Acts Lesson Twenty-six: Acts 12:20-25 – God’s Wrath and Power

20 He had been very angry with the Tyrians and Sidonians. Together they presented themselves before him. They won over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, and through him they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 So on an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a public address to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he became infected with worms and died.  24 Then God’s message flourished and multiplied. 25 After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who is called Mark. (HCSB)

The narrative in this lesson can be divided into two parts.

  • The Power of God’s Wrath – verses 20-23.
  • The Power of God’s Hand – verse 24-25.

The Power of God’s Wrath

As we take a look at this section of the passage, let’s look at the background of Tyre and Sidon to understand their significance to this passage.

  • The relationship between Tyre, Sidon, and Israel goes back to the days of King Solomon as found in 1 Kings 5:9ff.
  • They depended on Israel for food – Ezra 3:7.

Now let’s look at the events in the passage since we understand the background between the parties in question.

  • In some manner, both Tyre and Sidon had angered King Herod. 
  • They were in danger of losing the support and assistance they had been accustomed to from the Jews.
  • In typical political maneuvering, they enlisted one of King Herod’s trusted servants, Blastus, to obtain a chance to plead their case before the king.
  • This meeting would serve a dual purpose.
    • It would enable the king to display his authority and glory.
    • It would enable the delegates from Tyre and Sidon to stroke his ego with flattery.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, provides much greater detail about the meeting.

  • The meeting took place during a festival honoring Claudius Caesar.
  • Herod wore a magnificent silver robe that glistened in the morning sun in honor of the occasion.
  • Because of the sun shining off the robe, the people began to shout, “the voice of a god and not of a man.” Josephus also recorded that the people responded that Herod was more than a mortal.
  • Herod neither affirmed nor denied the accolades from the crowd.
  • Then, looking up, Herod saw an owl.
    • Earlier in his life, when imprisoned in Rome, Herod had seen a vision of an owl and was told by a fellow prisoner that it was a sign of good news.
    • This proved true as he was subsequently released and installed as king in Israel.
    • However, the prisoner also told him that if he saw a vision of an owl a second time, he would only have five days to live.
  • Because Herod accepted the accolades and didn’t give God the glory, an angel of the Lord struck him with an affliction.
  • Herod was then taken to his residence and died five days later.

There is no discrepancy between Luke’s account of being struck at once with an affliction and Herod dying five days later. The angel of the Lord did strike Herod immediately, but the resulting death occurred five days later. One can imagine that Herod suffered for those five days before finally dying.

From this narrative, we can see several points that directly connect to the world we live in today.

  • The Tyrians and Sidonians were only concerned about obtaining food.
  • However, in the quest to obtain the food, they were willing to flatter the ego of a megalomaniac.
  • In this narrative, King Herod is a form of the future “man of sin” who will some day rule the world and persecute God’s people. The antichrist will make himself a god and demand all worship him.
  • Today’s world lives for praise and pleasure. Today’s world lives for the physical and ignores the spiritual. It lives by force and flattery instead of faith and truth.

The Power of God’s Hand

Although this section is only two verses long, but it presents a simple and strong message.

  • The spread of the Gospel message flourished and multiplied. In various places, Luke gives progress reports on the advancement of the Gospel and the state of the church.
    • Acts 6:7
    • Acts 9:31
    • Acts 12:24
    • Acts 16:5
    • Acts 19:20
    • Acts 28:31
    • From its humble beginnings in Jerusalem, the church will spread throughout the known world.
  • At the beginning of Acts 12, it appeared as if Herod was in control. James was executed, and Peter was in prison awaiting execution. By the end of Acts 12, Herod is dead, and the church is very much alive and growing.
  • The secret to the early church was prayer.

Acts 12 concludes with the return of Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark. Some things to note about this verse.

  • It likely occurred a couple of years after the death of Herod.
  • This would agree with the dating of the famine requiring the relief mission by Barnabas and Paul.
  • Evangelism to Judea and Samaria was now well established.
  • The message to the Gentiles had been spearheaded by Philip, Peter, and the church at Antioch.
  • Now, the focus will shift to Paul as he takes the Gospel to the Gentiles and the “ends of the earth.”

Applications

  • Do you focus on the temporal or the eternal? In the case of the Tyrians and Sidonians, the focus was on temporal to the point that they elevated a man to the status of an idol in place of God. This was an indication of faith, or lack of, in not trusting their needs would be provided. 
  • Do you elevate a person to an unhealthy status in your mind? We all have our favorite athletes, singers, actors, etc., but when we put them on a pedestal, we display an unhealthy attitude towards them. Our equality with the most famous or powerful person will be proven when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • How do spiritual storms affect you? Regardless of the trials or tribulations that we face, we need to stand firm in the calling God has placed on each of our lives. It isn’t easy, but as a follower of Jesus, that is the path we need to follow.

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