Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country. So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:20-23)
Modern Day Despots
Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great serving as king of Judea and Samaria. Having rule of these areas gave him great power, influence and authority to impose his will upon his subjects. He was of a powerful family courting with the Caesars of the day from Augustus, Caligula and Claudius. The historian Luke records Herod stretching out his hand to harass or afflict certain ones of the early church of Christ. His first act was to arrest and execute James the brother of John. Seeing this pleased the Jews Herod decided to arrest Peter with the plan to bring the apostle before the people after the Passover. God intervened and delivered Peter from the hand of the king. Afterwards he traveled to Caesarea and received an envoy from the cities of Tyre and Sidon seeking peace. On a set day Herod arrayed himself in his royal apparel and gave an oration to the people. They shouted, “The voice of a god and not a man.” It was then God struck Herod and being eaten of worms died a miserable death. As a result of Herod’s death the word of God grew and the church he sought to afflict multiplied. God’s hand showed its power among the people, Jew and Gentile.
What is striking about the story of Herod was he was a man of immense power over the people and he faced the same consequence as all men. The unusual part of his story is the Lord struck him dead over his pride and arrogance. A lesson learned from Herod is that all despots will have their day before the Lord. Judgment comes to all men whether they are good or evil. The king was feared but he did not fear God. He may have ruled with an arrogant pride making him to be a self-centered individual but again he suffered the same fate as the lowly humble man – he died. The irony of those who fill their lives with their own self-worth is they all will face the same Lord. God is not a respecter of persons. The proud, the arrogant, boastful, haughty and powerful depots will stand before the same merciful God that judges the humble, lowly servant among all men.
The angels laugh when they see the pride of men. When a man exalts himself as if he is a god, his end is the same as those he oppresses. The pharaoh’s of Egypt exalted themselves as gods but they died like men. When the Roman Caesars exalted their positions to be called gods they found the same judgment as the common man. The powerful, rich and brutal people tyrannizing others will enjoy a whisper of glory in this life until death introduces them to the Lord God Judge who is greater than anything they could have ever imagined. What has become of the nations of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome? The U. S. S. R. is no more, Hitler disappearing in the ashes of yesterday, Imperial Japan forgotten and the dictators of today falling one by one. Those who rule with fear today have an appointment to keep. Death is the common factor of all men regardless of their power, riches and oppressive rule. All men will die. All men will face God. All men will be judged. The last thing Herod Agrippa I heard were the adulation’s of the people before the most horrible thing imaginable happened. Then he died and he heard the voice of the true God.