“Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” —I Peter 5:7

WHEN THE RESURRECTED Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shore of Galilee, he said to Peter, “When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” John commented on this prophecy, saying, “This spake he [Jesus], signifying by what death he should glorify God.”—John 21:18,19

In the Master’s prophecy concerning Peter, he pointed out the marvelous transformation of viewpoint and character he would experience as he grew to maturity as a New Creature, and appreciated the great privilege of laying down his life sacrificially in the magnificent cause of the Gospel. That Peter would stretch forth his hands and permit another to gird him suggests his full surrender to the will of God, and that he would willingly serve the truth and the brethren even though the Lord’s providences led him to places and into situations from which his flesh might shrink.

And Peter did attain to this high degree of maturity as a Christian. It was from his heart, and not merely as a theory, that he wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) It is in the verse following this that Peter admonishes us to cast all our care, or anxiety, on the Lord with the assurance that he is caring for us, overruling in all our affairs.

In giving us this admonition, Peter was not unaware of the difficulties with which all true followers of the Master are faced. In the next verse he wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your Adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The roar of the lion is designed to paralyze the intended prey with fear, thus weakening its resistance to capture. So the Devil endeavors to fill our hearts with fear, that he might wield a more destructive influence over us.

But God is our refuge and strength, and we can safely cast all our anxieties upon him. We have surrendered to him. We are allowing him to lead us in the way of sacrifice, and we are looking to him to give us courage and strength to be faithful until our sacrifice is complete—faithful unto death. If our surrender to the divine will is wholehearted and complete, we will not attempt to dictate how we are to lay down our lives, nor will we decide how long it should take. We will simply leave it all with him.

In Peter’s own life of devotion we have a revealing example of this principle of full surrender to the will of God, particularly in connection with his experience in prison, as recorded in Acts 12:1-12. This imprisonment was brought about by our adversary, Satan, working in this instance through Herod the king.

We are informed that “Herod stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Herod noted that this pleased the Jews, and wishing to court favor with them, he arrested Peter. According to the standards of this present evil world Herod was wise; for he realized that although the religious leaders of the Jews hated the disciples, they would not exactly relish having Peter murdered during their Passover holy days. So Peter was kept in prison until after the Passover. And now he was, the next day, to be brought forth from the prison to be put to death, simply to please the Jews. The brethren, meanwhile, knowing these circumstances, were gathered in the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, to pray for Peter. It was all that they could do, and what a wonderful thing it was to do!

We are not informed as to the exact nature of the brethren’s prayers for Peter. It is hardly likely that they were petitioning the Heavenly Father for his release from prison, and deliverance from death, except as this might be God’s will. This was after Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, had revealed to the brethren that it was the privilege of all Jesus’ disciples to suffer and to die with him.

Jesus, their head and Master, had been crucified. He was not delivered from the hands of his enemies. Stephen had been stoned to death. And now that Herod had embarked on a campaign of persecution, James had been killed. With Peter already in prison, and plans made for his execution, Jesus’ followers would have no way of knowing that God’s will would be any different for him than for the others.

But Peter needed their prayers, not for his deliverance, but for strength to endure, and to humbly submit to the Lord’s providences. He needed the prayers of the brethren that his faith might be strong, sufficiently strong to enable him to cast all his care upon the Lord, a faith that would enable him to say from the heart, even as did Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”—Job 13:15

The prayers of the faithful little group were heard and answered. That last night in the prison, Peter was chained between two guards—a chain firmly securing each wrist. From the human standpoint the situation was absolutely hopeless, and Peter knew it. But what was Peter’s attitude? Was he rebellious? Did he complain against the providences of the Lord? Did he reflect on his past faithfulness and wonder why the Lord had permitted this to happen to him?

We do not think this was the case. The evidence which substantiates the fact that Peter had no misgivings at all, that even in this experience he was completely resigned to God’s will, is that he was “sleeping between two soldiers.” (Acts 12:6) Could anything better reveal the complete resignation of this once obstinate fisherman?

While Peter was sleeping, “the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison.” (vs. 7) David wrote that “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Ps. 34:7) But deliverance by the angel of the Lord does not always imply the same thing. It could, at times, and often does, mean strength to endure, wisdom to understand, or faith to accept with resignation even though we cannot understand.

When the angel of the Lord came upon Peter, ‘a light shined in the prison’. On the whole, not many of the Lord’s true disciples throughout the Gospel Age have been incarcerated in literal prisons, but probably nearly all, at one time or another, have been bound by circumstances over which they had no control. These circumstances may have prevented activity in the Lord’s service, or attendance at the meetings of the Lord’s people. The restraining circumstances in a Christian’s life are often many and varied.

Do we feel that we are bound with chains which hinder us from doing what we would like to do? Are we surrounded by the walls of circumstances which separate us from the liberties and privileges enjoyed by our brethren? Are we so wholly resigned to these restraints that we are ‘sleeping’, or completely resting in the Lord, as Peter was?

Yes, when the angel spoke to Peter that night in the prison, a light shone out and brightened the prison room where Peter had been sleeping. Symbolically speaking, often the deliverances of God’s people which are wrought by the angels are, in fact, that light is shed upon our experiences so that we are able the better to understand the situations in which the Lord has permitted us to become involved. The Lord has promised not to permit us to be tested above that which we are able to bear, and often it is possible to bear much more when ‘a light shines in the prison’.

With the light shining, the angel aroused Peter from his sleep, saying to him, “Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.” (Acts 12:7) There are times when all we can do is to quietly wait on the Lord, as illustrated by Peter’s sleeping. There are other times when, while still trusting in the Lord, it is essential to ‘rise up quickly’ if the ‘chains’ are to fall from our hands.

Jeremiah wrote, “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lam. 3:26) Peter had been quietly waiting on the Lord, but now the time had come for him to actively wait. The angel said to him, “Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals, … cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.” (Acts 12:8) Knowing the power of God, and the extent to which it is employed by the holy angels, we realize that Peter could have been removed from the prison without any cooperation on his own part. Sandals and a garment could easily have been provided for him. Usually, however, this is not the method God uses in dealing with his people, even though his mighty power is employed for their deliverance.

The Lord expects us to do what we can for ourselves, and meanwhile exercise faith that he will do for us the needed things which go beyond own abilities. Now that the angel of the Lord had removed the chains which bound Peter to the guards, he could gird himself, he could bind on his sandals and put on his garment. And he could follow the angel. All these things he did, although as yet he was not fully aware of just what was taking place. He thought he saw a vision, or was having a dream.

So in our ‘prison’ experiences, when the time comes for the angel of the Lord to deliver us, there are always things for us to do. Often, like Peter, even though the light shines in our prison, and we comprehend that the Lord is dealing with us, we only understand in part the meaning of the little things he sets before us to do. Even so, it is necessary that we be obedient. We may see no point in binding on our sandals, but if the Lord indicates this to be his will, let us not hesitate to obey, and to follow the angel.

Peter obediently followed the angel. How important that we also follow the angel who may be leading us. Peter followed “past the first and the second ward.” Finally they came to the “iron gate that leadeth unto the city.” (vs. 10) The record indicates that the way out of the prison was not a simple one, but we are also impressed with the fact that ‘the angel of the Lord’ knew the way.

Applying this figuratively to our own experiences, how true it is that the way is not always a simple one. God’s great plan of salvation is simple enough, but the experiences which he permits his people to have as they endeavor to do his will are often permitted to be of such a nature as to test our faith and confidence in the Lord. This is in order that we may learn to follow the ‘angel of the Lord’ which he provides for our deliverance.

And even when we follow the angel, we are at times confronted with iron gates which seem to block our progress. It was true with Peter. But the reassuring thing is that the iron gate opened to them ‘of its own accord’. Of course, the Iron Gate did not actually open of its own accord. It just seemed that it did. It was the angel of the Lord—or shall we say the power of the Lord—that opened the Iron Gate.

Peter followed the angel through that Iron Gate to freedom, and to further opportunities to lay down his life in the service of the Lord, the truth, and the brethren. So it is with our iron gates. How often the way seems blocked, and yet, in the Lord’s own due time and way the Iron Gate opens—although waiting on the Lord to open the gate is often a very severe test of faith.

Delivered from the prison, Peter realized that the Lord had sent an angel to set him free. It often happens that not until after the iron gates open and we pass through them to a new vista of experiences, do we realize the full meaning of the divine providences through which we have passed. Looking back and noting the marvelous providences of the Lord which we only partially understood when we were experiencing them, we are able to praise the way he has led us day by day.

After his deliverance from prison, Peter made his way to the home of Mary, where the brethren were praying for him. They were greatly surprised to see him. Apparently they did not realize that God’s will for him would be different than it was for Jesus, for Stephen, and for James. But it was. The Lord had further service for Peter to render, so he sent his angel to deliver him from prison and from death.

Although Peter was resigned to having his life taken away by Herod, we may be sure that since the Lord overruled otherwise, he was glad in his heart, and in essence said to the Lord, “If I may, I’ll serve another day.” Should this not be the attitude of all who are fully consecrated to the Lord, and who are endeavoring to prove faithful even unto death?

All of the Lord’s true people realize that only by proving faithful unto death will they receive the “crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) But we may have preferences as to how we will meet death. There would be a certain degree of glamour, and therefore compensation, attached to a martyr’s death. Often the most severe test of faith is simply to grow old and die. And yet, this is the very way the Lord has permitted the vast majority of his people to finish their course in death.

And growing old is fraught with so many distressing and tragic possibilities. Some who perhaps could sleep while chained to a prison guard, might well be agitated, and perhaps even rebellious, at the thought of being allowed simply to become sick and die. But let us realize that the angel of the Lord knows the way, the best way for us. Because the angels who guard and assist us always behold the face of the heavenly Father, they know exactly what his will for each one of us is, and are fully capable of overruling in all the affairs of our lives in order that the Lord’s will might be done.

In our prison experiences, when chained to circumstances which restrict our activities in the Lord’s service, whether we see ourselves approaching the end of the way in the manner of all flesh, or facing precipitous action by our enemies, may we ever and always ‘cast all our care’ upon the Lord, knowing that he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind, and that he will faithfully care for us until we reach the end of the way. Truly, we can say to our Heavenly Father, “Great is thy faithfulness”!—Lam. 3:23

Dawn Bible Students Association
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