Summary: I would like to thank Pastor Jerry Shirley for sharing this series on Acts. It has been a blessing as well as a great help. I have used these for our church, as I spend my days caring for my dying father.
The Mystery of Providence and the Majesty of Peace Acts 12:1-25
They say there’s two side to every story but my baby sister will tell you there’s three. There is your side, my side and the truth.
When we look at Acts chapter 12 there seems to be 3 sides to this story as well.
What we find when we examine this chapter is the church, on one side, under attack by a hostile world. On another side we see this persecuted church NOT in hiding but in prayer, and on the 3rd side we see a Holy and Mighty God who not only listens but has no problem intervening!
Chapter 12 begins with Herod arresting James and putting him to death… let me walk you through this chapter, for a moment.
In verses 1-2 we see this Herod (Agrippa I) was a blood-thirsty man. It seems to run in the family. You see his grandfather was Herod the Great. You may recall that Herod the Great was the guy who ordered all male babies under the age of 2 in Bethlehem slaughtered. Remember, he did that to get rid of the Christ-child.
This Herod is despised by the Jews because they resented having the Romans ruling over them. So, in order to win the Jews over, he began persecuting the Christians.
He knew the Jews hated the Christians…so he had the Apostle James executed, and the Jews loved it!
So, he said, if they liked that they’ll love my next trick!
For his next trick he had Peter arrested and set the stage for Peter’s execution.
But while Herod was playing, God’s people were praying.
God heard their prayers, sent an angel to unlock the chains/doors and Peter walked out!
Then later in chapter 12, as Herod was giving a speech, the people shouted and said, you’re not a man, you’re a god! Herod accepted their praise and refused to give God the glory so verse 23 tells us God struck him and he was consumed by worms and died!
There are 2 things in this chapter I want us to see:
•The first is The mystery of God’s Wisdom.
I’ve been saved for 33+ years and even earned a degree from Liberty University, and yet there’s so many things I don’t understand about God. I can’t seem to wrap my little finite mind around the mysteries of our wonderful and mighty God!
I tell Suzanne sometimes, “I don’t know everything but I do some things.”
Here’s some of those things I do know.
1. God’s Wisdom is Personal.
There are 2 apostles in this chapter…James and Peter.
Herod decided they would both die, yet, James died and Peter lived.
I have no doubt that the church prayed for James just as much as for Peter.
Yet, in God’s infinite wisdom one died and one lived.
This tells us that God deals individually in the lives of His people.
God’s will for Peter was a long full life of ministry, and for James, He chose a young Martyr’s death.
I think we need to understand something here. What’s important is NOT how long we live, but how we live the life that God gives us. (the –between the dates)
The Sovereign will of God is a mystery that we will never fully understand.
But we must learn to trust it.
[Isa 55:8-9 NIV] 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Aren’t you glad you have a God bigger than your understanding?!
If you can figure your God out, he has no business being your God!
[Rom 11:33 NIV] “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
It’s time we decide to accept our God for who He is, and be glad it’s that way!
And when we don’t know the “Why”, we can trust the “Who”!
We can know He’s good and loving, regardless the circumstances.
God makes no mistakes!
The mystery of the wisdom of God…it’s personal…
2. God’s Wisdom is also Patient.
You can see His patience by looking at Herod…In verses 21-23
God let Herod get away with an awful lot before stepping in and doing something.
Herod may have laughed when James’ head rolled. Maybe he felt proud as he gave those speeches.
He was basking in his own glory, instead of giving glory to God, when he heard the people’s applause.
But the Bible says,
[Num 32:23 NIV] "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.