In our study of Acts chapter twelve, we get to see an example of how God takes care of his people. In chapter eleven, Peter began to take the gospel to the Gentile (non-Jewish) people and this upset the religious establishment leading to his being jailed.
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread." NIV translation
As the church was expanding, opposition grew in Jerusalem as it was believed that this threatened the government as well as the Jewish religious establishment.
The King Herod that is mentioned is the same one that ordered the killing of all male children two years old and younger in the area of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. The James that was put to the sword was one of the first disciples that Jesus called.
As Herod saw that the Jews were happy about him killing Christians, he even arrested Peter during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast is where the Jews remembered that God delivered them out of Egypt. Because of the festival, Peter was not tried immediately but was put in jail until the end of the celebration.
"After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him." NIV translation
Herod would not offend the Jews by having a trial during the holy feast so Peter sat in prison. He must have been really intent on killing Peter as sixteen men were assigned to make sure he did not escape. Meanwhile the group of believers were praying for him.
"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. 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." NIV translation
What a rescue! It is amazing that Peter could be sleeping while he was chained between two soldiers on the night before his scheduled trial and execution. God sent an angel and the chains fell off of Peter. This is also a beautiful picture of salvation as we are chained to sin but released through Jesus Christ. It can also be a comfort in that it is yet another example of how God takes care of his own people. Herod had his big plans for Peter but God had other plans and he is in control. The same is true for us today as the God of Peter's day is the same God of today!