(Preached at Coventry 1966)
Text: Acts 12:11
a. Luke must have had first-hand knowledge – he records Peter’s thoughts in this verse. Possibly John Mark was his informant.
b. The Christian life is such an experience – Psalm 126:1 “When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.”
It is my purpose to learn these lessons from this story.
1. If we let our enemies get hold of us, they will hold us fast.
Peter was too big a prize to be lost.
We pilgrims travel through hostile country. The espionage is everywhere – at HOME and ABROAD.
If we fall into their hands we may as well expect mercy from a Demon, as expect tolerance with our shortcomings from worldlings.
2. The case is never hopeless if put in God’s hands.
1 iron gate!
But prayer was made!
Look at the sequence here and compare these verses: Psalm 18: 6, 9, 16, 17.
3. God is never in a hurry
Jesus stayed two days longer where he was before he went to raise Lazarus – John 11:6.
a. In stead of the executioner – there came an angel.
That happens every time a saint dies – the Door of Eternity opens to him, and there stands not DEATH but LIFE EVERLASTING.
b. As soon as I had experienced Vs. 7 – I would have run outside in my pyjamas.
“Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.”
But see Vs. 8:
“The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
O the leisure of Almightiness!
c. Omnipotence is never in a hurry!
God is not only slow to bring judgment upon men, He is leisurely in mercy too, as becomes His Majesty.
“For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the LORD will go before you…”
Peter learned “He that believeth shall not make haste.”
4. It was just a dream!A light of glory
- Angelic visitation
- Falling chains
- Sleeping guards
- A world of enchantment!
But the Iron Gate would put an end to the dream. Vs. 10: “They came to the Iron Gate!”
Iron gates are very prosaic. They are down to earth. They represent the return to reality.
a. After our most spiritual and radiant meetings – there’s the iron gate. Worse than iron curtains.
How often after a delightful Sunday – the cool caress of linen sheets – and then out of the cold dark the alarm clock yells at you: “Hey! It’s Monday morning!”
And you have come to the iron gate.
b. As long as Peter had an iron gate before him, he had an angel beside him.
The opposite is true also – as long as Peter had an angel beside him, he had an iron gate ahead of him.
Angels do not walk beside us just for fun.
If I have an angel beside me – it is because ahead of me there is a work only an angel can do.
c. Good times are omens of coming struggles.
The Transfiguration pointed to Gethsemane.
But the iron gate opened to them of its own accord.
Iron swims (remember Elisha?) and iron swings when God is about.
Sometimes battalions of sorrows overwhelm us, and we stagger in amazement – dazed, bewildered…
Sometimes God’s mercies rush upon us and suddenly everything is clothed with the glories of a dream.
“Heaven above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green,
Something lives in every hue, Christless eyes have never seen.”
5. The dream was real.
Peter thought he saw a vision. Vs. 16: They went out and passed through one street, and forthwith the angel departed from him.
He had walked along lamp-lit prison corridors behind an angel – through an iron gate swinging silently and mysteriously – out into the empty street, stirring in morning grey light – and the angel melted away with the first sunbeam
– vanishing in the light of common day.
That sobered him! “He considered the thing!” out there in the street and said: “Now I know the Lord hath sent His angel and delivered me.”
The angel has to be gone before we are sure he was here.
Emotion of experience has to cool before we fully understand the experience.
Meditation discovers more of God in the great moments of our lives than we understood while we were living in those moments.
No man fully understands what riches he receives when he receives Christ – it takes a lifetime to possess it.
“Jesus! I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving Heart!”