The Mystery of Providence and the Majest[...]
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The Mysteries of Providence and the Majesty of Peace

Acts 12

 

Finished ch. 11 last week…I put up my sermons each wk. in an accordion folder…you could say this week I filed ch. 11!

 

There’s a very interesting triangle in Acts 12…there’s a hostile world attacking, a persecuted church praying, and a hearing God intervening!

 

Allow me to summarize the chapter and draw a couple of things out of it.  It begins w/ Herod arresting James and putting him to death…

 

v. 1-2       Herod was a blood-thirsty man who came by it honestly.  His g’father was Herod the Great, who ordered all male babies under the age of 2 in Bethlehem slaughtered to get rid of the Christ-child…later in life he got angry w/ one of his wives and had her executed along w/ her mother and their 3 sons!  His uncle was Herod Antipas.  He had John the Baptist beheaded because of lust for a woman.

 

This Herod in ch. 12 in Herod Agrippa I.  He is despised by the Jews because they resented having the Romans ruling over them.  So, to win the Jews over to himself, 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, I’ll go all out and give them something they’ll really like, and had Peter arrested and made plans to execute him.  And God’s people went to praying, God heard, dispatched an angel, prison doors flung open, Peter walked right out!

 

vv. 13-14         Rhoda [blonde]

A nightclub planned an opening on Main Street in a small town. Upon hearing the news, the only church in that town organized an all-night prayer meeting. The members asked God to burn down the club. Within a few minutes, lightning struck the club, and it burned to the ground. The club owner sued the church, which denied responsibility for the destruction of the club.

 

After hearing both sides, the judge said, “It seems that wherever the guilt may lie, the nightclub owner believes in prayer, while the church doesn’t.”

 

2 lessons in this chapter:

  • The Mystery of Providence

I’ve been saved 45 years, and yet there’s so many things I don’t understand about God.  Our finite minds can’t comprehend the mysteries of our wonderful, mighty God! 

 

1.     God’s Providence is Personal.

There are 2 apostles in this chapter…James and Peter.  Herod decided they would die, and one of them did die…yet one was miraculously delivered.  One died, and one lived.  I have no doubt that the church prayed for James just as much as they did for Peter. 

Yet, in God’s providence, one died and one lived.  This tells us that God deals separately and individually in the lives of His people.  God’s will for Peter was a long full life of ministry, and for James, a young martyr’s death…what’s important is not how long a life we live, but how we live what God gives to us.

“Only 1 life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last!”

        And even if we live to 100, it’s very short compared to eternity.

 

Yet we ask, why does one live and one die?  The answer:  we don’t know!  The Sovereign will of God is a mystery.  We cannot understand it, but we must trust it.

Isaiah 55:8-9

    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

My God is so big, so strong and so mighty…!  Aren’t you glad you have a God bigger than you could understand?!  If you could figure your God out, then why should He be your God?

 

Romans 11:33

    O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

 

It’s time we decide to accept our God for who He is, and to say, I’m 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, and that regardless of the circumstances, He makes no mistakes!

 

The mystery of the providence of God…it’s personal…

 

2.     God’s Providence is Patient.

You can see this as you look at Herod…

v. 21-23           God let Herod go a long way, but eventually, God read his meter, and sent him the bill!  He probably laughed when James’ head rolled, and felt proud at his banquets and rising to give speeches like this one, hearing the people’s applause.

But the Bible says,

Numbers 32:23

…behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.

“The wheels of God’s judgment may sometimes grind slowly, but mark it down, they grind surely

1 Tim. 5:24

    Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.

“God sometimes allows a charge account, but He always collects His debts”

 

Ch. 12 begins w/ Herod ruling from a throne, and it ends w/ Herod being ruled from God’s throne on high!

It begins w/ Herod saying, I’m gonna kill James and Peter, and it ends w/ James and Peter’s God killing Herod!

        And in humbling fashion, by worms!

Joke—teacher trying to show class evils of alcohol, dropped a little worm into a bottle of alcohol, it swam around, then died.  Next, a bigger worm, then a big old night crawler, all same results.

“Now class, what does this teach you?”  Little boy said, “Drink alcohol and you won’t get worms!”

The word translated worms here means tapeworms…he was eaten up from the inside out!  The historian, Josephus, wrote of this event saying that Herod rolled around, moaning in agony, for 5 days before he died.

 

God’s providence is personal, and it’s patient…

 

3.     God’s Providence is Perfect.

v. 24        In spite of James’ death…the Word of God grew and multiplied.

Imprisonment of Peter/arrogance of Herod…

        You can’t hold back God’s Word.  We talk about defending the Word of God, and we should, but I like what Spurgeon said,

“The Word of God is like a roaring lion:  turn it loose and let it defend itself”.

2 Tim. 2:9

    … the word of God is not bound.

Isaiah 55:11

    So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please…

 

We don’t always understand, but we can trust our God…God’s ways are mysterious, but they will always result in our good and His glory!

 

Ill.—God’s Providence is sometimes like needlework.  Some of you can make beautiful designs, but have you ever seen the underside?  It looks like a mess of jumbled threads.

As a little boy I sat at my g’ma’s feet while she crocheted, and I would ask her what she was doing, because from my angle, it looked like she didn’t know what she was doing!  She’d put in some bright threads, but then some dark threads…I’d ask what she was doing…and she’d say to me, just wait, when I’m done, I’ll set you on my knee and show you the finished picture.

        And one day our God will do the same…until then, we must trust Him! 

My life is but a weaving, between my God and me.  I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.   Oftimes he weaveth sorrow and I , in foolish pride, forget He sees the upper and I the underside.  Not till the loom is silent and shuttles cease to fly will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why the dark threads are as needful in the skillful weaver's hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.

Anonymous

We may not like it when we see some dark threads poke thru, but every trial is for a grander purpose!  And one day God will wipe away all tears…until then, we have to trust.  Good news is:  He’s trust-worthy!

 

Looking at ch. 12, God’s Providence leaps off of the page.  And then we see:

  • The Majesty of Peace

v. 3-4       Peter is arrested.  He was a simple fisherman turned preacher…but when they arrested him you’d think they had caught UBL!  He’s in the maximum security stockade, guarded by 16 soldiers, and he’s chained to 2 of them!  “All of this for me?!”

 

What would you do in this situation, and your execution was scheduled for tomorrow AM?  What did Peter do?  Throw a cussing fit?  Demanding a lawyer?  Crying all nite, begging for his life or at least for his mommy?

 

v. 6          Sleeping?  What’s he doing sleeping?  Well, he was a sleepy-head!  Every time he sat down he fell asleep…

        Remember? 

Mt. of Transfiguration, w/ Moses and Elijah appearing w/ Jesus in glorified bodies!  “It’s good for us to be here!”  [understatement]

Garden of Gethsemane, supposed to be praying, fell asleep!

 

OK, so he was prone to do so, but in this case, it wasn’t at all ridiculous…it was the Peace of God!  There’s no fear, no anxiety, no nervousness…he had a peace in his spirit and was sound asleep!

 

How could he sleep?

-He was saved by God’s Power.

Before saved, he was a rough, burly, hardcore fisherman…but he got saved!  And he must’ve figured, “If I can trust Him with my soul for all eternity, then I can trust Him with my life!

 

Our soul is the most valuable thing we have.

Mark 8:36

    For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

        Yet, many of us live like our life is more important than our soul…treating our salvation just like a fire insurance policy!

 

Do something different, give God both your soul AND your life!  Make Him your priority not only in eternity, not only in the sweet by and by, but in the nasty here and now! 

How can we trust Him for something as big as our soul’s eternal state, and not trust Him w/ our life, and give Him not only our trust, but our time, our talents, and our treasures!

 

He was saved by God’s Power…

 

-He was secure in God’s Promise.

I don’t think Peter thought for one second that he would die.  He had a promise from Jesus…wanna see it?

 

John 21:18-19

    Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. [19] This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.

        This is the last time Jesus ever talked to Peter, and He told him that he would die by crucifixion, and you’re gonna be an old man when it happens.  Indeed, history records Peter’s death by crucifixion, upside down!

        Peter’s still a young man in Acts 12, and he’s secure in God’s promise!

 

Psalm 121:4

    Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

 

Peter knew that verse, and may have said, Lord, your Word says you never sleep…ain’t no sense in both of us being awake!  [snore!]

Psalm 4:8

    I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.

 

G. W. Truett told the story of the going away of the wife of an honored Texas judge. She had said to him again and again that she greatly feared she was not a Christian, and her fear came because all her lifetime she was in bondage through fear of death. She never went to a funeral, or into a death chamber, if she could avoid it.  She had that unspeakable fear of death which is described in that Scripture which says: "Who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." I said to her again and again: "Mrs.  So-and-so, if you are trusting Christ" - and she would say: "If I am trusting Him?." And then I said, "If you are trusting Him, when the day comes for you to go, His Grace will be sufficient, and if you are conscious that day, you will know that it is sufficient." And the day did come, and the nurse and the doctor were there, and she turned her lustrous eyes to the doctor, and said: "Doctor, what is this?" And he did not reply. He was a very dear friend of the family.  And she said again: "Tell me frankly, doctor, is this death?" He said: "Yes, Mrs. So-and-so, it is death." And then she turned to her husband, and she said: "Oh, dear husband, you know this is the hour that for thirty years I have dreaded. This is the hour of all hours I have shrunk from."

And then she said: "Dear, don't you see that face?  Don't you hear that music?  Christ is here.  I have never known such rapture of light and peace and joy." And in a very flood of celestial glory the timid wife went out into the night.  She found that God's Grace was sufficient.

You can have that kind of peace…it only comes thru knowing Christ!

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