Saturday, April 25, 2020

Herod's ignominious end

Herod’s reign came to an ignominious end “because he did not give glory to God” (Acts 12:23). No doubt he gloried, instead, in his own vanity, relishing the accolades of the crowd shouting, “The voice of a god, and not a man!” (Acts 12:22). It was precisely the kind of praise Herod wanted from “the people of Tyre and Sidon” who had come to him to ask for peace. It was a coerced form of praise, however. Herod staged the event. He “put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them” (Acts 12:21)

It was the perfect setting for a king to garner the praise of his fickle subjects. “Look at me!” Herod was saying. “See my flowing robes. Look at my glorious throne. Hear my voice. Am I not a god to you? Do I not deserve your praise and adoration?”

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Herod got the praise of the people, but his own failure to praise God cost him his life. As the people gloried in his vanity, Herod was struck down by “an angel of the Lord.” God tolerated no pretenders. To him alone belonged the glory, but his striking down of Herod was no mere act of petulant jealousy. In failing to give glory to God, Herod was failing the people. He was causing them to bow at the feet of a mere man and proclaim him a god. In pouring out his wrath upon Herod, God was showing mercy to the people who had been acting out of ignorance.

Herod’s rotting corpse was “eaten by worms.” In fact, a strict reading of the text suggests the worms starting feasting on him even before “he breathed his last.” Whatever the order of events, it was a gruesome end (cf. Acts 12:23).

“But the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). Did the people, having seen Herod struck down, then glorify God? Perhaps some did but, as was so often the case during Jesus’ ministry, some people were hard of hearing even when God spoke through the Person of his own Son.

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