Sermon: God Will Not Share His Glory (Acts 12)

God Will Not Share His Glory

Acts 12

Introduction

In the quest for Gospel expansion among the nations and among the Jews, Luke shows us an account where God displays His power and overcomes one of the most powerful kings of the day.  This king prided himself with displaying his power and his glory.  Sadly to say, this king opposed God.  Guess who wins and guess who looses?  If you oppose God, you will loose.

TT- We must seek to glorify God and always resist the temptation to glorify ourselves.

Human need met by text

Because of the fall, we all seek the praise of men.  The decisions we make, words we speak, thing we do revolve around our fear of man.  We do what we do with the intent of getting people to like us.  This is sin.  This is what we must resist.  We must seek to please God and not people.  We must long to glorify God and not hear people glorifying us.  This is a very serious sin in most our lives.  Today we’ll see a man who longed for the praise of men and despised God.

Brothers and sisters, that’s the real issue.  When we want people to praise us then we are seeking to dethrone God and sit ourselves in His place.

Acts 12:1-25 (ESV)
1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.
2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword,
3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.
8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.
11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.
19 And 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.

20 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.
21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.
22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”
23 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.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

1. Herod, the King of Self-exaltation

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.
2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword,
3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
5 So Peter was kept in prison,

Those who seek to exalt themselves will always be in direct opposition to the church.  This is because the goal of the church is to seek humility and give glory to God.  Herod hated the church.  This Herod is Herod Agrippa grandson of Herod the Great. The church sought to glorify God and he desired to be glorified.  The church praised God while Herod desired the praise of men.

“Josephus, Ant.19.8.2 (19.343-352), states that Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in a.d. 44. The account by Josephus, while not identical to Luke’s account, is similar in many respects: On the second day of a festival, Herod Agrippa appeared in the theater with a robe made of silver. When it sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries and declared him to be a god.

Herod who desired the praise that is due only to God, struck down James with the sword.  Herod killing James was to fulfill what Jesus said a few years earlier…

Mark 10:35-39 (ESV)
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”
37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,

The death of James was according to the divine plan of God.

I’m sure the death of James created a large stir within the Church in Jerusalem.  They had already lost Stephen, a man filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  They had also lost others not mentioned by name in Scripture.  Now, they have lost James.  It seems at least on the surface that Herod is winning and that the Church should run and hide.  The early church needed to be reminded who is in charge.

Herod loved the results of killing James.  The results were that the Jews loved it.  So when Herod discovered that his popularity grew and the people praised him whenever he had James killed, then he went after others.  When he went fishing for others, he caught the record fish, Peter.

Peter would be Herod’s most prized trophy and if the people like him when he had James killed what sort of praises would they lavish on him when he killed Peter?

3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
5 So Peter was kept in prison,

Herod had Peter well guarded and did not want to take any chances of him escaping or the church storming in to rescue him.  The prison was so well locked down and so well guarded that man’s attempt to escape or to rescue Peter was futile.

Herod’s attitude was that like the bold brashness of those who claimed not even God could sink the Titanic.  No one could rescue Peter.  Peter would become a spectacle when he was put to death publically while the Jews cheered.  That was the plan.  But Herod was not god…

2. God’s Angel Springs Peter with Ease

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.
8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.
Herod had four squads of guards, sentries, iron bars, gates, walls… but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Herod thought his prize was ready for public display but God had something else in mind.

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night,

I can hear God saying, Oh no Herod, you’re not going to bring Peter out for public display and execution, I’m going to bring him out.  When I open the door and escort Peter out of the prison I will set him free.

Notice how easy it is for God to free Peter from Herod’s impenetrable prison…

“Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.
10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord,

God freed Peter in a moment without the least little bit of trouble.

3. Meanwhile Back at the Prayer Meeting…

11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
Herod is about to look really bad in front of the people.  His prize has come up missing.  11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
I always find it somewhat surprising that the chains fell off and the gate of the city opened by itself but here, the gate to the church house is shut.  Peter knocks and when Rhoda, the servant girl answers and sees Peter, she’s so excited that she forgets to let him in and he has to keep knocking.

Inside the home, they are praying so diligently that when the answer to their prayers is standing at their door, they don’t believe it.

Do you ever pray like that?  You pray and pray and almost don’t expect God to answer.  Here they were praying for Peter’s release because they new what happened to Steven and James when the Jews were involved.

Peter explains to the church what had happened and how the angel freed him.

4.  Herod, the King Eaten by Worms

18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.
19 And 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.

20 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.
21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.
22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”
23 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.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Herod’s prize catch had gotten away.  And oh how this angered Herod.  He was so angry that he had all the guards killed who were to be in charge of Peter.  So, humiliated, he had to get away for a while.

Scripture tells us that he went to Caesarea where everyone liked him.  Or we should say, everyone liked the food.  This could have very well been during the famine spoken of in the previous chapter.  At any rate, Tyre and Sidon, self-governing providences needed to secure Herod’s favor in order to maintain an income of food.

So the day came when Herod would sit on his throne dressed in his royal robe and give a speech.  In order to get on the king’s good side, notice what the people from Tyre and Sidon chanted…

22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”

Again Josephus the historian explains what they said to Herod…He notes,

The king’s flatterers were astonished at the radiance of his silver robe when it was touched by the first rays of the rising sun and addressed him as a god, crying out, ‘Be gracious to us!  Hitherto we have reverenced you as a human being, but henceforth we confess you to be of more than mortal nature.’

The same angel who sprung Peter so easily, with a finger’s worth of effort struck down great king Herod.  No longer would this self-glorifying man be proud and defy God.  No longer would he kill God’s servant.  No longer could he stand in front of the mirror looking at his robe glisten in the sun.  Now, God had struck him down and worms would eat this once mighty king.

Tyre and Sidon should not depend on Herod for food but on God.

This was the end of Herod…

Notice what Luke reports,

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
We must always remember that God is who we should place our trust and faith in.  Men cannot give us food, only God can do that.  Only God can meet all of our needs.

Herod was all about Herod.  He wanted the glory for himself.  Herod lost.

TT- We must seek to glorify God and always resist the temptation to glorify ourselves.

 

 

LORD’S SUPPER

 

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