As Pastor Bill was speaking about Herod, his cruelty and reasoning, he used this analogy, “King Herod suffered from a Hitler-level obsession with popularity. He murdered the apostle James to curry favor with the populace. The execution bumped his approval rate, so, he jailed Peter and resolved to behead him on the anniversary of Jesus’ death. (Would you like a little salt for that wound?)”
And then, Herod not only displayed his cruelty to favor his ego, but his employees (those guards) didn’t work for a paycheck, they literally worked for their lives, “He placed the apostle under the watchful eye of 16 (Navy Seals) and told them, with no tongue-in-cheek, he escapes you die. Quality control, Herod style. They bound Peter in chains and secured him 3 doors deep in the prison.”
And the question is asked, what do we do?
How do we make the righteous right?
How do we save the saved?
How can we be a church when we are faced with such threats?
Prayer meets Goliath
That word, goliath, has so many connotations. Try searching on just the word “goliath” and you’ll see responses from roller coasters to cities and a server framework. When Pastor Bill spoke of “goliath”, and my first thought, had nothing to do with the above descriptions. Goliath was something large and menacing. It was the story of David and Goliath (if you have not read it here is a link to get you started: http://www.jesusanswers.com/christian/stories/david.htm – credit to Jesus Answers website). If you visit http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/goliath the definition reads:
The giant warrior of the Philistines whom David killed with a stone from a sling. I Sam. 17:48–51.
(usually lowercase ) a giant.
(usually lowercase ) a very large, powerful, or influential person or thing: a neighborhood grocery competing against the supermarket goliaths.
And what could the church do about it?
The problem of imprisoned Peter stood Goliath sized all over the humble community.
They had no recourse: no clout, no political chips to cash in.
They had nothing but fear drenched questions.
First James, then Peter.
Is Herod going to purge all of the church leadership?
Problems this large, and questions this provocative, have plagued the people of the world from the days of Peter and James to those that walk the world today. We are no different than they were, and their problems not more mundane than our own.
It is here, that Pastor Bill, stood at the alter and asked us, “Do you know what I do at that start of every day? I come here to Plymouth, and I get on my knees and I pray. The carpet has stains from my tears. And when I feel I have a goliath sized problem, I run down the aisle, and I throw myself onto the floor of the altar, and I yell at the top of my voice, “God! Hear my prayer!” Do I need to yell for God to hear me? No. He always hears me, but I do it anyway.” And as Bill shared these words, he literally ran down the aisle toward the altar, his body hit the steps like a boulder cascading down the side of a mountain, and his voice penetrated every organ (natural and manmade) that sat within the walls of the Church. His voice reverberating off the rafters like a chorus line in high kick. Yet Bill did not flinch from his behavior (he merely asked that we don’t call the medics to haul him away). He exuded his passion for the power of prayer when we are all facing our own goliath-sized problems. He gave us leave to humble ourselves, even if dramatically, because it is in humbled prayer we will seek the answers to overcome.
I will leave you with this prelude to part 3 of this series:
The church still faces Goliaths. World hunger. Clergy scandal. Stingy Christians. Corrupt officials. The pea-brained hardhearted dictators. Peter in prison is just the first of a long list of challenges too big for the church.
So our Jerusalem ancestors left us a strategy. When the problem is bigger than we are,–we pray! But while Peter was imprisoned, the church prayed very earnestly for him Acts 12:5.