Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When and How God Answers Anyway (Acts 12)

Translation: 12.1And according to that time, Herod the King thrust out his hands to harm some of the people from the church. 2He killed James, John’s brother, with a sword. 3And because he saw that it was something pleasing to the Jews, he took additional action to arrest Peter too (Now, those were the days of Unleavened Bread), who after he also arrested he put into prison by handing [him] over to four four-man-squads of soldiers to guard him, because he was planning to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5So, on the one hand Peter was being kept in the prison, but on the other hand prayer was constantly/passionately*** happening by the church to God for him. 6And when Herod was about to lead him out, at that night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers cuffed with two chains and two guards were keeping watch in front of the door. 7And look, an angel of the Lord stood near and a light shined in the room. And hitting Peter’s side he woke him up by saying, “Get up fast!” and his chains fell off from his hands. 8And the angle said to him to get ready and put on your sandals. And he did it. And he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me!” 9And going out he followed and he didn’t know that what was happening through the angel was real. Rather he thought he was seeing a vision. 10And going through the first guard they also came to the second at the iron gate that goes into the city, which opened all by itself for them. And coming out, they proceeded for one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11And as he came to his senses Peter said, “Now I know for real that the Lord sent out His angel and he rescued me from the hand of Herod and all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
12And realizing [this] he came to the house of Maria, the mother of John, who was called Mark, where many people were gathered and praying. 13And when he knocked on the door of the gateway a slave girl by the name of Rhode came to answer. 14And when she recognized the voice of Peter, because of her joy she didn’t open the gateway. And running in she announced that Peter was standing in front of the gateway. 15But they said to her, “You’re crazy!” But she insisted to hold on that way. And they were saying, “It’s his angel.” 16And Peter stay [there] knocking. And when they opened [the door], they say him and were amazed! 17And after he motioned to them with his hand to be quiet, he told the story how the Lord brought him out from the prison. He also said, “Tell James and the brothers these things. And going out he traveled to another place.
18And when it became day, there was not a little commotion among the soldiers [about] what place Peter possibly went. 19And Herod after searching for him intensely and not finding [him], after questioning the guards he commanded [them] to be lead away. And going down from Judea, he spent time in Caesarea.

20And he was fighting angrily with the Tyrians and the Sidonians. And they came to him with one impulse. And having convinced Blastus, the one over the kings bedroom, they asked for peace because their region was fed by the kingdom. 21And on the appointed day, Herod after he put on his royal robe and sat on the judge’s bench, he gave a public speech to them. 22And the public shouted out, “[You’ve got] a god’s voice, and not a human’s!” 23And immediately an angel of the Lord hit him because he didn’t give the glory to God. And having become worm-eaten he breathed out for the last time. 24And the message of God grew and multiplied! 25And Barnabas and Saul returned, having fulfilled their ministry in Jerusalem, taking John, the one called Mark, along with them.

The Point I'm Stressing: God Answers Prayer!!! Sometimes He will even answer when we don't trust Him to answer and He will still answer better than we even asked!!! But because He is like that we should pray with greater faith, but also have comfort in knowing that God sometimes answers even when our faith is weak!

1.      Structure
a.       The Set Up/Intro/Transition out of the Paul Narrative (vv.1-5)
b.      God Answers the Prayer they Prayed (vv.6-19)
                                                              i.      Angelic Deliverance for Peter from Jail (vv.6-11)
                                                            ii.      The Church Doesn’t Believe Peter has been Rescued (vv.12-17)
                                                          iii.      Herod and Guards Can’t Figure Out what Happened (also serves as a transitional element to the next larger section) (vv.18-19)
c.       God Answers the Prayer BETTER than they Prayed (vv.20-23)
d.      Conclusion and transition back to the Paul Narrative (vv.24-25)
2.      Themes
a.       The Message of God won’t be stopped
                                                              i.      This is a main theme in the book of Acts as a whole.
                                                            ii.      This is just one instance where the spread of the message of Jesus as the Lord and Savior of the world encountered opposition, but here like the other times in the book of Acts, the Lord intervened and makes sure that the Gospel reaches the whole world
b.      Prayer
                                                              i.      Prayer is a main theme of the book of Luke and the Book of Acts
                                                            ii.      Here Luke is specifically showing us the power of the praying church, v.5 specifically proposes two forces battling for supremacy, Herod’s guards and prison or the prayers of the Church
                                                          iii.      Prayer here is interesting, because the church doesn’t seem to actually believe that God is going to save Peter. In a lot of ways it parallel an earlier Passover where another Important Church Figure was restored to the church, but the church didn’t believe it at first, that is Jesus.
                                                          iv.      Prayer is answered in exactly the way one would expect, Peter is miraculously freed, but then God goes beyond what they were asking by killing Herod, which then frees up Peter for public and free ministry again
                                                            v.      The prayer’s answer is also an instance of Yahweh’s justice, because the soldiers who were going to ensure Peter’s destruction were themselves destroyed, and the person responsible for the death of James and the attempted killing of Peter is himself killed for his profound arrogance and self-absorption
c.       Angels
                                                              i.      Interestingly angels do not pop up too much in Luke-Acts, but here is one instance where the Lord sends and angel to save, this happened earlier in Acts 5, where all the apostles were arrested by the religious authorities and then freed by an angel to preach the Gospel
                                                            ii.      Thus, we are shaded towards knowing that the release of Peter will result in the further preaching and spread of the Gospel
d.      Prison/guards/guarding/chains
                                                              i.      This is a major theme in this section, and the main purpose for the constant repetition of the terms related to the theme is that they represent total sum of human power, and the opposition of man to God’s message
                                                            ii.      They represent the best Herod could do to somehow secure his prisoner, the serve to contrast the true and total control and power of God in response to prayer
e.       Glory belongs to God
                                                              i.      This is shown both in Peter’s crediting of God with his salvation and not the angel directly
                                                            ii.      It is also shown in Herod’s demise for hoarding the praise of people
f.       God will use Paul
g.      Christians are generous
h.      Faith
i.        Doors
j.        Death
k.      Rescue
l.        Sovereignty
m.    Joy
3.      Doctrines
a.       All glory belongs to God
b.      Prayer works
c.       Total Faith is not always the most important component in prayer
d.      God Answers prayer better than what we pray for
e.       God is the God of Justice
f.       God is the God of Salvation/Mercy
g.      Prayer is core to what the church does
h.      God is the Only One Who is Truly in Control, and always can overrule our control
i.        Answered Prayers should produce joy
j.        God is Omnipotent: He can do anything, and sometimes does crazy things
1.      We should be a community that goes to God in prayer when we need something as our first response and not our last response
2.      We should pray and ask God for things that seem impossible, and trust Him to take actions
3.      We can take comfort in knowing that God still answers prayer sometimes even if we don’t completely believe that He will
4.      We should be the kind of community that believes other Christians when they tell us crazy stories of how God worked, because we worship that kind of God, the kind of God Who does crazy things
5.      We should try to trust God when we pray, and if we don’t have the faith we should ask for it
6.      We should expect and wait with excitement for God to answer our prayers, but not just answer them, but answer them better than we expect!
7.      We should give God the credit for things that turn out good for us, for our answered prayers
8.      We should understand however, that God does not always want to save or intervene for the people who love Him and that He loves, sometimes He has a better plan that doesn’t involve being saved from something, sometimes it means trusting Him in the midst of suffering, or trusting Him as He answers our prayers better than we expect, by answering “NO”
9.      We should be encouraged because God will not ever have the message of Jesus stop spreading—nothing can stop people from hearing good news and being transformed by it! Every time someone tries to stop it, they fail to stop it. This means that we can share the Gospel without fear of failure, because we literally cannot fail. God will do what He needs to do to make the Gospel explode!
10.  We should be a generous community, buying food for each other when others don’t have enough, supporting each other when some of us are in need, whether those needs are physical like food, water, clothes, spiritual like accountability, prayer, forgiveness, and partnership, or emotion like the need for encouragement when sad, celebration when happy, patience when tire, and listening when someone needs to talk—we give from what we have to benefit everyone else 

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