Summary: Contemporary treatment of Herod’s tragic death. Video clip suggestion, relevant illustrations, practical points of application.
"What do you worship?" Acts 12:20-25
By Pastor Bob Hunter
Suggested Video Clip: "What do you worship?" Available at www.willowvideo.com
Introduction: As we continue our series in Acts, I want to call your attention to rather peculiar death of King Herod the Agrippa. Now, I’m warning you up front, nothing that Herod does or involves himself in is good. He’s a man of great vanity. And has no affection whatsoever for the Church of Jesus Christ. The story appears in the closing verses of Ch.12. Let’s read it together beginning in Vs. 20 (read scripture)
(spoken exerts from the message)
Isn’t that gross? What a terrible and tragic way to die! Of worms, ehh... You’ve probably never heard a sermon from this passage of scripture have you? Only here at Springwater Church, where else? I have to admit, Herod Agrippa’s life is not one that I normally look to draw spiritual inspiration from. But nevertheless, it’s in the Bible. And it’s there for a reason. Much can be learned when we take a closer look at this unusual passage of scripture. Men like Herod teach us how not to live. A closer examination of this story brings to light valuable life lessons.
Let me just take a few moments and fill you in on Herod. The inside scoop is this: Herod Agrippa is grandson of Herod the Great who ruled at the time of Jesus birth. So he’s a different one than your probably familiar with, but with many of the same self serving goals. Not a day goes by that Herod doesn’t think of himself in terms of kingly greatness. Herod is one of the Kings in the Roman Empire, He answers to Claudius in Rome who was the Emperor of Roman rule. History teaches us, that Herod lived a lavish lifestyle, he used money to buy prestige, power and personal comfort. Herod’s spending habits got so out of hand that he landed himself in debt on more than one occasion he had to beg for money to keep favor with the powers that be in Rome. History also teaches us that from time to time, Herod’s vanity brought on spells of rage and depression. Could it be that Herod took out some of his frustrations on the leaders of the Church? He single handedly ordered the execution of James, brother of John, servant of Jesus Christ. James was abruptly put to death by sword. The apostle Peter was next in line, but thanks to an angel he was miraculously set free from prison. Herod’s favorite pastime is persecuting Christians. He feels threatened by it’s growing influence, and sought to bring an end to it.
So at the time of Herod’s death Christianity is spreading throughout the region of Palestine. And of course, Herod feels threatened. In addition to that, there was yet another firestorm brewing. Herod is having an internal battle with the people Tyre and Sidon. They have failed to comply with orders to run the major seaports properly. Herod therefore, threatens to starve them to death by cutting off their food supply. The threat of starving to death is powerfully persuasive and causes both groups of people to quickly reconsider their work habits. In order to secure harmony with Herod, they each round up a group of representatives and travel to Ceasarea to see Herod personally. They intend to renew their loyalty to the King in order to avert a crisis. They just so happen to arrive in the month of March madness. Which happened to be a time of kingly celebration. Each year on this occasion, Herod would put on his best behavior, his best robes and deliver a public address. Sort of like a state of union speech. Only better maybe even a little more elaborate.
So Herod goes before the people telling them how great he is, & how wonderful things are because he’s the king and he’s in charge. He also brags about taking swift action too persecute Christians who stir up dissent, which causes a round of applause to break out among the Jewish authorities. Herod’s speech had a little bit of everything for everybody, but Christians. It was eloquent and persuasive. Powerful and effective. He was born a politician, he knows how to talk. I guess you could say he has a silver tongue. People were so caught up in the moment & enamored with Herod’s greatness that they began proclaim him a god. "Surely the voice of God has spoken to us," they would say. Herod would nod with agreement acknowledging their praise.
And sadly, you know the rest of the story… Because of Herod’s failure to return the praise to God, the Lord, himself abruptly ended his life. The Bible says that Herod was eaten alive by worms and died!!! That’s the gross part, he was eaten by worms. I can’t think of a more humiliating way to die. Many scholars believe that it was unlikely he was eaten by worms on the spot. In all probability, Herod suffered from an intestinal tape worm condition brought on by God’s judgment. And over the course of perhaps a few days, he internally bled to death. Make no mistake, however, this event actually took place. According to many other sources outside the Bible, Herod died this way.