and hope that we have through the Gospel…which will remain true in any situation, and which no man can take from us! I’ve been thinking about this verse alot lately:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” ~Isaiah 26:3

The key to having perfect peace is to have our mind stayed on Christ. Because Christ will never change. The world could be collapsing around us, and we can still have peace, because Christ is greated than this world. I think Peter understood this. He had complete and perfect trust in God this night…so that even the shadow of death could not waver him.

We too, through Christ’s strength can have this kind of peace. What amazing hope we have in the Gospel!

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.

10 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.

11 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.

~Acts 12:7-11~

Vs. 9 is interesting. Peter didn’t even realize that what was happening was true, but thought he was seeing a vision! I found an interesting cross-reference to this in Psalms:

“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.” ~Psalm 126:1

It’s an interesting correlation. I guess sometimes when something so amazing and unbelievable happens, it’s easier to think that you’re just dreaming; it couldn’t possibly be true. But notice something that I think is important here…Peter still followed the angel. Even though he thought he was just seeing a vision, when the angel told Peter to follow him…he did. When God is leading us in our lives, it’s important that we follow wherever He is leading…no matter how crazy, impossible, or illogical it may seem. That’s where trust comes in: knowing that God has a plan higher than ours, and acting upon that belief.

When Peter came to himself, he realized just what God had done. He had delivered him from the hand of Herod, from the death that was to come to him tomorrow. I found this beautiful cross-reference in 2 Corinthians…

“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth from the dead. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:9-10

Look at how well this applies to Peter’s situation! In it’s context, this passage is talking about Paul, and the trouble that came to him in Asia. But right here, Peter was going through a very similar trial. He really did have the sentence of death in himself–it was scheduled for the next morning! But look at how Paul describes the reason for these trials…”that we should not trust in ourselves…” Peter really had no control over this situation, did he? There was absolutely nothing he could do. But God could. And He did. “but in God which raiseth from the dead.”

So the purpose of this is to realize that we shouldn’t trust in ourselves, but in God. Why? Because He “…delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us.

God will always deliver us. Even if it doesn’t seem like His deliverance is really deliverance…it is. God delivered Peter physically from prison. And His name was glorified because of it.

But think about it….wasn’t James also delievered in a way as well? James may not have been delivered physically…but the second that the life was taken from his earthly body, he was present with his Savior. Wouldn’t you call that deliverance? Deliverance from sin and the pain of this world. Deliverance into everlasting joy and the beauty of holiness, an eternity with the Lord. Is this not deliverance? And through even this, the Lord was glorified.

Why did the Lord choose to spare Peter, and yet let James be martyred? Couldn’t James have brought more glory to the Lord through a longer life on earth proclaiming His name to even more people? This is a hard question…and one that I have had to come to grips with in these past few months. The Lord could have saved James. He can do whatever He wants.

But that wasn’t His plan. From our earthly perspective, it makes no sense. We think that James could have made a bigger impact alive here on earth. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if God used the death of James to make an even bigger impact than he could have made alive?

The thing is…God doesn’t take us home one second before our mission on this earth is completed. As long as we are alive, it means that God has something for us to do…a purpose for that day. If there was no purpose, we wouldn’t be here. God will only take us home when we have finished what He has put us here to do. Nothing can stop God’s plan.

Peter still had a job to do. James just finished his job a little quicker.

“And when they shall have finished their testimony…” ~Revelation 11:7a

This is in reference to the 2 witnesses in Revelation. Everyone wanted them dead while they were witnessing. But God didn’t allow them to be killed until after their testimony was finished. Then they got to be with their Savior. Their job was finished.

And so, while it may not make sense to us…God is the one who ultimately knows everything. He is the One who knows what will be best…He is the One who knows what will ultimately bring the most glory to His name.

And in this case, that meant taking James home.

And truly, the church’s loss was James’ gain. :))

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

~2 Corinthians 5:1-2, 4b

><>:<>><<>:<><

12 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.

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.

~Acts 12:12-13~

One of the first things that stands out in this passage to me is the part in verse 12, where it says that they were gathered together praying. They weren’t just each praying alone at their own houses…they were praying together, with one accord. The church had unity…one of the things that is missing in so many churches today. This was also at night, when most others were asleep. This really shows their zeal, and just how fervently they were praying for God to save Peter.

Another thing that stands out, is that this happened while they were still praying!!

“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” ~Isaiah 65:24

How true this is, and how vividly it is shown here.

14 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.

15 And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

16 But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.

17 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.

~Acts 12:14-17~

When reading through this part, it is almost comical. I mean, here is Peter, knocking at the gate, and when Rhoda recognizes his voice, she is so excited and ecstatic…that she forgets to let Peter in!! And then when she tries to tell the Believers, they don’t even believe her!

This really goes to show just how little they believed that God was going to deliver Peter. This was exactly what they were asking God to do…but when He actually did it, they didn’t believe it! Their prayer was earnest, but they didn’t have much faith that it would actually happen.

How often do we do this in our own prayers? Do we always pray with the belief that God can actually do what we are asking Him to do? We *know* that He is all-powerful…but do we actually believe it? Beliefs come out in actions. If we are praying, we need to pray truly believing (not just knowing) that God can do all things.

Another thing I notice about this passage is that God is going to fulfill His will no matter what. The church’s lack of faith in prayer didn’t make God change His mind about Peter. God did what He knew was best.

So if we’re praying, we need to be praying for the will of God. Because God will always do what is best! But when we cry to Him, we can also rest in the fact that He hears us, and that He loves us. While our cries and prayers may not result in the answer that we want, God has still heard us, and is just answering the plea with a “No, I have something better in store.”

Oh, how God has been teaching me this in the past few months.

18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

19 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.

~Acts 12:18-19~

This is really sad when you think about it. Peter was saved…but 16 men had to be put to death according to Roman law because of this miracle.

But this is just another instance where we see so clearly that God has a greater plan. God saved Peter for a reason. Peter still had much that needed to be done for the spread of the Gospel here on earth.

20 And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country.

21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

~Acts 12:20-23~

Wow. Think about that for a second. Why was Herod judged in this way?

Because he gave not God the glory.

What a reminder to us! This is how serious God takes pride. And even if it isn’t this huge and obvious…how often do we take the glory from God in our own lives? Do we always make sure to give God the glory for everything? Do we always take the time to remember that we can do nothing in of ourselves? How many things in our day-to-day lives to we take for granted, that we should be thanking God for?

God deserves the praise for everything. And so often, we fail to give it to Him. Let us actively be seeking to give God the praise and honor that He deserves!

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

~Acts 12:24-25~

Verse 24. Wow. Go back and read that again.

Think about that for a second! Think back about what happened to James, to Peter, and to Herod! Think about the persecution that Herod tried to raise over the church. Think about the judgement that just happened to him. In the midst of this all, what happened?

The Word of God grew and multiplied.

The more the church was afflicted, the more it multiplied, just like Israel in Egypt. God uses the hard times to grow us and make us stronger in our faith.

Even in the midst of opposition and persecution…God overruled. He delivered His own, and judged those who were trying to steal His glory…and through it all, His message spread even farther. I think this is a great key verse for the chapter. πŸ˜‰

Think back over the whole chapter and everything that happened. I chose the title “Expect the Unexpected” for this chapter, just because of how many times God overruled in an unexpected way, and made His will known.

No one expected James to die…but through it God multiplied His Word.

No one expected Peter to be taken prisoner….but through it God multiplied His Word.

No one expected Peter to be delivered from prison…but through it God multiplied His Word.

No one expected Herod to be judged in such a drastic and sudden way by God…but through it God multiplied His Word.

See a pattern here? πŸ˜‰

God is always going to fulfill His will. No matter what. And sometimes it may be in the most unexpected of ways. But then again, do we really think we understand the mind of God?

We need to be expecting the unexpected…because our God is greater than this world. We need to be praying big, praying for the impossible, because with God, nothing is impossible!

We need to be praying like the early church prayed…for the unexpected….even impossible…which didn’t turn out to be impossible after all. πŸ˜›

But in our prayers, we also need to remember that the will of God is always best. And that even if our prayers aren’t answered like we would have hoped…God has something better in store…something that will be used to bring even more glory to His name!

And whatever happens…God will use it to expand His Word.

This passage sums up the chapter so perfectly…

God’s Word will NOT return void, and it WILL prosper wherever He sends it!

So let us go out, and spread this undying Word!

πŸ’– Always in Christ,

Sierra

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5 thoughts on “Acts 12: “Expect the Unexpected”

  1. Wow, Sierra! This was so encouraging and showed me a lot of new things I never realized before!! I’m so glad to hear how Bible Bee has been teaching you amazing things like this and thank you so much for sharing them! I was super excited to see this post pop up in my inbox and I can’t wait for your next ones!!! πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜β€οΈβ€οΈβ€οΈ

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This was such a blessing, Sierra! I love how you summed it all up with God’s ways being higher than our ways. That passage is one of my very favorites and it has been such a blessing to me the last few weeks and months. I’m excited for your upcoming posts, but I’m even more excited to see YOU at Nats! We’re getting so close! Keep pressing on for Him! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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