As Acts 12 draws to a close we read of a strong contrast. It begins with the people of Tyre and Sidon trying to impress and please Herod in order to secure food (v.20). They are granted their audience with the monarch and he begins to speak (v.21). As this continues they are heaping praises upon him – to secure their food – and Herod laps this up (v.22). Instead of deflecting the praises to the place they were truly due, Herod took them for himself. We then read that
“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck Herod down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died”.
(Acts 12.23, NET)
It might seem easy to write this off as some kind of hyped-up account of how a pretty anti-Christian king died given that it appears in a very pro-Christian document, but, Roman historian Josephus, writing without the church-forwarding thrust of Luke, states this about Herod’s death:
“He put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god…A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner… when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life”.
In contrast to Herod’s documented demise the Word of God increased and multiplied.
Fighting against the progress of the Gospel is pointless, futile, and always comes to nothing (Acts 5.38-39). Many have tried but all have failed. History is littered with those who tried to convince others that they were truly in charge, that they deserved the praises due only to God, or that God was actually just an illusion. Read about the deaths of philosopher Fredrick Nietsche or authors Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway and see that fighting against God never turns out well.
The contrast is clear and presents us with a choice: we can join with the world and defy God and try to take His place, or, we can be people of the Word which is always going to increase and multiply. We can take the glory of life’s successes for ourselves, or we can give them to the One who whom they are truly due.