Acts 12:12 [Peter] went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
Peter knocked on the door, and a servant named Rhoda answered. She was so overjoyed that she ran back and exclaimed, Peter is at the door! (Acts 12:14). They thought she was out of her mind (Acts 12:15), but Peter kept knocking until they let him in. When they saw him, they were astonished (Acts 12:16). Together they learned that [God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), wrote Paul.
Acts 12:17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison.
The prayer meeting became a share meeting as Peter shared how God had answered their prayer. The more time we spend in prayer, the more we’ll have to share.
But while Peter was delivered from Herod’s sword, we must remember that James was not (Acts 12:2). For whatever reason, God did not intervene for James the way he did for Peter. We do not know why, but the Psalmist provides some help. [A]ll the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16), wrote David.
God ordains the day of our birth, the day of our death, and every day in-between. Why some live to old age, and others die in youth, is a mystery. But we know that God is in control, and never makes a mistake. We have been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11), wrote Paul.
Our lives may seem disordered at times, but there is a plan at work. A tangled assortment of threads below is a tapestry above. The divine artist weaves together the days of our lives to create his work of art. For we are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10), wrote Paul.
Acts 12:18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.
The penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape was whatever the prisoner’s penalty would be. Since Peter would have likely been killed, the guards were forced to pay with their lives (Acts 12:19). The previous night they probably felt sorry for Peter, but now they felt sorry for themselves. The greatest joy is to be a Christian; the greatest sorrow is to be anything else.
Acts 12:21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address.
The historian Josephus reports that Herod was fifty-four years old at this time, and wore a silver robe designed to reflect the sun. The people shouted, This is the voice of a god, not of a man (Acts 12:22). But their words were only flattery, since they depended on the king for food (Acts 12:20). Herod knew this, but he received their praise as though it was true.
Like Herod, the antichrist will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The pattern of the wicked is this: first to oppose God, then to eliminate god, then to deify themselves (Daniel 11:36, Isaiah 14:14). There is no limit to the arrogance of wickedness.
Acts 12:23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
What Herod considered his finest hour was the beginning of his end. Josephus reports that Herod lingered five days, and that his misery was extreme. Intestinal ringworms grow from ten to sixteen inches long, and eat their victims from the inside out. During this time, the body expels some of the worms from both ends.
When someone dies a horrible lingering death, we comfort ourselves with the idea that at least their suffering is over. But Jesus described hell as a place where the worms that eat them do not die (Mark 9:48). And if God allows hell on earth, there is no reason to think there will not be hell in the age to come. Jesus did not die on a cross to save us from nothing, but from the everlasting torment we all deserve.
Acts 13:7 The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.
About fourteen years after his conversion, the Apostle Paul began his work as a missionary. He went to the island of Cyprus with Barnabas and Mark. There he was invited to share the gospel with a high ranking official named Sergius Paulus. He was a religious man who employed a Jewish sorcerer known as Elymas. Sorcery was forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10), but some of the Jews practiced a demonic blend of Judaism and paganism.
As Paul explained the gospel to Sergius Paulus, Elymas tried to convince him that it was not true. Paul became so angry that he said to Elymas, You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun (Acts 13:10-11). Immediately, Elymas went blind, and Sergius Paulus believed in Jesus Christ.
When people hear the gospel, there may be others nearby who want to convince them it is not true. They are agents of the devil who are spiritually blind. Elymas went blind for a while, but whoever rejects the gospel will live in darkness forever. [T]hrow him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13), said Jesus.
Reflection and Review
What do you think of predestination?
What can we learn from Herod
What kind of person was Elymas?