There are people who die some very gruesome deaths in Scripture–Eglon, Jezebel, the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19, Judas, and others, too. But maybe none is more disturbing than the death of Herod the Great. A wicked, godless ruler, Herod Agrippa I had just overseen the execution of the apostle James and intended to do the same to Peter. About this time, Tyre and Sidon sought to appease and flatter him, subjugated people in need of food from Galilee but who had somehow offended this Judean king.
What happens next is recorded in Acts 12:21-23, but is also found in The Works of Josephus.
Josephus writes that at a festival in honor of Caesar, Herod appeared before the people in “a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful” (344). The sunlight hit the garment making it shine “after a surprising manner” and caused the crowd to spontaneously shout that he was a god. The people cried, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature” (345).
Josephus says that after he had not rejected their praise, “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner” (346). His pain then became violent and severe, and he lingered five days before he died at the age of 45 in A.D. 44 (347). The inspired Luke tells us the cause of death–“He was eaten with worms” (Acts 12:23). Why? Because he did not give God the glory!
When I understand God’s reaction to those who take for themselves glory that only belongs to God, it should humble me to the core! If it is a sermon, a program, an idea, an act of kindness or benevolence, a rendered service, an article, a Bible class, a Bible study, an evangelistic success, or any spiritual triumph, I should go the second-mile to deflect and divert that praise! We who preach, teach, and otherwise serve the Lord in any way on any occasion must have a healthy sense of who we are. Paul says that we have the glorious gospel treasure “in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7).
May we be deeply impressed with that, especially when faced with the flattery and praise of men. The sports analogy, “Don’t believe your own press clippings,” holds true. Paul was quick to deflect such praise, saying, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5-6).
The next time we are tempted to be a “Glory Hog,” may these biblical truths rush to the forefront of our minds. After all, thanks to Herod’s demise, we know how God feels about it. To God truly be the glory!