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The Answer Came Knocking

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 14, 2024 12:00 am

The Answer Came Knocking

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 14, 2024 12:00 am

In this episode, join me as I share a compelling story that underscores God's mysterious ways. Tracy Daniels, the 16-year-old daughter of a pastor, recounts an unexpected and providential event that awakened her family one winter night. The incident reminds us of the sovereignty of God, whether the outcomes are smooth or stormy.

As we delve into Acts 12, we witness scenes of both panic and providence, chaos and contentment. The chapter opens with the martyrdom of James, a pioneering apostle, and the subsequent arrest of Peter by King Herod. While Peter faces what seems like an inevitable execution, the church fervently prays for his deliverance. What unfolds next is a miraculous escape orchestrated by God, filled with surprising details and divine interventions.

Through this narrative, we explore lessons on contentment in impossible circumstances, the power of fervent prayer, and the assurance of God's control over every situation. We see how God's plans are unstoppable, His will irreversible, and His ways often beyond our understanding.

Tune in to discover how the early church navigated these tumultuous times with faith and reliance on God's providence, and learn how these timeless truths apply to our lives today.

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Herod's not in control, even though he's flexing every muscle he can.

The church is not in control, even though they are fervently praying. Peter's not in control. He has to be held by the angel.

Now your sandals and now your cloak and he's in a daze. He's not in control. This is so clearly God managing, God moving, God ordaining, God controlling every step of the way. This is God in total sovereignty over the events of life. What happens when you try to control your life? Well, you know what happens. There's simply too much that's outside of your control.

So you end up frustrated. You might even miss out on what God has for you. God is sovereign and He is in control of your life. You're going to see today that yielding to God and placing your faith in God is the way to experience God's best for you. This is wisdom for the heart. We're in a section of Acts in this vintage wisdom series. Stephen first taught this series many years ago, but we brought it out now because it's so relevant to today.

Here's Stephen. The 18th century poet William Cowther penned those famous words, God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea and he rides upon the storm. Acts chapter 12, where we pick our story up again, we have both panic and providence. Look at chapter 12 of the book of Acts verse one. Now about that time, Herod the king laid hands on some who belong to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James, the brother of John, put to death with a sword.

Now the main point of this chapter is obviously the deliverance of Peter. And it's kind of a footnote here, this mention of James being put to death with a sword. This is kind of like a, at least it struck me like a brief obituary in the inspired record. And I couldn't help but think that you would expect James, one of the 12 apostles, to get a little bit more of a reading than one sentence of an obituary.

In fact, I counted the words in the Greek text, there were only seven. And I thought this is awfully abrupt. But the more I thought about it, as with any obituary, it isn't necessarily what is said about them or not, but whether or not you knew them.

And then it really doesn't matter what is said except that they're gone. And for those in the church that were now scattered reading this book of action, they could read enough to begin to grieve and for the tears to be experienced by the entire church. I thought of who would have grieved for James and immediately thought of his brother.

You never read of these two men individually. It's always James and John, isn't it? James and John, the sons of thunder, the sons of Zebedee. In fact, you throw Peter into the mix and you have the three closest friends of the Lord Jesus. So you often read Peter, James, and John. Now James has been the first of the apostles to die a martyr's death.

John, his brother, will be the last years later. Now the Bible doesn't tell us much, obviously just a few words, but history records all the way back into the early second century, Clement of Alexandria recorded how a trial had taken place. Basically, James was brought in being treasonous to Caesar before he was put to death. There was a trial of sorts and James evidently declared his faith in the only king, the King of Kings. Clement tells of how James on his way to the place of execution was escorted by a soldier and that soldier had been so deeply moved as he had observed the trial that in the course of leaving the courtroom to the place of execution, that soldier professed faith in Christ as well. And not one man, but two men were executed on this day. But this is tragic news to the church that James, one of the three closest apostles to the Lord had been killed. But the news only grows worse verse three.

When Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, that's how some people live, whatever pleases others, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of unleavened bread. And let me interrupt our study again here. Well, there must be something here that he wants us to uncover by digging about what this time period meant. I dug up a couple of things.

I'll share them with you and you can take it from there. But a couple of things that would seem significant to me about this time is that first of all, the days of unleavened bread were the days of, of course, surrounding the feast of Passover or the Passover celebration. It would be during that time that these Jews, the Jews who hated Peter, who hated James, who hated Christ and the church, it would be this particular period of time in which they are ridding from their homes any sign of leaven, that symbol perhaps of evil or rebellion. They were removing it from their homes. They were scouring their floors. They were dusting and sweeping. They were removing the leaven from their homes. And what struck me is that sort of in a symbolic way, they are purging sin from their homes, but they are allowing sin to reside in their hearts.

The nation Israel is getting rid of the outward symbol of evil, but they are cherishing the inward secret of murder and hatred. The second thing that comes to my mind as I thought about the timing is how it must have affected Peter. You go back to John and we don't have time, but in the last chapter that we studied at length, we're told of a conversation where we read of a conversation between Peter and the Lord. And the Lord basically predicts to Peter that he'll die a martyr's death.

They'll bind your hands and they will lead you where you do not want to go. He said, when you're an old man, now this is about 15 years later. I don't know if Peter thought he had arrived at an elderly stage, but I'll bet he was thinking this must be it. In fact, when you consider the timing, you recognize the fact that as Peter would follow Christ, here is the anniversary of Christ's own death, Passover. I say all of that to say that I believe that Peter believed that this was it, and that'll be important later.

But look at verse 4. When Herod had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him the four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church of God, by the church to God. And on the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And I think Luke adds all of these details basically to show the reader, then and now, that this is a hopeless situation.

The executioner is sharpening his sword. It's only a few hours before dawn. But I want to encourage you to take your pen or pencil or highlighter and highlighter circle the hinge of phrase of this entire narrative. I read it quickly because I didn't want to give you the clue, but there are two words in verse 5 that everything hinges upon. Circle those two words.

Do you know what they are? But prayer. And I don't think the Holy Spirit through Luke wants us to miss the contrast. Peter has been intercepted. Oh, but I want you to know the church is interceding. Peter is in prison.

The church is in prayer. And that makes all the difference in the world. Herod thinks he's bigger than the church. Herod doesn't know the church. Herod thinks he's more powerful than God. Herod does not know God. And Luke is going to give us the details about the revelation of who God is on this scene.

Well, look at verse 7. Behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell. And he struck Peter's side and roused him, saying, get up quickly. Not a very nice thing to do, but he got poked and told to get up. And his chains fell off his hands and the angel said to him, gird yourself and put on your sandals. And he did so. And he said to him, wrap your cloak around you and follow me. Now just stop a second. Why in the world would we have an entire verse on Peter getting dressed?

Why? Well, for one thing it informs us of the fact that Peter's sort of in a daze. He's in a fog. He thinks he's dreaming. It won't be until later that he realizes he's involved in a miraculous escape.

Yet I think there's another point to be made that several authors that I have been reading made, and that is this, that even at the point when God performs a miracle, he will not do what that person can do. Why not just automatically dress Peter? He can slip chains off. Surely he can put sandals on. Because Peter can put his sandals on. Peter can put his cloak on. And so God will not do what Peter can do in this scene. You know, as I thought about this, my mind went to Ephesians chapter 6, where we are told that we have been provided with the armor of God.

We have every piece that we need. And yet you read through each piece of armor that we need to fight the battles of life and remain distinctive and pure. And then the interesting words that precede the entire description are the words by the Apostle Paul who says, now you put it on. And the tense indicates it is not a once in the Christian life.

It is an everyday occurrence. You get out of bed. You put the armor on. He will not put it on you. It's available.

It's yours. Now, I'm not talking about becoming a Christian. I'm talking about behaving like a Christian. You do what you can do and then leave to God what only God can do. You say, you know, I just don't understand why God doesn't take that habit away from me. I don't understand why God doesn't just remove that pull to that addiction. I don't understand why He doesn't just give me a new mindset. Why doesn't He just change my thought patterns? He wants you to dress. He's waiting for you to turn the TV off or throw the magazine away or quit listening to that music or whatever it might be. There's no telling, ladies and gentlemen, if we would be willing to put the sandals on and the breastplate on and the helmet on, the kind of deliverances we would experience. Well, let's go on to verse 9, and he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real.

He's sort of in a daze and a fog here, but thought he was seeing a vision. And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city. This gate, by the way, took several soldiers to open. This was the large, this was the huge iron gate. Historians tell us with a massive bolt that took several men to operate, they arrive at that last stage that stands between Peter and freedom. They came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself.

The original word is automatus, which gives us our word automatically. Whenever I read this, I think of the wonderful testimony of an African student I knew in college. His name was Solomon. And he left his village, was accepted in the university, and came to prepare for ministry. And he would see things and experience things he had never seen or experienced before. His roommates took advantage of him. They convinced him that spray starch was antiperspirant. Just one time, though.

That only worked one time. He was great, fella. In fact, he's still preaching today, serving the Lord. I remember him telling the story about when his plane touched down in the States, and he had been given directions to go out of the terminal and catch a taxi. And so his bags were in his arms, and he was loaded down with everything he owned. And he was approaching the glass doors and the outer, or the exit to the sidewalk outdoors. And he was afraid to take a few bags out and leave them there and come back and get the rest of his bags.

He was afraid somebody would take them. And so he was all loaded down. And as he got to those doors, he just, he didn't know what to do. He said, Lord, help me. And about that time, he stepped on the rubber mat, and the doors opened up. And he said out loud, Lord, thank you.

This is a miracle. He would learn later that it's electricity wired in a certain way. But for the moment, he thought it was, well, you know what our trouble is? Our trouble is we explain everything away. We attribute everything to chance or luck or it was this or that, and we miss seeing the hand of God.

We ought to have on the tip of our tongue the words, thank you, Lord, throughout the day. I'm afraid Peter was a little too dazed to even see the wonder of those doors opening automatically. Well, it opened for them by itself, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And when Peter came to himself, he said, now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.

Now I see. He's fully awake now, and he's just musing over this whole thing. By the way, what happened to the angel?

You know, the rude one that poked him and told him to get up. Well, if you read this text of Scripture where all angels appear, he's acting like most of them. They come in a hurry.

They deliver their message. They do what they're supposed to do, and now he's disappeared. He didn't stay and have a cup of coffee with Peter. He didn't tell him some interesting news about heaven.

He didn't offer Peter counseling on some issue or help him make an important decision. That kind of stuff only happens on television. In real life, those are the ministries of the Holy Spirit through the Word, not that you would believe what you see in prime time. Verse 12, when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. Now we're back to this prayer meeting. Remember, they're praying for the deliverance of Peter. Verse 13, and when he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. The Greek is Rose. We might have called her Rosie if she lived today. And when she recognized Peter's voice because of her joy, she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.

And they said to her, you're out of your mind. Can you get the picture here? Rosie rushes back into the prayer meeting. He's here. He's here.

Who's here? Peter's here. Peter, yeah, I heard his voice. He's outside the gate.

Peter's been delivered. You're crazy. No, I'm not. I heard his voice.

You're out of your mind. By the way, this is a prayer meeting. You interrupted us. Now, where were we?

Okay. Lord, please deliver Peter. Isn't it encouraging to know that people who hung around the apostles, who hung around the Lord, still hadn't figured prayer out yet? They were intense, but they were also convinced about what they assumed God would do. But she kept insisting, the verse says, the word is leaning on them.

I like this girl. You could translate it, nagging them. She kept nagging. He's out there. He's out there. And they kept saying, it is his angel. Now, that is his guardian angel.

The Jewish Talmud about this time was teaching rather superstitiously that people had a guardian angel who could assume their physical appearance to serve as a double in order to protect them, which I find fascinating that they come out with this because since they won't believe the truth, they're left with nothing other than a superstitious explanation. But you have to ask the question. I have a feeling that Rose might have even asked it because of what happened next.

Listen, okay? I can see her with her hand on her hip. If it's an angel, why is he bothering to knock? They must have quieted down and stopped their praying or getting under her because they heard Peter.

Peter's out there, verse 16, continuing to knock. The answer to their prayer is knocking on their door. And when they had opened the door, they saw him.

Now, notice the change from singular to plural. First it was Rose going to the door, now it's they. So they all, they hear the knocking. Maybe this is a little scary here or maybe it is. Maybe it's a ghost, a vision, an apparition.

Maybe it's something, maybe it's a Roman soldier and you're misinformed. So they all, you get the picture of the entire church body, they're meeting them, go to the door, and they all open the door. And they all see Peter. And it says they are all, they were amazed.

They were shocked. There are probably a few apologies in that church before they left for the night, but they all begin to praise God and shout and cry all at the same time, verse 17, but motioning to them with his hand to be silent. He described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, report these things to James. By the way, this is obviously not that James had been martyred. This is the half brother of Christ who is emerging as a leader in the Jerusalem church who will also write the epistle of James. Go tell James and the brethren. And he departed and went to another place.

Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers. I like the way that's put, as to what could have become of Peter. And when Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and then assuming or implying there was a conspiracy, he ordered that they be led away to execution. Let me make some application from this passage.

There are a number of people in the scene. And so I've divided our thoughts along those lines. What can we learn from Peter?

Let me give you a couple of thoughts. Number one, in the midst of impossible circumstances, it is possible to be content. I just wanted to rush by it because I felt like I was interrupting the text enough as it was, but I found it interesting that on the night before Peter is going to die, what was he doing? He was sleeping. It reminds you of what David wrote when he was running from his power hungry son, Absalom, who would kill his father should he catch him. David wrote, I lie down and I sleep and I rise again for the Lord sustains me. I don't know where I heard it first, or maybe I read it, but I've never forgotten it that there is no softer pillow than the sovereignty of God. Second of all, sometimes God brings us to a dead end before he shows us the way out. And I think he does that. And he certainly had Luke include all the details here so that we couldn't miss who deserves the credit.

There's no mistaking who the source of this deliverance is. There wasn't an option. There weren't several things to try.

There was no plan. It was hopeless. Peter, what were you doing at the moment? I can imagine him being asked at the moment the angel arrived. What were you doing? Praying? I'll bet you were singing or maybe you were witnessing to the guards. What were you doing at the moment the angel arrived?

Sleeping. In other words, Peter had nothing to do with his deliverance. What can we learn from the church? A couple of things. Number one, prayer that focuses on the will of God, and this church was indeed desiring God's will to be done, does not depend on the faith of the one praying in order to be answered. And I'm so grateful for that. Second, sometimes expecting the worst hinders us from seeing God's best. To their credit, we have to remember now James is dead. Peter's in prison.

Herod is on the throne. There's going to be another funeral tomorrow. They were so convinced that this story would have a tragic ending that they couldn't see that God had something else in mind. Have you found yourself that way before? You're convinced that there's only grief and sadness. You're convinced that this is what God will do, and you overlook what He has done for you. You forget the blessings.

You forget the answers that have come because you're so focused on expecting the worst in this situation that you fail to see the best God has already accomplished in your life. What do we learn about the Lord? He's the chief character in this story, in every story, but he's so apparent here, isn't he? A couple of things struck me.

Number one, he is full of surprises. For Herod, surprise. For those soldiers when they awakened who were chained to now a missing apostle. To the church that was praying with a preconceived mindset to a sad ending, surprise. Why not just whisk Peter from the prison into the middle of the prayer meeting? Now that would have been fun. That would have been a neat surprise. Why take us through this entire process? Well, because God chose to perform a lot of little surprises, to impact a lot of people, and that all added up to one big surprise. So instead of surprising the saints with one miracle, only one facet of the story, John Calvin wrote, he provided several miracles so the saints could talk about them for generations after generation.

So chains are falling off, guards are unaware, doors are opening by an invisible hand, and there's a knock at the door. It's Peter, and we're still talking about it today. The second thing that strikes me about the Lord here, not only is that he is full of surprises, but he is fully in control.

Oh, there is a fresh grave outside the city with James' name on it. The church has suffered physical abuses. A Christ-hating, Christian-killing king is on the throne. In total control?

Absolutely. His plans are irreversible. His will is unstoppable. With that thought in mind, I just went back to this passage, and I read it again as if for the first time, and sort of took an overview of the entire passage with the thought in mind that he is in control, and it struck me, I couldn't help but notice that no one else is in control in this passage. Herod's not in control, even though he's flexing every muscle he can. The church is not in control, even though they are fervently praying.

They're praying toward a different direction, and God is moving. Peter's not in control. He has to be held by the angel.

Now your sandals, and now your cloak, and he's in a daze. He's not in control. This is so clearly God managing, God initiating, God moving, God ordaining, God controlling every step of the way. This is God in total sovereignty over the events of life, and it is here to remind us at this particular point in our lives as believers, he is in total control of the events of our lives as well.

In fact, if you want to underline a verse that sort of summarizes that message, just look at verse 24. All of this has happened, and then you read this wonderful phrase, but the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. That's another way of saying the purposes of God for his church and for his children has not been sidetracked. It isn't derailed.

It's right on track, and how have we seen that? We've seen it in a passage where it is so clearly true that God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and he rides upon the storm. Thanks for joining us today. I hope this time in God's Word has been an encouragement to you. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. If Stephen sounded a little different, maybe a little younger, that's because this series is from our Vintage Wisdom Library that Stephen first taught in the mid-1990s. Today's lesson is called, The Answer Came Knocking.

Does life seem a little hectic and out of control? I want to encourage you to spend time with God each day in his Word, and we have a resource to help you do that. We have a devotional guide that we publish each month called Heart to Heart.

In it, Stephen's son Seth provides a daily devotional. There's one for each weekday and one for the weekend. This is a gift that we send to all of our partners. But if you haven't seen it, we'd like to send you three issues. Call 866-48-BIBLE for information. Thanks again for listening. Be sure to join us next time for more Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-14 01:19:06 / 2024-06-14 01:29:35 / 10

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