Celebration of Freedom Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Never forget this: God is in charge and He always has the final say. Satan cannot do what God cannot undo. According to verse 6, Satan appeared to be totally in charge of the situation. Peter was just where he wanted him, chained to two soldiers. Herod had already decided to kill him, so Satan had won. But that’s not what happened because Satan didn’t win; instead, he lost, and this is not the first time he lost the battle.
Remember the three Hebrew young men in Daniel 3. They were subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The king had constructed a large statue, approximately ninety feet tall and set it up on a flat plain south of Babylon. The king called for all the officials from through out the empire to be present for the dedication. It was to be a grand occasion, and he made a decree that when the music was played, everyone must bow down and worship the image. And he added that if anyone failed to worship the image that they would be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Everyone obeyed, because their lives were at stake; except for three Hebrews. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the image; and they were reported by those who envied their high position.
It took courage and a spiritual backbone for them not to bow with the rest. They disobeyed the decree, because God had instructed them in His word not to worship false Gods. They were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, who personally asked whether they had disobeyed his command. “Yes,” they said, “It is true.” Nebuchadnezzar then offered the young men a second chance to obey and he reminded them of the fiery furnace. But when he did this, he taunted God by exclaiming, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” He thought that he, not God, was in control. The young men answered Nebuchadnezzar by exclaiming, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.”
The king ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. Unfortunately, the overheated furnace had an effect on the king’s most mighty men that were in his army, for they were killed by the heat as they threw the Hebrews into the fire. Nebuchadnezzar could watch what was going on from where he was seated, and he couldn’t believe his eyes and asked others to confirm what he saw. He said, “I see four men walking in the midst of the fire.”
Clearly, there was a miracle in progress. Even Nebuchadnezzar could recognize that. Was it Christ who was with His servants during that trial? I believe that it was. Nebuchadnezzar then called to them and asked them to come out, but this time he referred to them as “servants of the most high God.” What a miracle; not even a hair had been singed and the smell of smoke was missing from their clothing. Satan had failed to put a stop to the witness of the three Hebrew boys. Jesus won the victory.
Do you remember Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den? Once again, Satan was out to destroy a man of God and it looks as if he will succeed. This is what happened. At this time, Darius was the king of Babylon. He had appointed one hundred twenty princes over his kingdom and three overseers over them. Daniel was made chief overseer and was capable enough to be promoted over the whole realm. Daniel had a great testimony; in fact his enemies couldn’t find anything wrong with his conduct. Since Daniel was obeying all the laws of the kingdom, the wicked and envious Persian princes sought to establish a new law regarding worship, one that Daniel would surely break because of his solid faith in Jehovah.
The new law made the king the one through whom all requests to any god must be made. The law was to be in effect for thirty days, but that would be plenty of time to catch Daniel engaging God in prayer. The king was tricked into the decree and he later regretted it. Daniel knew that he had to obey God no matter what man might command or how much he might lose by his actions. Just as the three Hebrew children would not disobey God in order to please a king, so Daniel purposely disobeyed a human law in order to maintain obedience to God. Even so, Daniel was accused by his enemies before Darius regarding the law. There was no controversy about his guilt. He had clearly disobeyed the king’s command, and even the king could not free Daniel now. The law couldn’t be changed and there was no pardon, according to Persian law.
Even though he could do nothing to help Daniel, Darius believed Daniel’s God would save him. Perhaps he had heard rumors of a previous deliverance from a fiery furnace. After Daniel had been placed in the lion’s den, Darius went home, but he didn’t sleep well. Early the next morning, he ran to the lions’ den and called hopefully to Daniel. Daniel responded politely and announced the reason for his safety. He said, “My God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions’ mouth.” Satan lost another battle, for Daniel was restored to his former position, and he continued to be God’s man.
Now let’s return to Peter and see what happened to him.
Sleeping between two soldiers, and bound with two sturdy chains, with the keepers of the prison standing guard just outside the door, “the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shinned in the prison.” The light apparently radiated from the angel and Peter was roughly awakened when the angel struck him on the side and his chains fell from his hands. The angel commanded him to “Gird thyself…Cast thy garments about thee, and follow me.” Peter was still in a daze and did not fully understand what was happening to him. He couldn’t tell whether it was a vision or an angel was really leading him from the prison.
Peter was obviously under the power of the Spirit of God, and with the angel leading they passed safely through the prison. However, there would be no hope of them passing through the Iron Gate. But this miraculous escape would not be prevented by a locked gate; it opened to them of its own accord. With the gate opening unaided by anyone, the angel and Peter passed out into the street, and at that point the angel left him. Once Peter found himself alone, he had an opportunity for the first time to appraise his situation.
He could now fully appreciate that the Lord had sent His angel to deliver him out of the hand of Herod. Peter sized up the situation correctly: this was indeed a miracle of God in response to the prayers of His righteous saints. Now that he had come to his senses, his first reaction was to let the other disciples know of his release. Therefore, he made his way to a well known meeting place for believers; the home of Mary, the mother of John. When Peter knocked on the gate, his knock was answered by a young girl.
But even though she recognized his voice, she didn’t admit him. Instead, she ran and told the others that Peter was standing outside the gate. Their first reaction was disbelief, and they told the girl, “Thou art mad.” “But Peter continued knocking.” The girl was persistent and the knocking continued, so those inside decided that they had to see for themselves who was outside. When they opened the gate and saw Peter standing there they were astonished. They were filled with joy and celebrated Peter’s release.
It’s experiences like these that release the Church from fear of the enemy. God’s plan for Peter did not include prison and death, so He freed him so that he could preach the Gospel and write his letters. Satan was defeated once again.
It's been two thousand years, but we can experience the same freedom in our hearts and lives today. Satan says, “I have you under my control.” God responds, “Oh know you don’t.”
We have received great news! The prison door of slavery to sin is open, and we don’t have to stay there! Those of us who respond to God’s guidance have great freedom. We may feel as Peter did in verse 9, “So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.” But we can also ultimately feel as Peter did in verse 11, “And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
What the committed, obedient people of God enjoy seems like a dream. But it isn’t. This life is real. We may not understand it, but we enjoy what God has done for us. Paul expressed that thought when he wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”(1 Cor 13:12 KJV) He is saying that we don’t understand a lot of what God is doing in the world and in our lives. We live by faith, not by sight.
But someday, when we are made perfect, we will know and understand much, much more. One thing that should be apparent from today’s lesson is that we have freedom in Christ. Jesus has defeated Satan and Satan will never undo anything that God does. If Satan has you imprisoned in a sinful life, God offers you freedom. The choice is up to you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13 KJV)
Let’s pray and thank God that we are free from Satan’s control; that the chains of sin were removed by Jesus.