Acts, #40, Acts 12.1-17
Some of the stories we read in the Bible seem impossible.
Take the biblical account we call Jonah and the Whale. The Bible says “the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1.17. Really? Oh come on.
Skeptics use scenarios like these to discount the Bible. Big mistake.
Would it surprise you to know that one month ago today a commercial lobster diver in Cape Cod was swallowed by a humpback whale, who shortly after spit him out? Funny thing, I was nearby that day, visiting my youngest son Danny in Boston for his birthday. Of course, I had no idea such a thing was going on nearby! One account of the story: https://abc7news.com/lobster-diver-swallowed-by-whale-man-caught-in-whales-mouth-cape-cod-humpback-michael-packard/10780108/
Often God is at work and we have no idea what is happening,
and at times things can look quite dark.
Something I bear in mind regularly is that Jesus said he and his Father are always at work. John 5.17.
For those of you who just joined us, we are working our way through the adventurous book of Acts--the story of what happens next after Jesus ascends into Heaven...oh man, it is great! (If you want to look back just go to “Morning Briefings” at www.pastorwoman.net where all are archived.) Today’s Briefing comes out of Acts chapter 12 - the setting: Jerusalem. Herod Agrippa is in town and ratchets up the persecution of the Church--going so far as to brutally execute James, one of the two main leaders. Yes, this is the grandson of the Herod of Jesus’ time--all of this bloodline was beyond corrupt. Then receiving applause from the many Jewish people in town to observe the Passover feast, Herod arrests Peter and puts him in prison, planning to execute him after the holy-day. Church members gathered together fervently praying for Peter to be released
Now Agrippa knows well the story of Jesus disappearing from the tomb, even though heavily guarded by Roman guards - so he takes no chances himself, ordering four watches of four soldiers each to guard Peter. Picture it with me--naked Peter, tethered by right arm to a Roman, tethered by the left arm to another Roman soldier, with two guards at the prison door. But an angel wakes him up, tells him to get his clothes on, and follow him out of the prison…. and out he goes!
Peter knocks on the door of the home where he knew his people were gathered, but the young girl who opens the door is so shocked to see him--so shocked that Peter was out of prison, she leaves him standing there (in harm’s way)!
What are we to draw from this? First, God responds to fervent prayer and sometimes chooses to do the miraculous on behalf of his children. I am testament to that--I have personally seen the hand of God move, heal and restore. So, if God wants to use an angel to get Peter out of prison, he can do any ol’ thing he wants!
Which prompts a question: why do we not pray more? Our Lord’s brother, James, has something really poignant and powerful to say to us about that: You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4.2b
Second, even when we pray, we often pray without the faith that God hears and answers prayer. We launch a 'Hail Mary' but do not think we will find a receiver.
Friend - when we are praying for the salvation of a loved one, the healing of a person or marriage, let’s go boldly to the throne of grace! Hebrews 4.16. O, I remember cradling a sick-unto-death two year old of mine in my left arm and using my right hand to write out “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” on a notepad from a hotel that I had in my Bible. I gripped that pen so tightly I surely may have pressed it right through the paper! I told the Lord, “I am taking you at your word that you will lend your mercy and grace and save my son’s life!’ Do you think I added ‘if it is your will’? No and Heaven, no! Of course, it was his will!
Now sometimes God does answer “no” or “no, not now”, but he always answers our prayers; and we do not have to give him an ‘out’ with adding ‘if it is your will’.
Why did I start with the seemingly farfetched story about a man being swallowed by a whale? Because that story is no more impossible than an angel waking up a sleeping man and leading him to freedom while four soldiers are totally unaware! God’s ways are not our ways--they are always better, they are always higher. Further, he is always good.
And one more thing-- if your life feels dark right now - as dark as the inside of a whale, perhaps it is time for you to cry out to God and trust that he hears you….that he will come and rescue you. What do you say? One thing I can say,
He’s always been faithful! listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnJ2q9df1pw