Real Talk with Roderick
The Last Word (Acts 12:20-24; Isaiah 42:8)
Introduction (Daniel 4; 5:19-21)
King Herod has harassed the church and killed an apostle. The illegitimate leadership that arraigned Jesus and promoted His crucifixion is working with Herod to hurt Jesus followers. And it seems like they are getting away with too. It is reminiscent of another king that seemed to operate with impunity until he crossed the line with God.
Under Nebuchadnezzar the Jews were taken captive. Under Nebuchadnezzar they were stripped of their names, their freedom to practice their faith, and their homeland. He was cruel toward his captives and toward the poor. And he even setup idols to himself and demanded that everyone bow down and worship. That was taking it too far (Isaiah 42:8). So God warned him in a dream (Daniel 4:20-26). Not withstanding, one year later he boasts about his accomplishments. Immediately heaven reduces him to a beast of the field. He loses his mind and becomes a grass-eating, long-nailed, crazy man in the pastures for seven years. What happened?
The seriousness of Nebuchadnezzar's sin is not in what he says but in the way he sees himself. His chief trespass was not the conversation he had with himself about his greatness but considering himself (1) above other men and unobligated toward the needs of the poor and (2) the cause of the great splendor of his own kingdom. The primary problem is not in his pompous words; these are but a symptom of the real problem - his pride. In His pride He sinned by seeing success as something he made happen... without God's help. His uplifted heart, wallowing in the wickedness of self worship, said "I did this!"
Now back to king Herod. It seems like he is getting away with murder as he persecutes the church. But he is about to cross the line.
The Prop for Displaying the Problem (Acts 12:20; 1 Kings 5:1-11; Ezra 3:7; Ezekiel 27:17)
20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.
Herod the Great (37 - 4 BC, Matt 2:1–22; Luke 1:5) and his grandson Herod Agrippa I (37 - 44 BC, Acts 12) were kings over Judea; they wielded power conferred upon them by Rome. They both desired (1) due respect as rulers of the region and (2) undue religious reverence from the Jews (Matthew 2:1-3); each coveted the crown that ultimately belonged to the Son of David. Given their way the prophecies concerning the Messiah King would be set aside in favor of a Herodian Dynasty. However, as both men are Edomites, neither of them can ever have legitimate claims to David's throne.
Herod [the Great] was an Idumean, an Edomite half-caste; in Jewish eyes he was unfit to rule. As a client-king of Rome, Herod symbolized foreign domination to the Jews...
Brisco, T. V. (1998). Holman Bible atlas (p. 199). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Although much was done by the grandfather and grandson to garner favor with the priesthood and common folk they were both genealogically disqualified for the position King of the Jews. Further, as seen in their ongoing acts of wanton wickedness and brutality toward the people of their region (Matthew 2:16-18; Acts 12:1-2), they were so insecure and depraved in nature that they could never muster the servant leadership God wanted for Israel.
Legitimate leadership is often thought to be about grand actions, great ability, and a good command of others. But these types of "real leaders", apart from heavenly enabling for service, are often little more than rulers. The Anointing that moves Messiah to wash feet is not at work in them. These take charge types are actually the continuation of the Herodian Dynasty.
Herod Agrippa I wants to be regarded as a type of Solomon in blessing other nations.
1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David. 2 Then Solomon sent to Hiram, saying:
3 You know how my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the wars which were fought against him on every side, until the Lord put his foes under the soles of his feet. 4 But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence. 5 And behold, I propose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spoke to my father David, saying, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he shall build the house for My name.” 6 Now therefore, command that they cut down cedars for me from Lebanon; and my servants will be with your servants, and I will pay you wages for your servants according to whatever you say. For you know there is none among us who has skill to cut timber like the Sidonians.
7 So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, Blessed be the Lord this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people! 8 Then Hiram sent to Solomon, saying:
I have considered the message which you sent me, and I will do all you desire concerning the cedar and cypress logs. 9 My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon to the sea; I will float them in rafts by sea to the place you indicate to me, and will have them broken apart there; then you can take them away. And you shall fulfill my desire by giving food for my household.
10 Then Hiram gave Solomon cedar and cypress logs according to all his desire. 11 And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand kors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty kors of pressed oil. Thus Solomon gave to Hiram year by year.
In Acts 12:20 we are told that Herod had been angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. The reason for his angst is not provided. It was not important for the unfolding of his fateful errors and is recounted summarily only as a foil for a bigger point. They need his help and he cannot resist the opportunity to have them groveling at his feet.
The cities of the Phoenician seaboard, Tyre and Sidon, depended on Galilee for their food supply, as they had done a thousand years earlier in the time of Hiram and Solomon (1 Kings 5:9–12).
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (pp. 240–241). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
The Problem Displayed (Acts 12:21-23)
21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.
Like Nebuchadnezzar king Herod has crossed the line. It was not so much in his action as in his inaction and his tacit approval of being worshiped.
Josephus also went into greater detail on the “royal robes” worn by Agrippa. The garment was made of silver and glistened radiantly in the morning sun. As Herod, in all his glory, turned and addressed the people, they shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man” (v. 22). Josephus recorded a like response from the people, who hailed Herod as a god and “more than mortal.” Josephus at this point added significant detail, noting that Herod neither affirmed nor denied the people’s ascription of divinity to him.
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, p. 285). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
His affirmation is in his silence. And his demise is in his decision to do nothing as he is being lauded by the people as deity. His chief failure is not in actions but in his attitude toward God and himself. Like Satan he wants something that only belongs to God - worship. And like Satan this attempt to get glory for himself results in a fast and unrelenting removal from power. Regarding Satan's fall Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning."
The Last Word (Acts 12:24)
24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
Having removed Herod the Lord has ended a period of persecution of the church.
The lofty get lowered. The low get lifted. So get low.
Questions for Discussion