“…and he killed James, John’s brother, with the sword.” (Acts 12:2)
Luke tells us that “Herod attacked some who belonged to the church.” Why he did so is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t seem to make much sense. The church was non-violent. It contributed positively to society by providing food for the poor. It did not intentionally antagonize the government or other leaders, though it did aggressively evangelize and teach. There is no evidence that the Jewish leaders of the day asked this of Herod, although Luke does note that when Herod saw that his beheading of James pleased the Jewish leaders, he took it to the next level and also arrested Peter and scheduled his execution. The church’s freedom was now on the chopping block. Indeed, the church itself was facing a potential bloodbath.
After Saul’s persecution of the church dissipated, there was a period of peace and growth, so this insane attack from Herod seems to have come from out of nowhere. It was completely unexpected, and it was the next major crisis the church had to face. We learn at least four very important truths from their experience: 1) Satan will do his best to do his worst when the church is least expecting it, 2) the greatest weapon available to the church to deal with severe crisis is earnest prayer, 3) we all must be prepared to take our stand with Christ whatever the cost, and 4) God will always preserve a witness to achieve His purposes. While all of this has application to the church, we should also note that it has application to individual believers as well.
Lord, We recognize that severe threat can produce severe fear, but earnest prayer can produce a powerful shield, because of who You are. Amen.