“Word for Today” – Acts 12 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 6, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Herod Agrippa 1He was a politician of virtually unmatched savvy.  Indeed, he used his savvy to eventually become the ruler of all Palestine.  But his road to the top was a rocky one.  When he was only three years old, he saw his grandfather, Herod the Great, kill his father, Aristobulus.  As a young man, he went into severe debt.  In those days, creditors were authorized to either kill you or put you in prison if you didn’t pay up, and so he was thrown into prison for about seven months as punishment for his debt.  But right around the time he was released from prison, an old friend of his named Caligula became emperor of Rome.  And he leveraged this friendship to become ruler of a little tract of land in northern Palestine called Traconitis.  He later added Galilee and Perea to his real estate portfolio, and then finally Judea and Samaria.  In a few short years, he had gone from languishing in a dungeon to being the king of Palestine.  His name was Herod Agrippa.

After becoming ruler of Palestine, Herod Agrippa spent much of his reign further consolidating and securing his power. He built a theatre, an amphitheatre, baths and porticoes, and finally finished an aqueduct begun by his grandfather.  Yes, Herod was an impressive ruler.

As such an impressive – and successful, I might add – ruler, Herod regularly received adamant adulation from his subjects.  Our reading for today from Acts 12 tells of one such instance:

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (verses 21-23)

All of Herod’s political savvy, it seems, could not compensate for his theological blasphemy.  Interestingly, the Bible not only records this event, the first century Jewish historian Josephus also mentions it:

Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater 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, that he was a god…Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery…A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner…And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life. (Josephus, Antiquities, 19.343-352)

Whether it be Josephus’ account or the Scriptural one, the implication is clear:  Herod’s failure to give glory to God resulted in judgment from God.  Herod died.  And all of his theatres and amphitheatre, baths and porticoes, aqueducts and real estate holdings got passed on to someone else.

At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, it is our tradition to append the Chronicler’s cry to God:  “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen” (1 Chronicles 29:11).  It is this cry that Herod failed to heed.  For instead of declaring that the kingdom, power, and glory were God’s, he acted as if the kingdom, power, and glory were his.  After all, his rags to riches story surely deserved the praise of his subjects, right?  Not from God’s perspective.  For it is God who “sets up kings and deposes them” (Daniel 2:21).  Herod’s power was the result of God’s grace, not of his political savvy.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism commences famously with these words:  “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Do we glorify God in all we do?  Or do we, like Herod, say not “thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,” but “mine is the kingdom and the power and the glory”?  Today, as you go about your daily business, ask, “How can this task, this work, this deal, or this appointment glorify God?”  For long after the kingdoms of this world crumble, God’s glory will remain.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 11 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 13 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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