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Acts 12:1-2 – James’ release from Herod

Most of Acts 12 is about Peter’s miraculous deliverance from a certain death at the hands of King Herod. It is easy to skip over the first two verses where James is put to death with the sword. The same God who rescues Peter allows James to be put to death. Is it because God was unable to save or because he did not love James? No. God is the God of providence.

What is providence? John Flavel says of providence: The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. It is the great support and solace of the saints in all the distresses that befall them here, that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels of motion, and governing the most eccentric creatures and their pernicious designs to blessed and happy issues.

In other words, God is working in both comfortable and uncomfortable circumstances to fulfil his purpose. There is no loss when it comes to providence. James dies but at that moment he is brought into the presence of Jesus the Galilean – his Lord and Saviour but also his friend with who he walked and travelled. Seeing Jesus’ glory and being delivered not only from Herod’s power but also from death itself – James had only joy in the glory of the one who had promised this day to James.

Christians need to know that there is such a thing as providence, that providences can be both comfortable and uncomfortable, that one may die to the sword or be delivered from prison – but in all we trust in the Lord who directs even these things.