Today we get to look at an ugly heart; the heart of Herod Agrippa I. He was only in his position of Herod for three years, but that was more than enough time for the church to have to deal with him. God cut his reign short.
The Herods were not Jewish but Edomites by birth but ruled in Judea during the life of Jesus and the early church. The very first Herod, Herod the Great, was appointed by the Roman Senate as King of Judea in 40 B.C. His family line carried on the position to its conclusion in about 93/94 A.D. The last of the Herods was Herod Agrippa II who sent Paul on to Rome to stand before Caesar. Herod Agrippa II died childless and only had sisters so the line of Herod ended with him.
The title Herod does NOT conjure up “warm fuzzy feelings” when heard. It brings images of children being killed, John the Baptist’s murder, Jesus’ trial and mockery, James the apostle’s death and persecution of the church. The only halfway decent act that springs to my mind was when Herod Agrippa II refrained from killing Paul. He only did that because Paul invoked his citizenship as a Roman when on trial. Of course we know that was all part of God’s plan all along to spread the gospel even further to the Gentiles.
As ugly as this dynasty was they too were a part of God’s plan. I’m not saying that God sanctioned all that they would do but some of their actions were already foretold in prophecy, the most notable one being the death of all male children two years and under in and around Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ visitation by the magi. The Herods fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy about the persecution of the church. None more so than the Herod we are meeting in today’s reading.
Did you ever notice that God has a way of dealing with those who hurt His own? “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Deut. 32:32). Herod Antipas 1st finds that out personally in today’s account. This Herod was famous for his persecution of the church, including the death of James. But his end doesn’t come on the heels of James’ death or even some egregious act against the church. His “foot slips” when he allows others to place him in the place of God.
“On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ 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” (verses 21-23).
God waited until just the right time to take vengeance on Herod. He did it before His own people and in THEIR response to Herod. We have no idea what Herod said that day that so tickled the people’s ears but we can be pretty sure they were Jewish people making that proclamation. Herod’s throne was in Judea and he was ruler over the Jews; the very people of God.
If Herod had stood up and tried to stop them there would have been a different end but he believed his own “press.” He was more than content to let the people exalt him. He was so proud of himself that his royal robes were actually made of silver. This tidbit is brought to us by the Jewish historian Josephus from his writings of The Antiquities of the Jews. According to his account it actually took five days for Herod to die but it started immediately after he didn’t rebuke the people from praising him as a god. God DOES NOT share his title with any man! I believe Herod was also paying for his crimes against the body of Christ.
In the meantime the body of Christ was growing. Saul, Barnabas and John Mark had just delivered the assistance received in Antioch to the church in Jerusalem. They were about to step into their role as missionaries. I don’t doubt the removal of Herod Agrippa 1st made that work easier.
Father God, I know I got mired down in research today trying to figure out who was who. It was also interesting to see the writings of a non-Christian and how events were related through his eyes. I had heard of Josephus on several occasions but had never actually seen his writings. Thank You for broadening my horizon. In NO way does his account take away from those of Your servants. They just add a little extra to the story.
Thank You Lord that You DO take up for Your people. Even if we don’t see the result in our time we can be certain that You are just and will repay for the wrongs done to Your children. Thank You too for Your forgiveness and mercy. Without these I would be “worm food” too. Not that I have ever claimed or allowed anyone to claim I was God but my sins were MANY until You washed them away. Thank You! Whenever I am tempted to judge remind me of this fact Father.