Acts 12:20 ¶ Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.
Acts 12:21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them.
Acts 12:22 The people kept shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!”
Acts 12:23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
Christians would have been living in the region of Tyre and Sidon and would have been suffering the consequence of a strained relationship with Herod. He was certainly no friend to the Christians having already murdered James and put Peter in prison. This man’s continued leadership could, quite possibly, mean terrible persecution for Jesus’ followers.
Evidently there was some kind of a dispute with the people of Tyre and Sidon and while they were autonomous towns, they had were part of the Roman Empire. They were not allowed to go to war but Herod had, for some reason, restricted their economies and they were struggling to have enough food. Wanting to come to some kind of a compromise with the man they probably bribed Blastus. Blastus’ position was that of right-hand assistant to Herod. He was highly influential and so, while Herod was often unreasonable, the leadership of Tyre and Sidon found a reasonable individual in Blastus. He worked to bring about reconciliation between Herod and these cities which included an event at which Herod would try to impress the people with his great wealth and authority.
All of Herod’s power had made him extremely prideful and this became his downfall. He allowed the praise that was due God to be showered on him. He ended up dying a horrible death and not only Tyre and Sidon, but the Christians of that area were set free from his tyranny. God had provided.
We must be careful not to try and take matters into our own hands, when God can and does make provision for our needs. We don’t know the back story to what happened but I can only imagine it had to do with little prayer meetings of disciples who were crying out to God for his help. The chapter opens with the story of Peter’s release from prison. God had provided! It ends with the death of the one who had orchestrated Peter’s imprisonment. God had provided! Neither Peter’s release from prison nor the death of Herod would have been anticipated.
The ways in which God’s provision is revealed may be different in each and every circumstance and sometimes we simply don’t understand what is really going on. Why is it that James had to die? Where was God’s provision in his life? We don’t know — all we know is that James becomes the first Apostle to be martyred. However, after his death God provides for Peter and then for the Christian community in Tyre and Sidon — and beyond with the death of Herod. We see Herod being punished for his outrageous behavior.
I’ll be honest with you — I don’t know what to do with James in this story. Why does God seem to provide for some and not for others? I don’t know but I know that there is a bigger picture that we don’t understand and my job is to trust in him. Peter trusted in the Lord and was let out of prison so that he could go on to preach to many more people. In the end he was not spared and history tells us that he was crucified upside down.
The people of Tyre and Sidon were spared economic calamity - at least for a time. The Jewish Christians running from the persecutions in Jerusalem were now able to find peace and food in these cities. God had provided and the word about Jesus was spreading.
Ultimately the lesson becomes one of trust — trusting in the God who provides. We may not always understand the ways of God, but we are to trust! We may never expect God to work in particular ways — but he provides.
Lord, may I keep my eyes focused on you and you alone. May I trust you to take care of things around me. Amen.