Summary: Criteria for real greatness
“Herod the Great”? It Depends on One’s Perspective
1. Greatness from the world’s perspective is very different from greatness in eyes of God. Consider how some people might have considered Herod a great man. Here was an individual who was keenly fond of popularity. Through shrewd political maneuvers he received power from the Emperor to enlarge his dominion by adding Judea, Samaria and Abylene. His realm was almost as great as His grandfather’s Herod the Great. He was so ambitious to please most of his Jewish cronies that he became a harsh persecutor of the Christians in Jerusalem. “Herod stretched forth his hands to vex (maltreat, exasperate) or mistreat the Christians.” (Acts 12:1) He had James killed with the sword and because he saw it pleased the Jews he also took Peter thinking to slay him after Passover, but God delivered him. He was a man who enjoyed the limelight. While offering vows for the safety and prosperity of Emperor Claudius, he was decked out in a garment made completely of silver so that when the sun’s rays touched his robe people cried out, “He was a god.” Herod was so great in his own eyes that he did not reject peoples’ impious flattery.” (Acts 12:19-23) Herod thought he was so great that he did not even bother to inquire if James or Peter were in the right or wrong. Peter eventually wrote, “For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you at the proper time.” (I Pet. 5:6) Ask the Lord to help you learn to avoid any temptations to seek great things for yourself. God told Jeremiah, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not for behold I will pour out evil upon all flesh.” (Jer. 45:5) Ask the Lord to help you to avoid the errors of seeking greatness for yourself in self-aggrandizing ways.
2. Herod failed to take account of the great things God had done through the apostles. The king completely ignored the fact that James and Peter had God inspired credentials. These men had been with Jesus Christ and were leaders in the new Christian church. Miraculous powers had been seen through the work of their faith, but Herod chose to overlook these truths. How often do people in “great positions” of authority overlook what is true, inspired and “great in the eyes of God”. Herod’s self-inflated ego led him to self-injurious arrogance that showed up in self-destructive attitudes, perspectives and behavior. Ask the Lord to help you to avoid any trace of self-destructive perspectives.
3. Herod’s faulty assumptions led him to perpetuate one of the cruelest eras in history. False greatness contributes to cruelness. Herod had Jame’s head cut off with a sword in a bloody display for all to witness. So much of the verbal, emotional and physical abuse that goes on today is a result of false assumptions about the greatness that parents, bosses or leaders have about themselves. God fights against the cruelness of man with powerful ferocity. Ask the Lord to fight for you against any abuse you are experiencing.
4. Herod was a miserable man because he sought his own greatness rather than God’s glory. Despite all the power, splendor and majesty, here was a miserable man who could not find the key to fulfillment. Ask the Lord to help you to teach people about the futility of human greatness whether it be in personal, financial, political or social terms.
5. Herod gave shame a deeper meaning as he brazenly displayed it on the highest levels in Jerusalem. Few other despots can equal the shame, disgrace and repugnance brought to the highest office in Israel. More grief, lament and prostituting of justice went on in his four years than few can recall. When people think they can win greatness at the expense of innocence, justice and the loving kindness of Jesus they are dead wrong. Ask the Lord to help you avoid bringing any kind of shame or disgrace to your people or position.
6. Herod learned that his greatness could not keep Peter imprisoned when God was against Him. All the greatness in the world means little when God is not on one’s side. Ask the Lord to help you to be contented with a humble position of service if it can contribute to the cause of Christ. Remember the temptations of greatness that have such a horrible legacy. One day, God had enough and sent his angel to deal with Herod, “When the people cried out, “Herod has the voice of a god and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied.” (Acts 12:22-24) Be assured that God will humble those who think they are great and exalt those who are eager to advance the greatness of God, His word and His kingdom.