13. Herod’s Rage and Death (Acts 12:18-25)
18 Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 When Herod had sought for him, and didn’t find him, he examined the guards, and commanded that they should be put to death. He went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there. 20 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. They came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus, the king’s personal aide, their friend, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day, Herod dressed himself in royal clothing, sat on the throne, and gave a speech to them. 22 The people shouted, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he didn’t give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. 24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their service, also taking with them John whose surname was Mark.
If kings do not fear God, they become evil. They sway back and forth between arrogance and fear, between rage and lust. No creature has the right to dominate others. He who does not become broken before God and remain small before his Creator cannot lead others. He becomes more and more puffed up, until he finally bursts.
We read that King Herod wanted to wage war against the Phoenician cities, which were not acting according to his wishes. This country of the Phoenicians was also a Roman protectorate, so he was unable to declare war against it publicly. Thus he began to persecute and torment the Phoenician children dwelling in his country. He made it difficult to travel back and forth between the two regions, and compelled the Lebanese to pay exorbitant taxes. However, the Phoenician traders knew on which side their bread was buttered. They did not go to the king but to his minister, to bribe him, in order to soften and conciliate the ruler. They wanted to see the communication and transport of goods by all means continue.
Finally, the king agreed to restore sound relations between the two countries. He was, nevertheless, determined to teach the Phoenician delegation an unforgettable lesson, that they might know he was a great king. On the occasion of the anniversary of Claudius Caesar’s birthday King Herod, his collaborator, gave orders that the country should celebrate this special event. He demanded the presence of the Phoenician delegation on the second day of the ceremonies, which lasted for a week, and contained games in which prisoners’ blood was shed at the hands of soldiers and lions. The members of the delegation arrived from Tyre and Sidon at the circus of the sport city in Caesarea. There the king was present on his throne, wearing a pompous robe. When the sun shined upon it light reflected with a luster that dazzled the eyes of the spectators. They were awe struck by his appearance, as though he were a glorious angel coming down from heaven.
Fascinated with this royal view, the people applauded and shouted with approval. Some of them called him a god. Suddenly a severe and violent pain in the belly came over this proud king. His servants had to carry him to his palace, where he suffered dire pain in his internal organs. He died after five days in his 54th year. We know from Luke the physician that worms ate him from within - while he was still alive.
God gives earthly authorities a certain time in which they can do as they wish. Those who think they can rise above God have but a short time. Salvation does not come from man, as Hitler said, in referring to himself, but from God alone. He who does not honor his Lord is a devil.
In the final days before the second coming of Christ, a great world ruler will rise. He will sit in the temple and claim to be God and Christ at the same time. He will work great wonders, and force the nations and continents to keep order and peace. The peoples will applaud and praise him, for he will overcome disorder and wars in the world.
Dear brother, do not yield to this mighty and super man. Beware of his words, for in his pride he blasphemes against God. He is a persecutor of Christ’s followers. Be watchful, and leave this false Christ, who tries to usurp the glory of God.
In spite of this boiling-over in the world, the gospel runs like a clear stream. Some people derive from it the water of life, while others throw stones in it. No one, however, can stop or oppose the course of the gospel of salvation, for the word of God is not bound.
The number of believers grows at all times; the gospel becomes embodied in the believer´s behavior. Their testimonies are manifested in their words and in their prayers. Their thankfulness steadily increases. We can say with the Evangelist Luke that the word of God continues to spread and grow. It is our joy to know the news about Jesus is spreading in the world through testimony, teaching, interpretation, prayer, works of patience, and many sacrifices. We thank the Lord Jesus for allowing us to participate in this evangelical revival through newly printed matter, radio programs, and personal contacts. Do you wish to participate, dear brother, dear sister, in spreading the gospel of salvation, so that the word of God may grow today in your surroundings?
It is possible that Barnabas and Saul were present in Palestine when King Herod became haughty and died under God’s judgment. They had brought the gift of money from Antioch in season to Jerusalem, when the tribulation was growing fiercer. They returned thankfully and joyfully to their Antioch church, which became, from that time on, the preaching center of the world.
The young Mark accompanied the two men in order to leave the dangerous region and be trained in preaching. He joined the Antioch church and learned much from Saul and Barnabas. Afterwards he became one of the four gospel evangelists to multiply the word of God and fill the world with it. Today we live from the power which flows through this word.
PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, You are the King of kings and Lord of lords. You are worthy of honor, praise, thanksgiving, and glorification. We worship You, and commit our lives into Your hands, for the sake of Your will. Keep and protect us in body, soul, and spirit, that we may participate in multiplying Your word in our homeland.
- How did the word of God continue to grow in spite of persecution?