Day 18

Peter Rescued by an Angel

from the Acts of the Apostles reading plan


Acts 12:1-25, Mark 10:35-40, Isaiah 42:8

The providence of God is mysterious business. If you’ve ever looked at the hand you’ve been dealt and felt confused by God’s logic, you know what I’m talking about. Job 14:5 tells us that God determines the number of our days, and we cannot pass the limits He has appointed. We live every one of our days in these mysterious boundaries.

Acts 12 is a sweeping narrative dealing with God’s prerogative to determine the number of days for those who love Him and also for those who don’t.

The chapter opens with of the death of James, the brother of John. Herod unceremoniously killed James in an effort to please the Jews. What is so stark about this is that the entire story of this key disciple’s beheading is told in just one verse—“Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword” (12:2). James, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, present at the transfiguration, was killed by a vicious, paranoid ruler, and this is all we’re told about it.

We then learn that, when Herod discovered that James’ death pleased the Jews, he detained Peter with the same intent. However, due to the fact that Peter was arrested during Passover (which would have made a public execution offensive to the very people he was trying to please), Herod left Peter in jail under the watch of four guards at a time. Peter was chained directly to two of them. On the last night of Passover, an angel loosed Peter’s chains and led him safely into the dark streets of Jerusalem.

These two encounters with Herod leave us asking, “Why did Peter live and James die?” Sure, Acts tells us people prayed for Peter’s safety (12:12), but can’t we assume they prayed just as fervently for James? So why did James die and not Peter?

Don’t we often ask similar questions about our own lives? Why am I going through what I’m going through when my neighbor isn’t?

The rest of the chapter (vv. 19-25) answers the question: How much power did Herod really have over James and Peter? Can anyone, regardless of their influence, wealth, or fame, cross the limits God appoints? No. Not even Herod. How can we be so sure? When Herod denied giving God the glory due His name, God struck him down (Acts 12:23).

John Stott observed, “This chapter opens with James dead, Peter in prison, and Herod triumphing; it closes with Herod dead, Peter free, and the Word of God triumphing.”

As ominous as Herod must have been, he was just a man, and his attempt to derail the Church amounted to less than a kid trying to derail a train with a nerf gun. This ruler who appeared so powerful was gone in a moment, but the Word of God still stands.

It can be unsettling to live in uncertainty, but there is nothing for it. We simply don’t get to know all that we’d like to. But we can rest in this: God determines the number of our days, and we cannot pass the limits He has appointed. There is no safer place to be than under His wise providence.

Written By Russ Ramsey 

Post Comments (11)

11 thoughts on "Peter Rescued by an Angel"

  1. dalehorse says:

    Our lives are determined by God and it’s not for us to understand why some are short and some are long. He is in control.

  2. dalehorse says:

    Following Him is never about us. It’s all about Him and His glory.

  3. dalehorse says:

    Trust God, praise Him, and let Him is me to further the Gospel.

  4. dalehorse says:

    No matter what happens – what persecution we face – the Gospel goes forward.

  5. dalehorse says:

    Dad, help me trust you even when things get hard. Help me to know you’re always in control even when I feel discourages or hurt or broken. Use me to further your Gospel. I love you. Amen.

  6. Adam Peterson says:

    Many years ago I was preparing to travel to Afghanistan for missions. My parents were adamantly opposed to this idea. However some friends simply asked me if I really believed I was called to the trip. When I responded that yes I did they gently reminded me that there is no place safer than in God’s will.
    James’ death and Peter’s freedom serve as reminders that the Lord’s will is unpredictable but “safe” none the less.

  7. Connor Back says:

    The gospel doesn’t promise knowledge of the future, but rather acceptance of the future, whatever it may be. It offers this along with a sense of peace, that God loves you and cares for you, no matter what may be happening to you.

  8. Connor Back says:

    God has determined our days, and there is nothing more powerful than Him. We cannot push His boundaries- they are set in a stone we cannot move. His story pushes on, no matter what force tries to stop it.

  9. Connor Back says:

    I will respond by leaning closer into Him. I need to let go of some things, regarding the future. I may try to control my environment or how people think, or what’s gonna happen, but ultimately its in God’s hands and I need to find rest in that fact.

  10. Connor Back says:

    We may like to control and steer our lives, but there simply is no way to know the future. If we could see our whole futures ahead of us, our heads would explode, we wouldn’t be able to handle it, it’s too much for us to comprehend. The only being that is certain of the future is God, therefore we must lean in to Him and rest in His love and providence.

  11. Connor Back says:

    Lord, thank you for loving me and laying out the road ahead of me, thank you for giving me limited sight into the future, so that I may learn to rely and trust more on you. Please help me to rest in your prescience daily, that I may know the peace in my heart that only You can provide. I love you Lord, thank you for who and where i am today…

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