Worm Food – Herod’s Humiliation

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Worm Food – Herod’s Humiliation

Herod’s actions defying God’s sovereignty made him a marked man. Unbeknownst to Herod, God had him lined up in His crosshairs for public elimination. Herod was about to be blindsided by public humiliation and death, with both history and Scripture recording one of the most unusual and terrifying deaths ever.

Ironically, Herod perceived himself to be firmly in control and he truly thought he was on top of the world. His perception had worldly justification – he wielded power not only over Israel, but other nations as well. At the time, he was quarreling with the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon and was threatening to punish them by starvation. Israel was their only source of grain and Herod had the power to cut off their supply at his whim.

Knowing he had the upper hand, Herod became haughty in spirit just before his fall (Proverbs 16:18). When the men of Tyre and Sidon begged for mercy and submitted to Herod’s demands, Herod maximized the impact of what today we would call a “photo op”. He appeared in front of the people dressed in all the pomp and grandeur befitting a king. Making a grand entrance in front of his subjects, he wore his royal apparel and sat proudly upon his throne.

How fancy were his clothes? Josephus records that Herod wore a cloth composed of silver, so richly woven and framed with such art that, when the sun struck it, the reflected light dazzled the eyes of the spectators (Antiq. 19.344). In his speech, Herod railed against the people, describing their faults as well as his assessment of his own grace – a prideful exhibit. Awed by Herod’s visual and oratory splendor, the foolish people proclaimed him to be a god (Acts 12:22).

Inflated with pride, Herod gladly accepted these undue praises, a further sin to his abuse of the apostles. He said nothing humble, coveted their flattery, relished the title being thrust upon him, but gave God none of the glory. His sin was worsened by his profession of the Jewish faith, which believes in one God only. Fittingly, it was at this moment, at the height of his glory, that God chose to punish Herod. An angel of the LORD struck him down and he was eaten by worms at the instant He was strutting at the applauses of the people and adoring his own shadow.

What a disgrace! God used the lowly worm as His instrument to humble and kill the one who had killed and oppressed His apostles, the one who had stolen the title of King from God. Herod was a rotten human being and became instantly as a piece of rotten wood, waiting to be consumed. One expects the body to be destroyed in the grave by worms, but God allowed Herod’s body to be putrefied while he was still alive. God can make weak and contemptible creatures instruments of His justice when He pleases. He also shows us what vile bodies we all inhabit; we carry the seeds of our own dissolution. It is only by His grace that these creatures are not unleashed against us all. We live in a body of death (Romans 7:24).

God’s judgment on Herod shows us how He brings down proud men and pours His greatest contempt upon them. Herod is not only destroyed, but destroyed from within by disgusting worms, far overwhelming any memories of grandeur the crowd may have had. With the affliction God sent Herod, the proud one’s glory is stained forever.

Josephus, a Jew himself, relates a vivid description of Herod’s death (Antiq. 19.343-350). “That Herod came down to Cesarea, to celebrate a festival in honor of Caesar; that the second day of the festival he went in the morning to the theatre, clothed with that splendid robe mentioned before; that his flatterers saluted him as a god, begged that he would be propitious to them; that hitherto they had reverenced him as a man, but now they would confess to be in him something more excellent than a mortal nature. That he did not refuse or correct this impious flattery. But, presently after, looking up, he saw an owl perched over his head, and was at the same instant seized with a most violent pain in his bowels, and gripes in his belly, which were exquisite from the very first’ that he turned his eyes upon his friends, and said to this purpose: ‘Now I, whom you called a god, and therefore immortal, must be proved a man, and mortal.’ That his torture continued without intermission, or the least abatement, and then he died in the fifty-fourth year of his age, when he had been king seven years.”

It is normal for God to punish sin. He reserves, however, His harshest judgments for those who oppress His chosen servants, and Herod certainly qualified as an oppressor. In God’s eyes, we are all oppressors when we deny the deity of Christ. “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews (10:29-31).

Our bodies are worm food. One day we will pass from this world and will need to account for our actions. Scripture tells us our spirits are subject to worms as well, “for their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:48, Isaiah 66:24). For those who trample on the blood of Jesus Christ, the worm will never die. Take the action today of accepting Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior if you haven’t already.

In His love and service,

Jeff Myers
A servant of Jesus Christ

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