Scripture: Acts 12:18-25
Key verse: (22) “The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!”
Reflection: Today’s reading from Acts is not in my top 10 passages of Scripture. In fact, I’ve never preached this text in my life. I’ve preached about Peter being freed from prison in Acts 12:1-17. I’ve preached about Barnabas and Saul/Paul and their ministry in Cyprus that comes immediately after it, but I’ve never carefully studied Acts 12:18-25. It’s a bizarre story about the death of Herod Agrippa. According to the Roman Historian Josephus, Herod Agrippa died from an illness he contracted in 44 AD immediately after people began proclaiming that he was a god. The writer of Acts inserts this historical episode into Acts 12, reporting that the people of Tyre and Sidon sought reconciliation with Herod because they depended on Judea for their food. So Herod decided to give them an audience, putting on his royal garb and pontificating some royal proclamation. The people responded by claiming he was a god. The Living God responded by giving him a bad case of worms which proved to be fatal. Now you understand why I’ve never preached this passage!
What word might God have to offer us from this strange story rooted in historical fact? There is certainly a warning about confusing the powers of the world with the power of God. The citizens of Tyre and Sidon believed their sustenance came from Herod, not God. In their desperation, they turned Herod from the brutal ruler he was into a false god. Such idolatry can indeed be deadly. What challenges do we face that leave us desperate? To whom do we turn in our desperation? Surely help comes in many forms, but we must never confuse the means by which we receive our help with the God from whom it comes. In the passage, despite squads of soldiers deployed to arrest Peter and keep him imprisoned, despite the brutality of Herod Agrippa and his bombastic proclamations, the Word of God continues to advance, for the Gospel cannot be contained by any earthly power.
Prayer: O God, when we feel tempted to give our allegiance to any earthly power, remind us that you alone are God, from you all blessings come, and to you alone be all glory and honor. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].