Human Pride and Divine Retribution
Acts 12:20-23
And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and…

The main lesson which this incident conveys is the folly of human presumption. But there are side truths which the narrative suggests.

1. The interdependence of one nation on another: "Their country was nourished by the king's country" (ver. 20). One land has metals in abundance; another has corn; another, cotton; another, timber, etc. It was clearly the intention of the Father of all that all peoples should live in close friendship and constant intercourse with one another. Yet the heathen idea was that the natural relation between neighboring nations was war. The motto of Christianity is "Peace;" its spirit is that of brotherhood; its counsel and fruit are active interchange of services and resources.

2. The evil of autocracy: "Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon" (ver. 20). It may have been some slight affront he had received, and which he was determined to avenge. All responsibility rested with him, and the caprice or resentment of one single soul would have been sufficient to plunge the thousands of Tyre and Sidon - men, women, and children - into terror and distress. We may unite to thank God that the sword is being taken out of the hand of the autocrat.

3. The drawbacks to human greatness. Herod Agrippa was a man in a very fine position, and he was no doubt envied by thousands of his subjects; doubtless he often congratulated himself on the success of his subtlety. Yet he was

(1) much at the mercy of venal counselors, - probably rich presents had found their way into the treasury of Blastus before that chamberlain spoke honeyed words of peace in Herod's ear (ver. 20);

(2) the dupe of base flatterers (ver. 22), - he must either have been constantly engaged in weighing words and distinguishing the false from the sincere, or else he must have been continually deceived. But to read the lesson of the text we turn to -

I. THE HEIGHT TO WHICH HUMAN PRESUMPTION WILL RISE. The scene which is briefly sketched in the text (ver. 21) has been more fully described elsewhere (see Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' 2. pp. 315-317). It may seem incredible to those who move in humble spheres that a mortal man could ever be so inflated with a sense of his own greatness as to accept Divine honors when they were offered. History, however, fully proves that arrogance may rise even as high as this. "The spirit of self-exaggeration," "the insolent exaltation of himself," with which Channing charges Napoleon Bonaparte, is a spirit which has been exemplified in every age and nation in greater or less degree. The acquisition of honor does not satisfy but only inflames ambition, and from height to height it rises until, leaving far behind it merely unwarrantable hope, it reaches shameful arrogance and even, as here, a horrible impiety.

II. THE DEPTH TO WHICH IT MUST FALL. It ends in shame and ruin. Sometimes, as here, in terrible torture. It is noticeable that some of the worst persecutors of their race have come to a frightful end at death: witness, Herod the Great; this man, his grandson; Antiochus Epiphanes; Philip II. of Spain, etc. But where this is not the ease, the end is dishonor. God "will not give his glory to another." Pride must perish, and great must be its fall. From its high pedestal it topples down. No angel-hand is needed to secure the overthrow; its foundations are certain to be undermined, and the god who was at the summit lies, a broken and shattered idol, at the base.

III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HEROD'S DEATH. It says to those who wonder at the delays of providence and speak of -

"Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong for ever on the throne," Wait! God will reveal himself in righteousness. Go into the sanctuary (Psalm 73:17); look back on the page of history, and understand their end; and see what "the end of the Lord" is. Wait a while, and the enthroned king, enrobed in tissued silver, receiving the acclamations of the people, accepting their ascriptions of deity - behold! he lies writhing in awful agony; he passes away; he is dust of the ground. And that despised sect, smitten, suffering, degraded - behold! it rises to honor, to power, to influence; it will be enthroned on the intelligence and conscience of mankind. Herod Agrippa gave up the ghost, "but the Word of God grew and multiplied" (ver. 24). - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.

WEB: Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. They came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus, the king's personal aide, their friend, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food.

This World's Honour
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