Acts 12:18-24 [After killing James, imprisoning Peter, and killing the guards after an angel freed Peter] Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon … He put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. … So he died. Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.
I’ve laughed at Rhoda and the believers who prayed for Peter to be released from jail and then said “It’s impossible” when God did what they asked. But the context for that amusing scene is anything but funny. Their local Judean king was willing to do anything, even kill people, to feed his own ego. This is the same Herod who killed John the Baptist to entertain a drunken crowd.
Thinking of how much God dislikes arrogance, abuse and tyranny, I wonder how he views situations like Venezuela, where the suffering goes on and on. Our friends there constantly challenge us with their belief that God is working through their suffering. They speak more about being found faithful as they reach out in love to those around them than about ending the pain. I am humbled by their faith and service and perspective.
It’s clear from this story that God sees what’s going on in our world. That’s as true today as it was two thousand years ago. But he doesn’t act according to our limited wisdom. He sees everything, without bias or favoritism. Once again today, I’m invited to trust him.
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29). George MacDonald, the man who most inspired C.S. Lewis, said in response to verse 29, this consuming fire is essential love, burning out of us all idolatry so we can see and love him in truth. “Love loves unto purity … He doesn’t put on a mask. He puts on a face.”
Lord, burn out of me all that loves comfort and safety more than you. I want to see your face.