Acts 12:20-24 (NIV)
He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
Herod Agrippa had retreated to his palace in Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel. The Christian, Peter, had somehow defeated him, although nobody could figure out exactly how, and he wanted to regain some sense of control over his life. This defeat and Herod’s need for feeling like more than a normal person had sowed the seeds of his impending destruction.
While at Caesarea, according to Josephus, Herod held some spectacles in honor of Caesar. In the midst of the games, representatives of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, who had had some disagreements with Herod in the recent past and had been cut off from trade, came to make peace with him, because their communities depended on the agriculture of Israel for a large portion of their food.
Flattery was stock-in-trade for ambassadors, as well as for the common people in dealing with kings. So, when Herod appeared one morning in a royal robe that was woven of silver thread and shone spectacularly in the sun (as reported by Josephus), and when he had given a rousing speech, the cry went up from the ambassadors, and was immediately picked up by the crowd, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”
Herod was greatly pleased by this ovation and allowed himself to bask in its glow. But because he accepted worship from the people, something even angels refused to do (Acts 22:8-9), God struck him immediately with severe stomach pains, and after five days he died.
Verse 24 is a fitting close to this section of the Church’s history. Herod, the one who had tried to destroy the leadership of the Church, died, a victim of divine judgment. But the word of God continued to increase and spread. Foes of God’s people may seem to have the upper hand for a time, but in the end, they will be destroyed, and God’s agenda will continue to unfold.
Father, when we see persecutions against the Church, when we see the increase in godlessness in the world, even in our own communities, it is easy to lose heart and simply choose to lay low. But in those times, we need to shake off fear and discouragement, and we need to refocus our attention on that small word, “but.” “But” in this context means that regardless of circumstances, regardless of the plots of evil men, You are still working Your plan, and Your plan will ultimately be successful. Thank You for that assurance and that promise. Amen.
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