As Peter is being held in prison the church is praying (v.5). Peter knows the perfect peace of being safe in the care of the Lord (Psalm 127.2) and is able to sleep between two soldiers, bound with chains, [as] sentries before the door were guarding the prison. Situations that would surely get the better of us are nothing for the God who made the world ex nihilo and we read that
“…an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the prison cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off Peter’s wrists”.
(Acts 12.7, NET)
Peter dresses (v.8) and is led out of prison in what he thinks is a dream (v.9). Miraculously they walk out of prison and the iron gate leading into the city opens automatically for them (v.10). The angel leaves and Peter said
“Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from everything the Jewish people were expecting to happen”.
(Acts 12.11, NET)
Earlier in this chapter James was martyred (12.2) yet here Peter is freed unharmed.
How do you feel about that?
One is killed whilst the other is saved. We often see this kind of Divine, Sovereign choice in Scripture (Romans 9.13, for example) and it can lead us into doubt and questions.
Is it ok to doubt? Yes, it is.
Is it ok to question what is going on around us? Yes, it is.
It is ok to wrestle through questions like ‘Why did James die here yet Peter was miraculously freed from jail and saved from death?‘.
It is ok to chew over the implications of the truth that some die whilst some live.
As long as we are wrestling from a proper perspective (Isaiah 55.8-9) then engaging with the tough stuff is a good thing.
As long as we know that God works all things, good and bad in our eyes, together for His glory and the good of those who love Him (Romans 8.28), thinking over difficult Scriptures is a good thing.
Neither the death of James nor the delivery of Peter are prescriptive for today’s Christian. Two examples in one chapter show us the truth that God works in many ways. Some we understand, some we don’t, and that’s ok.