The text for this sermon comes from Acts 12:20-25.
vs. 20 Tyre and Sidon were under Roman rule. (oppression) We do not know the exact thing provoked Herod to be angry with them or if it was a list of things. However, being the proud, selfish man that he was, Herod took their offense as personal. Even if this matter was insignificant, Herod would have easily blown it out of proportion. He was one looking to pick a fight.
Tyre and Sidon are trading cities and had little land belonging to them. The people of Tyre and Sidon could not grow enough food and make enough bread to sustain their way of life. There was more people than food. They had to depend on Herod for food. Ezekiel wrote that Israel and Judah traded in their markets with wheat, honey and oil. But, Tyre and Sidon still had to depend on the exportation of corn from Canaan. Herod could easily pass a law that would stop the exporting of corn to Tyre and Sidon. A man as proud and revengeful as he just might do. If such a law were to be passed, both of their economies would be wrecked and the populations would die of starvation.
They need to do something to settle the dispute between their cities and Herod.
The people of Tyre and Sidon got to the King’s chamberlain. Blastus. He was the King’s personal assistant. They probably showered Blastus with bribes and personal gifts to gain time to persuade him to go the King on their behalf. Holding the position that he did, Blastus was able to arrange a meeting with the King and the people of Tyre and Sidon.
vs. 21-22 Herod delivered an oration to the people of Tyre and Sidon. His speech was both formal and elaborate. He was most likely a good communicator.
Josephus, an early church writer, records for us that Herod went out of his way for this occasion. The robe that he wore, was so richly designed and laden in silver that when the sun hit it, it sparkled so much that the bright light was more than enough to dazzle any spectator. This would be the reason that they were calling him a god.
vs. 23 Herod was soaking in the praise. The people wrongly thought his dress and actions of forgiveness ranked him with gods or God.
Herod’s pride was stroked. He devoured the flattery and the glory that the people were giving.
How often do we falsely give glory to men instead of God. We saturate people with it. Parents, children, athletes, pastors and evangelists, national leaders…these people are wrongly elevated to a platform that demands worship. They can become idols.
Worship of a man as deity robs God of the glory that is due Him. It also hurts the person that gets the glory because they become filled to overflowing with pride and are in a position of being used as a vessel of the devil.
If you look at the passage, verse 23, Herod was pleased with himself. Pleased of the speech he gave, pleased in his image, he was pleased that the praises that were due God were lavished on him.
The sin here is that Herod said nothing. He did not rebuke the people for calling him a god. Nor did he redirect their worship to the One True God.
Herod was struck down immediately. The order came from Jesus Himself. Jesus is the perfect judge and all judgment is given by Jesus. God is jealous for His own glory and honor. The Potter will not allow the clay to take honor and glory away that should rightfully be given to Him. Angels will do all they are commanded by God. Angels are jealous for and will also protect the glory and honor that should belong to God.
The worms ate Herod from the inside out. Josephus writes that after the speech was over, Herod doubles over in pain feeling intense pain in his stomach and bowels. The pain did not cease until Herod died.
Herod was dealt with severely for how he persecuted the church, the death of James, the intent to kill Peter, and for all his other actions for oppressing the people.
God deals with all people justly in His time. Here he deals with Herod immediately.
vs. 24-25 After Stephen was killed, the gospel spread and the church grew.
Now James has been killed and the gospel spreads again and the church continues to grow.
The more the church is persecuted, the more the gospel is shared. The more the church is persecuted, the more the church is multiplied.
The death of Herod was seen by some as God dealing severely with such a persecutor. Upon Herod’s death, many were drawn to Christ.
vs. 26 Saul and Barnabas had completed their mission in Jerusalem. They returned to Antioch. This time, they brought Mark back with them. It is believed that God had called Mark into the work of the ministry. So, Saul and Barnabas took Mark with them because there is no better way to learn how to do ministry than to do it.