Even when we don’t see it, God cares about every detail
After Herod killed James, he put Peter in prison. Certainly this is not an encouragement, but as with many Biblical accounts, the transcript of Peter’s imprisonment and subsequent miraculous release in Acts 12 is filled with so many details to encourage us. Specific details are included in Scripture because they’re important. Our great God cares about every detail.
The importance of “But” verses
Many of us are familiar with the “But God” verses of the Bible, where a verse begins with a hopeless statement and ends with encouragement through the grace of God. This passage in Acts contains two important “but” verses. First in verse five, “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Peter was in prison, but people were praying for him.
We read that “prayer was made without ceasing” for Peter. “Without ceasing” is translated as earnestly or fervently. It’s no surprise that Peter would later go on to write in 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:” Fervent charity in this case took the form of fervent prayers. The result? God sent His angel to break Peter’s chains and lead him to freedom.
The second important “but” verse is found at the end of the chapter in verses 23-24, “…and he [Herod] was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.” This passage should prove to encourage us, as when the enemy seems to have everything on his side – politicians, institutions, and even public opinion – we have the greater power still, that of prayer and God who hears our prayers.
Encouraging testimony, not discouraging details
As Alexander Maclaren so aptly put it in his Expositions of Holy Scripture, “Here you get, on the one hand, all the pompous and elaborate preparations-‘four quaternions of soldiers’- four times four is sixteen-sixteen soldiers, two chains, three gates with guards at each of them, Herod’s grim determination, the people’s malicious expectation of having an execution as a pleasant sensation with which to wind up the Passover Feast. And what had the handful of Christian people? Well, they had prayer; and they had Jesus Christ. That was all, and that is more than enough.”
Another detail important to observe is that while we’re waiting, God is working. We struggle to sleep over lesser worries; imagine how difficult it would be to sleep if one of your friends were martyred, and you were taken prisoner, chained to soldiers, next in line to be killed? And yet, we read in Acts 12:6 that “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains:”. Peter could sleep because he knew that God was working.
God has never been conventional
While His solution for us most likely won’t come in the literal form of an angel, we can be sure that God knows the best way to bring us out of chains and challenges. God has never been conventional. His ways have always been and will always be far above our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). His thoughts toward us are more in number than the sand (Psalm 139:18). He knows more about us than we know about ourselves (Luke 12:7). God cares about every detail.