The Death of Herod; Acts 12:20-25

Main Point: Glory and power will kill you.

One of my favorite children’s books is the book, Fool Moon Rising. Fool Moon Rising is worth a read no matter your age because we are all glory thieves. Herod is the fool moon and so am I. Let me show you. Read Acts 12:20-25

I. The way of power (Acts 12:20)

We know Herod is shrewd and cunning because we have already seen him arresting and killing Christians in order to win favor with the Jews. Herod is concerned with keeping and strengthening his place of power. Look at verse 20, “Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.” We need to

  • Look at the world’s economy (Luke 22:24-25)

Tyre and Sidon are independent cities that rely on Judea for food. We are first introduced to Tyre and Sidon in the ancient days of king Solomon. When Solomon was building the temple, he traded food with Tyre and Sidon for lumber (1 Kings 5). In Isaiah’s day, Tyre and Sidon grew strong and wealthy (Isaiah 23). In Herod’s day, however, Tyre and Sidon had again become dependent on the benevolence of another nation for its food.

We experience this situation today. Worldatlas.com ranks Afghanistan as the most food dependent nation in the world meaning Afghanistan relies on other nations for food. In 2019 the US provided 20,725 metric tons of food to Afghanistan.[1] The US is in a position of power over Afghanistan. The US stands to gain access to natural resources and a military presence. Are we a benevolent nation or a self-seeking nation? I want you to understand that what we see in Acts 12 is alive and well today. We need to be asking if our policies are truly benevolent? Are we doing good with our power and influence or doing harm?

Now, we don’t know why Herod is mad at Tyre and Sidon; we are simply told that Herod is enraged. And it is a bad situation when the guy who provides your food doesn’t like you. Somehow, again we are not told, Tyre and Sidon win Herod’s chamberlain over to their side. Blastus was a high and trusted official in Herod’s service. Maybe Blastus has a cousin who lives in Tyre. Maybe Tyre and Sidon delivered a big bag of silver to Blastus’s home. How ever it happened, Tyre and Sidon won a favorable audience with Herod so they can talk about getting the food they need.

This is the world’s economy. The people with power use that power to get what they want from those who do not have power. The world’s economy is to use strength for personal gain. Herod’s economy is to use strength for the selfish advance of self. We must

  • Seek a better way (Luke 22:26-27)

Turn over to the Luke 22:24-27 (read it)

The disciples, ever so humble and selfless, are arguing about who is the greatest among them. Jesus addresses this sin by comparing the world’s economy with God’s economy. In the world’s economy, Luke 22:25, the powerful rule over the people and the people serve the powerful. Authority and power are used to put people into positions of dependence and service. In the world’s economy, those who have power are served by the powerless. In the case of Herod, Tyre and Sidon’s need for food is being exploited by Herod; you need my food, so you better serve my wishes. The end game is not the good of the needy but the gain of the greedy. From human trafficking to the unfair treatment of migrant workers, the world’s economy is alive and terribly well.

Here is where we Christians must live like a city on hill showing a better way. The world turns on selfish power, but Luke 22:26, not so among you. Followers of Christ must reject the economic model that says exploit the weak so that they serve your desires. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

We must think about Jesus. Jesus possesses omnipotent power. Power is not a bad thing. Power in the hands of the truly good is a good thing. Power in the hands of the truly good used for the good of all is a good thing. Consider with me that Jesus doesn’t divide his power among sinners in hopes that equal access to power will produce good results. No, Jesus uses his power to serve the weak. Jesus is the greatest among us, but he doesn’t exploit us. Being fully God, Jesus deserves to recline at the table and be served by us, but he wraps a slave’s towel around his waist and serves us.

So, what should you do if you possess power or wealth or influence? The world tells us to exploit the weak in order to gain more of what we want. Every economic system is guilty of exploiting the weak for selfish gain. An economic system cannot save but Christians can redeem an economic system. God tells us to use our strength to serve the weak in order to give them what they need.

So let’s be clear, why has God made you strong? God made you strong so you can serve others. If you are the firstborn, if you are taller or stronger, if you have wealth, if you have beauty, if you have intelligence or if you have ability these are God’s gifts for the good of others. Jesus is calling us away from following Herod who threatened and hurt others for his own selfishness. We are called to follow Jesus who was willingly crucified for the benefit of others. The gospel calls us to a better way. The better way is

II. The way of glory (Acts 12:21-25)

Let’s go back to Acts 12 and Herod. Acts 12:21, “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.” Ok, what’s going on here?

  • The world seeks glory from one another (John 5:41-44)

According to Roman records, the date of Herod’s death is 44 AD. We can use that date to help date events happening before and events happening after Herod’s death. Herod Agrippa died in AD 44. Additionally, Josephus was a Jewish historian writing in Rome in the mid-nineties AD. He also records the story of Herod’s death.

Luke and Josephus record that Herod put on his fancy clothes and made a fancy speech. Josephus gives us the detail that Herod had a robe woven with silver so that when the morning sun hit that silver it made him shine. Now why would he do that? Why would Herod pay a high price for a splendid robe and sit in a seat at just the right time and just the right angle from the sun so that he was radiant? Herod wants to be affirmed and even treated like a god. Herod wants power and Herod wants glory. Herod is stealing glory, and Herod got what he wanted.

Look at Acts 12:22, “And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’” Why were they giving Herod the status of a god? One, they wanted food and so they knew they had to play the game. Two, Herod looked awesome. Three, Herod likely delivered a fine speech that included the commitment to give the people food. If your children were starving to death and some powerful man in rich clothes came and promised you food, you would be tempted to worship him as your messiah and deliverer.

We should grieve but not be surprised when we look around and see our neighbors worshipping the government as the means of safety, security, and flourishing. Every political party and nation is riddled with sin and in need of redemption. We must be a prophetic and redeeming people who refuse to put our faith in government because our faith is joyfully and fully in King Jesus.  

Consider that Romans 1 describes Herod, Blastus, the citizens of Tyre, the citizens of Sidon, and the citizens of the US. Our natural inclination is to take the worship and trust that belongs to God and give it to anyone or anything that is not god. Every human heart is hard-wired to worship and trust anything as long as it is not the true God.

Judgment should fall when worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever more (Rom 1:25). Herod got exactly what Herod deserved for his sin. Look at Acts 12:23, ‘Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Josephus agrees, at this speech when Herod received the people’s worship he was struck with abdominal pain and died five days later.

Looking at this, my question is not so much why Herod died for his sins. Instead, why did the citizens of Tyre and Sidon not die for their sins? Herod died because he didn’t say anything. Herod died because he let the people worship him as a god. Why did the people not die because they worshipped Herod as a god?

The biblical response is that God is free and sovereign with his delivery of justice and mercy. God sees and knows all things and is therefore capable of delivering perfect justice. Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Why did God strike down Herod for his sin and yet I remain? Am I any better than Herod? Is Herod a worse offender than me or you? No. Jesus warns us, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Here’s what we must do

  • Seek a better way (Acts 12:24-25)

I got ahead of myself with John 5. Let’s go there now. In John 5 Jesus is addressing the religious people’s refusal to believe in Jesus. John 5:43, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

We are so worried about getting a good review at work, getting a thumbs up on Facebook, a like on YouTube, or a heart on Instagram that we can’t believe in Jesus. We would rather be seen as a success by our neighbors than gaze upon the glory and splendor of the eternal God. So, what is the better way? How should Christians, who are repenting and believing, respond to the praise of others?

First, give glory to God. This is exactly what Herod refused to do. Herod took the people’s worship, but worship does not belong to us. Herod is seeking glory from the people, refusing to give God the glory, and this sin led to judgment. We were made to be pipelines channeling the glory of God up to its proper destination. The temptation is to become a bucket that steals that glory. Herod should have done what Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 14. When the people tried to worship Paul and Barnabas they said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15). Worshipping the creature instead of the Creator is the easiest and worst thing we can possibly do. We steal God’s glory by taking the credit. We worship God by giving God the credit. So first, seek a better way by stopping false worship and consciously, and when necessary, verbally giving God the credit.

The next aspect of this better way is to seek the glory that comes from God. Seek the glory that comes from God is exactly what Jesus commands us to do in John 5. Seeking the glory that comes from God is, in John 5, what it means to be a Christian. You can’t seek the approval of your friends and seek the approval of God. You can’t draw life from the well of what people think of you while trying to draw life from the well of what God thinks of you. You can’t serve God and Instagram. You can’t serve God and your annual review.

Seeking the glory that comes from God means asking either, “What does God think of me? What does God think about what I am doing? What does God think about my work? What does God think about what I wear?” Seeking the glory that comes from God is consciously pursuing the good that God desires while depending on the strength that God supplies. Seeking glory from God is the same as seeking the reward that God gives. Seeking glory from God means telling ourselves “no” so that we can say “yes” to God and life his way. Acts 12:24-25 gives us some help on this point. 

We seek the glory that comes from God when we go and make disciples. Acts 12:24 says, “But the word of God increased and multiplied.” James is dead, Peter is on the run, and Herod is eaten by worms, but the word of God is advancing and multiplying; the people are making disciples. The word of God multiplies as more and more people turn from the empty worship of self to the satisfying worship of God. A disciple is a follower of Christ who loves God. A disciple is a follower of Christ who worships God. A disciple is a woman or a man who gives God the glory and seeks to help others learn to give God the glory.

In verse 25 we learn that Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark are returning from Jerusalem after delivering the financial aid to Jerusalem from Antioch. Later, when the church in Corinth does the same thing, Paul writes, “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (2 Corinthians 9:13). The giver sought to glorify God with the gift. The receiver gave thanks to God for the gift. All this giving and receiving was based upon the life-changing reality of Jesus giving us eternal life and us receiving eternal life by faith.

As we gather around the Lord’s Table we do so as givers and as receivers. The question is if we will give and receive for the glory of God or if we will give and receive in order to take glory for ourselves. Everyone who receives the bread and the cup does so because he/she is in need of the grace only Jesus can provide. We must receive forgiveness and righteousness from Another. Give glory to God because he gives you mercy in Christ Jesus. We are all receivers and we are all givers. Every Christian has been given a gift. Every Christian has some expression of the power, glory, and goodness of God. Every Christian has some expression of the strength and beauty of God. Are you a giver? Are you giving in order to increase our joy in God?

Prepare yourself to take the Lord’s Supper by asking

  1. Am I giving God the glory for the good in my life? Then pause and give God praise.
  2. Am I seeking the glory that comes from God or am I trying to be liked by my friends and neighbors? Repent and believe in Jesus when you see your sin.
  3. Am I actively seeking to glorify God by making disciples, by making worshippers? Pray for love, boldness, and opportunities to share the gospel with those around you.

[1] https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/food-assistance

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