King Herod’s prize prisoner has walked miraculously out of prison past unfettered chains, sleeping guards, and locked iron gates. This will not be a good day for the king – nor the guards:
“Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. After Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there” (Ac 12:18-19).
It appears that Herod views the disappearance of Peter more like a fly in the king’s ointment than a major political problem. He will worry about those Christians later. For now, he has a more pressing matter to address:
“Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food” (Ac 12:20).
We can picture Herod thrusting out his chest and thinking, “Ah, this is more like it! Needy worms who come crawling to me after making me angry. These people know how to respond to power! I will remind them of who is the boss!”
“On an appointed day, Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man’” (Ac 12:21-22)!
The moment is flush with intrigue. Do the people of Tyre and Sidon actually believe that Herod is a god, or are they mocking him while assuaging Herod’s anger in order to get food? Or is God using these people for his purposes against Herod? We can picture Herod basking in and soaking up the shouts of the crowd:
“Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last”. (Ac 12:23).
Whether or not the people are mocking Herod or truly worshiping him, Herod does not see the temptation and disobedience that leads to disunity from God. He believes he is God.
There are real penalties for disunity from God!
It may even be that God’s judgment of an important leader in the absence of repentance leads to the flourishing of those who have chosen the right path at the fork in the road to perfect unity with God:
“But the word of God increased and multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name is Mark” (Ac 12:24-25).
The fall of Herod means, at least for now, a significant reduction in the persecution in Caesarea that caused Barnabas and Saul to flee. Upon their return, the stage is now set for Paul’s first missionary journey.
In our day, God continues to test important leaders at the fork in the road that leads to either disunity from God or perfect unity with God. Persecution may arise as part of the test. But faithful endurance leads to the assurance that God is in full control.
For those who persevere at the fork in the road toward repentance and the never-ending love of God to perfect unity with God and with each other, a golden age and missionary journey lies straight ahead.
Consider carefully the eternal penalties of one fork and the eternal blessings at the other fork.
It depends entirely on making sure that we give God all the glory and not hijacking it for ourselves!