Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Acts 12:6-11 ESV
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 ESV
Fagin was a terrible man. He led a group of children and taught them how to steal, but he didn’t take care of them. Sometimes he beat them, and he made their lives miserable my making them part of his schemes. In the end, Fagin was caught and brought to trial, and he was sentenced to death. When he sat in jail the last night of his life, he was so full of fear and agony about his coming execution that he horrified the people who were with him. He seemed to be less than human in his terrible anguish. Every time the church bells rang, Fagin knew that he was an hour closer to his death, and his fear and horror increased.
Peter was also in prison, and he knew that Herod was planning to put him to death the very next day. But Peter wasn’t afraid or full of anguish. In fact, Peter wasn’t even awake! When the Lord sent his angel to rescue Peter, the angel had to hit Peter on the side to wake him up. Peter woke up and saw the chains fall from his hands. The angel told him to get dressed, and he did, and then the angel led him past two sets of guards, and out of the iron gate that opened by itself. When Peter was free, the angel disappeared, and Peter realized that he hadn’t been dreaming. He really was free! Peter hadn’t expected to be rescued, but even so he was never afraid. He trusted that God would take care of him in life and in death, and there was nothing that would shake that trust. That’s why he was able to sleep soundly during what he thought would be his last night alive.
We also can have the same calm trust in the Lord, no matter what problems come our way. God doesn’t promise to rescue us out of all our troubles all the time, but he does promise to be with us and to help us no matter what. Whether we live or we die, the Lord will never leave us, and we can be sure that nothing will ever separate us from his love. We know that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we belong to God, and in life and in death we will be with him, and we will know his love and his peace forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your loving care. Help us to always trust in you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Dickens, Charles Oliver Twist London: Richard Bentley, 1838.