Singing “let there be light”, I look up into the sky where the brilliant light is coming from – shining down on me and lighting every corner of my mind, body, soul and spirit – I am longing to love the Lord more completely = not feeling well this week, it has been easy to focus on myself rather than the Lord.
“Yes Ian I am the light – but not the cold puritanical light of judgement – the warm light of My love – like the light from the embers of a fire on a cold winter’s night – I shine My light down on you to cleanse you from all that is holding you back from responding completely to My love – with your whole body, soul, mind and spirit. I love you and My whole creation with the cleansing, healing light of love, mercy and grace – cleansing each one from the dark areas which are holding you back from loving Me completely. Yes, My light, My fire of judgement does burn down, but not to destroy, only to rescue, to bring back to Me those who are separated from Me. My love burns away the things that they are loving more than Me. But for you today, draw close – sit next to the fire with Me on this cold winter’s day and draw from My warmth”.
In my reading in Acts I have come to the end of ch 12. Looking back I can see that the statements in 11:21 and 12:24 bracket this passage (“A great number of people believed and the word of God continued to spread”) So we can deduce that what we have here are the factors which apparently contributed to this growth. Firstly there was the witness of the believers who had been spread out by the persecution in Jerusalem. This brought many to faith and then the church, on hearing this in Jerusalem, responded by sending Saul and Barnabas to disciple and teach the new converts. However against this background we see the specter of continued persecution in the deaths of John and James and imprisonment of Peter. (Ch 12:1-3).
Let me say as an aside, Luke has included so much ‘incidental ‘ information that it all goes to make us see that these stories are not ‘made up’. eg There is a bright light in the cell and the angel strikes Peter’s side vs 7, Then he tells Peter “put on your clothes and sandals, wrap your cloak around you and follow me” vs 8 then the whole story with the servant Rhoda vs 12 ff. then with Herod, details like Blastus and the whole story of quarreling with the people vv 19 ff. Contemporary extra-biblical writing of Josephus confirms this whole incident with Herod on his birthday and how he was struck down with violent pain in his stoumach and died 4 days later.
Now back to the passage, a few questions come to mind as I ponder it: -Why was only Peter rescued miraculously and not the others and many, many more over the years? – Why this one prophesy which rescued the people from famine when so many other “natural” disasters arrive without warning? – What role did the prayers of the saints (vs12) play in the rescue of Peter? – Why was only Herod supernaturally “executed” when so many other people over the years have also taken on the adulation of people as a god, even our own Zuma, without any apparent, immediate signs of God’s judgement?
It seems to me that as Luke is writing his description of events he clearly wanted to show that there was ample evidence that despite great opposition, God nevertheless was still in control supernaturally and therefore ‘allowed’ the events to happen. That is why He undertook to intervene overtly in a number of ways, to authenticate that. Persecution has often been a major factor in motivating and encouraging the disciples, both then and now. Yet we need to know it is never out of God’s control.
And the prayers? I had a bit of a light-bulb moment there. Its not as if God could not have rescued Peter without the prayers or that it was the prayers that moved God to action in this case, as opposed to many others. It came to me that this is a sort of divine interaction with God where He calls His people into action on the spiritual plane of prayer to become completely one with Him in accomplishing His purposes. The exact mechanism is a mystery, but a joyful recognition that we can be part of God’s team, as it were.
So what is Jesus saying to me? “As you have seen here and understood more of the extent of My divine action in growing My kingdom, remain committed to make disciples, as much as your situation allows you to. Remember the key is the Word and witness with prayer and yes, expect opposition and many attempts to distract you”.