if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)
For many years, Acts 12 has been one of my favorite chapters in Scripture. It is all about the glory of God eclipsing the doubts and arrogant idolatry of man in two vignettes, each with an ironic twist. The chapter opens with Herod’s persecution of the early church – the martyrdom of James (who, along with his brother John, was one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples) and the imprisonment of Peter (also one of the twelve). In a foreshadowing of things to come, Luke (the human author of Acts) is quick to point out that Peter was guarded by four squads of soldiers and that the church was praying earnestly for him.
Herod’s story is interrupted to tell us about Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. An angel wakes Peter up in the middle of the night, breaks him out of his chains and slips him past several guards before disappearing. Peter then heads to John Mark’s house where the church is gathered in an all-night prayer vigil for his release. I always smile when I read what happens next. Rhoda hears Peter knocking at the door, recognizes his voice, and immediately (without opening the door) runs to the others in the house who were praying for Peter’s release to tell them that he is at the door. But, instead of saying, “Praise God, our prayers have been answered,” they respond with, “Peter can’t possibly be at the door because we’re praying for him to be released from prison.” 🙂 Despite the earnestness of their prayers, the skepticism of their hearts is obvious. Meanwhile, the fugitive Peter continues to knock at the door. Eventually, they let him in and he explains how God has miraculously answered their prayer before quietly slipping away.
The chapter ends with Herod, the powerful persecutor of the church, being killed instantly and eaten by worms for accepting the worship due to God alone.
God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. He answers the prayers of His people, even when we fail to trust in His generous and undeserved provision. And He humbles the proud, who refuse to acknowledge His power and arrogantly usurp His praise.