Daily Devotional

The Counsel of the Lord

by Simon Whitton

6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.
7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.
9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
19a After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Acts 12:6-10;19a (NIV)

The chains fell off Peter's wrists and a gate opens by itself! What an amazing account of the Lord's intervention in a grim situation. However, it did not end so well for his guards, who were executed.

A couple of chapters after this, Luke writes about a similar situation but this time it's the other 'super-apostle' Paul who is in jail:

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.
27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"
34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-- he and his whole family.

Acts 16:25-28;34 (NIV)

Paul is praying and singing and there's an earthquake, the doors fly open and everyone's chains come loose. Wouldn't he think 'God must have sent an angel to release me'; but Paul stays!

Two very similar circumstances, yet completely different decisions and outcomes: Peter's jailers were executed, Paul's jailer was saved along with his family; yet God seems to endorse both.

How do we make decisions like this…to stay or go? Using scripture is always good, but unlikely to help when there's a biblical precedent for either decision. Common sense decisions would have kept most of the amazing events of the Bible from ever occurring. The 'What Would Jesus Do' approach wouldn't help because, what Jesus would do often varied.  'Getting counsel from many advisors' is a commonly quoted proverb, but it's not always right to take a poll.

A less quoted proverb says “Counsel and sound judgment are mine" (Proverbs 8:14 & Isaiah 11:2) they belong to the Lord. Surely the answer is found in our relationship with Him. Although all of the above should be considered, only He can ultimately guide us in the complicated circumstances of our lives.

Take some time to pray, and give to the Lord any difficult decisions you have to make. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; He has wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and the Spirit of counsel is upon Him. He will show you what to do; and then you will see His purposes unfold in amazing ways.

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