In Acts 12:23 King Herod (Agrippa the first) was struck down “by an angel of the Lord,” and “he was eaten by worms and died.”
The reason for his quick and awful death, and why one of God’s angels was directly involved in it as well, is made clear in verse 22. At the end of a rousing speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon (verses 20-21), Herod, all dressed up in his silver robes sparkling in the sunlight and looking very regal on his throne, laps up the grovelling applause of his needy audience and their cries of “This is the voice of a god, not a man.”
He didn’t deny it either, which wasn’t a smart move on his part, because he was “immediately” infested by an angel with voracious maggots for not “giving praise to God,” verse 23. And clearly there’s a vital lesson here that the Holy Spirit wants to get across, because it’s placed right after the story of Peter being rescued by an angel in response to “the church earnestly praying to God for him” (verse 5).
It’s quite a contrast between what happened when people recognized their human helplessness and believed that only God could help them, compared to what happened to a man who liked to think he was God and could act as he jolly well pleased.
It should send shivers up the spine of anyone in power from this point on, whether it be national leaders, corporate bosses, social influencers, billionaires and celebrities, or judges and police chiefs, that God does not take anyone thinking they are gods lightly. He knows exactly what they’re up to, and if it’s not acknowledging their need for his help and guidance then they’d better be prepared for anything to happen, including the direct involvement of angels.
And if they think that’s all just huff and puff and empty threats, look at what’s happening in our world today. Greedy, deceitful, God-ignoring liars and hypocrites are being exposed at all levels, in nations, world health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, family destroying policy makers, and lobbyists for all sorts of divisive, chaos causing agendas. The awful result is increasing distrust for all our respected institutions, and increasing anger threatening civil wars, humiliation for arrogant leaders, and maybe even the collapse of proud and powerful empires.
And in all the present chaos of the pandemic, where scientists, medical advisers and politicians are unable to agree on any course of action that doesn’t involve further risk to physical and mental health, or to the global economy present and future, has anyone in leadership acknowledged or even mildly suggested we might need help from God? “Oh no, no no, don’t bring God into the equation; we are gods, we will see this through.” But at what cost and more heartbreaking and unnecessary suffering?
Acts 12 was put in there for a reason by a loving, merciful God, as both a warning to those who think they’re gods and as reassurance to those who accept their need for God, that God notices, he responds, and he has multiple millions of angels at his command that he can send to aid, encourage and intervene for those who earnestly seek his help, or, as we see in the case of King Herod, cause the cruel and arrogant to fall.
It is also a great lesson for the church, which has also had its share of arrogant and cruel leaders through the centuries, and in our day as well, where religious people in power have exploited it for their own ends and believe they’re above the law. But in a moment their hypocrisy is exposed, as if God is saying, “That’s enough of that garbage,” and down they fall to become blips in history or referred to forever as fools.
No wonder we’re asked to pray for those in power, because they are under such huge temptation and are easy prey for the “great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking for someone to devour,” 1 Peter 5:8. He’s the enemy, and if only our human institutions recognized that, and how earnestly, therefore, they need the help of God too.