Daily Devotional – I’m Normal.™ I AM Ministries
“To promote Godly living in a culture committed to destroying it”
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Worm Food – Provoking God
God always punishes disobedience (Leviticus 26:14-17). Herod Agrippa discovered this attribute of God in a very personal and gruesome way when he attempted to destroy Christ’s Church. Herod provoked God mightily, and God responded in His perfect justice (Romans 12:19). Today’s devotional summarizes his crimes against God; tomorrow’s devotional describes his punishment.
After Paul’s conversion to Christianity, the urgency and zeal of the Jewish priests’ to persecute the saints at Jerusalem plummeted. Perhaps Paul’s defection disappointed them and left them without an agent to continue the task; or, they may have just decided to take Gamaliel’s advice to “let those men alone” (Acts 5:38). Whatever their reasons, the religious elite relented on their persecution. However, the apostle’s persecution did not end as persecution from the secular realm erupted.
Herod Agrippa reigned as king in Judea during this time. He was not only tetrarch of Galilee, he also controlled Judea by order of Claudius the emperor. As the reigning civil power, Herod had great authority, which he applied as ruthlessly and with as much destruction as the religious contingent under Paul. Herod, originally from an Edomite (i.e. pagan) family, had converted to Judaism. Secular historian Josephus records that Herod was jealous for the Mosaic rites and viewed Christians as heretics.
At first, Herod oppressed ordinary members of the Church, mostly those who were not prominent. He laid hands upon some of the Church members to afflict them and employed his officers to seize them, taking them into custody with intent to prosecute. Others he imprisoned, fined, ransacked their houses and goods, or molested them in other ways. His sole motivation – they belonged to the Church and, thus, to Jesus Christ.
This penny-ante harassment did not last long. Quickly, Herod directed his efforts at bigger fish – the apostles themselves. As leaders of The Way, they provided the principle source of converts. He started by killing James, the brother of John, with the sword (Acts 12:2). What a loss! This is the same James God chose as one of three disciples to accompany Jesus at the Transfiguration and must have stirred God’s wrath. Nevertheless, when Herod saw how James’ death pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also (Acts 12:3). Were it not for a miracle from God (Acts 12:6-10), Peter too would have fallen victim to Herod’s ploys.
With the deaths of an apostle and a key disciple, crisis overcame the early Church. Paul’s henchmen had already stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:54-60). Now James reunited with Stephen in Heaven, with Peter narrowly escaping a threesome of departed Christ-followers. The apostle’s numbers were dwindling and much work remained on Earth to spread Christ’s Gospel. In fact, they were just starting. The removal of one, much less two or even three, apostles was devastating. To kill an apostle now was to kill an unknown number of future converts to Christianity. No martyr is ever insignificant, but these men were Jesus’ hand-picked and trained emissaries for His Church. Now, the apostles appeared to be handicapped at the time they needed every man who had studied under our LORD Jesus.
Why would God permit it? It is not normal to kill an apostle. If the blood of His saints, much more the blood of His apostles, is precious in His eyes, we can be assured their blood was not shed except for a valuable consideration from God. Perhaps He wished to awaken the remaining apostles to disperse themselves among the nations, abandoning Jerusalem. Perhaps it was that, although the apostles were appointed to plant the Gospel in the world, even with only a few God could do His work without them, and would do it.
It is normal for God to remove the precious resources given to man so man can see God work wonders through His awesome power. Gideon was stripped from 32,000 men down to 300, just so God could display His sovereignty. Today we know that God did use His power to sustain and increase the Church, but it must have seemed a daunting task to the remaining disciples.
And what of Herod? How would God reckon with him? He had killed James and designed and endeavored to put Peter to death. Tomorrow’s devotional will reveal the normal way for God to handle a killer of His chosen apostles.
In His love and service,
A servant of Jesus Christ
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