Acts 12 begins so well for Herod. James is decapitated and Peter is imprisoned. Yet, the chapter ends with Peter walking free while Herod is struck down, eaten by worms, and dies (v. 23). Here is evidence of God’s hidden hand at work.
Concerning Peter’s release, the turning point is verse 5, where we are told the church earnestly prayed to God for Peter.
Luke contrasts Herod’s political authority with God’s sovereign control.
Peter is very well guarded in prison, but the angel of God delivers him (vv. 6–10). The callous Herod has the soldiers who had been assigned to guard Peter executed (v. 19).
Luke could have omitted verses 12–17, but he doesn’t. He deliberately shows the church’s unbelief in its own prayers. Their prayer is effective, but their faith imperfect. Their prayer is answered, but those praying themselves find it unbelievable. When we are tempted to have faith in our own prayers, or to think that prayer is somehow forcing the hand of a reluctant God, here we see that God is greater than our praying. Here, He graciously answers unbelieving prayer.
During the course of his quarrel with the people of Tyre and Sidon, Herod had cut off their food supplies. Why else would they respond as they did to his speech in verse 22? Then, Herod is struck down. It is ironic that the one who denied food to Tyre becomes food for worms.
Peter is delivered, Herod is dead, and Luke tells us that the Word of God “continued to spread and flourish” (v. 24). This is an encouraging start to the Gentile mission (v. 25). These radical reversals are evidence that the progress of the gospel is unstoppable.
In what ways are you encouraged by the vitality of the Word of God and its messengers, in contrast to Herod’s wormy death?
Dark days come to all of us. How does this chapter provide reassurance in the midst of darkness?