Hello to all my friends here at Watermark in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. It is awesome to be back together. I am going to fulfill one of the great admonitions in Scripture tonight to young pastors, which, like it or not, I still consider myself one. What I do tonight I am going to do because I will take the advice of Paul.
We're in Acts, by the way, if you've not been with us, and we're making our way through that book. We're going to spend our time closing up chapter 12, and then next week we start on the journey to the uttermost parts of the world. It's going to make its way all the way from a little church in Antioch to 2017 in churches in Dallas and Fort Worth and Plano and all over the world.
Today, we're going to wrap up chapter 12. I think you're going to be encouraged, because I'm going to give you a lot of truth, perfect truth, because I'm just going to read it to you. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 4. I want to read to you from this section, and it's going to set the stage for why I'm going to do what I'm going to do today. You're going to find out that what we will look at in Acts, chapter 12, is evidence of the reliability of the text I'm going to spend all my time in.
As you guys may or may not know, I just got back from an amazing set of days, about 10 or 12 days, over in India, training and equipping young pastors and church leaders and working with indigenous leaders who are shepherding and discipling them, meeting with that team and then with those they're training. It was an amazing privilege. One of the things I said to them comes from this little text.
I kept telling them again and again, "Guys, pay attention to the public reading of Scripture." A lot of the pastors, as you can imagine, in undeveloped parts of the world don't have access to all of the resources that we do. Their education, because many of them come from rural villages, may not have advanced beyond a high-school level. For them to be able to read is a great asset to their community.
In this section of India, northern India (20 percent of the world's population lives in India), there are hundreds of millions of unreached people. I was talking to a friend who actually goes to Watermark who ministers also in India, and they were telling me that within a 200-mile radius of where we stand here there are thousands of churches, but you get in northern India and you can go thousands of miles, where there are upwards of 500 million people, and there's one known church.
So they are in desperate need of individuals who can bring to them God's Word, because it's a world that is in bondage to myth. As a kid, I used to love Greek mythology. It has kind of made a comeback with some of the movies that are out there. If your kids are readers, they've read Harry Potter, which is modern-day myth, and they've read Percy Jackson, and they've made great movies out of those for families to watch.
I would always think to myself, "What in the world? Did people ever believe this stuff?" I've been to Greece. I've been to Athens. I'm going to tell you they believed this stuff. I've been to Rome. I've seen the Forum. I've seen the temples to… Not Zeus because that's the Greek expression, but in Rome in the Forum there's temple after temple to Jupiter and all of the other gods.
We look back at that and just shake our heads. We go, "What in the world? How could they believe in these narratives and try and find reality and base their lives on them?" Well, I have to tell you there are billions of people today who are believing in mythology. Hinduism is mythology. There are thousands of gods, and the stories are all over the place about who those gods are.
One of the things I said consistently when I was dealing with people who are in the throes of the bondage to Hinduism… Just as an example of why a worldview matters, in India, because the rat is one of the holy animals there… The reason he's a holy animal is because one of the three major gods of the Hindu trinity, Shiva, had a consort who created a son that she told to stand at a gate while she bathed, and Shiva came and wanted to go in, and that created son said, "No."
He beheaded the son, and his consort came out and said basically, "What did you do to my boy?" and she said, "You find him a head." So he grabbed an elephant's head, because he couldn't find a man's head, and stuck it on top of him. This is Ganesha, the son of Shiva, who has an elephant's head, who rides on a rat. Because he rides on a rat and because Ganesha is one of the most beloved gods… He is the lord of beginnings and the god of opportunity.
Because he rides around on a rat, which is seen as a creature that is constantly and neurotically moving around and causing trouble… Ganesha rides that sucker and keeps him under control, so they don't kill the rat, because that's how Ganesha gets around. So in this country full of starving people, they have 30 percent of their food supply eaten by Ganesha's little transport, and you can't kill it.
I'm telling you, it's not just hurting their food supply. It is killing these people. It is crazy, and it's not just something folks are telling their children stories at bedtime. There are billions of people who are in bondage to this mythology. If you're a person of any learnedness, you're going to say, "Well, what makes you so sure that you're not in bondage to some mythology yourself?"
I kept saying this to the young pastors I was training, and the text we're going to be in tonight is part of the answer. I'll tell you what I told them. I drilled it into their heads, and I want to drill it into yours. This is what Paul was writing to young Timothy. I was teaching a bunch of young Timothys. This is what he says.
**"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…"** Stories about how you can get back in touch with the primal source of life. The original lie of a demon, Satan himself, was that "You can be like God. You can become one with him, just like him." You're going to find out that there are billions of people today in bondage to doctrines of demons.
**"…by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer."**
You know what's so funny about the Internet is you can find anything you want on the Internet. One of my kids' favorite pastimes is to Google my name and look for people who hate me. It doesn't take a lot of research. There was a Real Truth. Real Quick. I did where I talked about how everything is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer and how drugs (here we go again; haters, this is the clip you want) are a gift from God.
In other words, hydrocodone, which is basically some form of cocaine… Other types of narcotics are rooted in heroin that we use and we administer well to you so that when we do surgery on you or you're recovering from some pain we can help you have that pain minimized as we nurse you back to health. Basically, this guy goes, "This pastor in Dallas is advocating the use of heroin and cocaine," which is a bit of a stretch from what I was doing in that Real Truth. Real Quick. as I talked about the fact when you sanctify things…
Everything created by God is good, and when you sanctify them by the Word of God and prayer… In other words, you use them the way God intended. He put those plants and those crops and those flowers on earth, so in his kindness to us, as we loved him with all our heart, soul, and mind, as we used our mind, we could use it for the benefit of humanity, not for the destruction of humanity.
There are a lot of folks today using substances in a way that is not sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, and it gets them in all kinds of trouble, but thank goodness that when they cut on me and removed things that needed to be removed there were certain drugs that allowed me to be asleep during that moment. Many people who come out of those abuse those painkillers and get addicted to them and they're not sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, but I digress.
Verse 6: **"In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus…"** It's not that hard to be a good pastor. One of the attributes of being solid in a Community Group is that you would counsel biblically. You might say, "I don't know how to counsel biblically. I'm not a trained counselor." Well, if you don't just pull verses out of context and read them but read God's Word well and rightly divide it…
That's why we have Training Days. I commend to you in Fort Worth and Plano to drive into Dallas next week to join our Dallas friends and get equipped with the extensive equipping opportunities that are there, intensives. But you learn to counsel biblically. You'll be a good pastor if you're "constantly nourished on the words of the faith and the sound doctrine which you have been following, but have nothing to do with worldly fables."
There is an entire nation of people and other nations surrounding it that are giving attention to and have a lot to do with worldly fables. It's just unbelievable. **"…fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…"** You train yourself to think biblically. **"…for bodily discipline…"**
A lot of you guys are really good about getting your sweat on when you go and work out. Way to go. That body is deteriorating. It is dying. You'd better develop your soul so you can have your life sanctified by the means of the Word of God and prayer. So go work out. Go sweat. Get your body fat down, but make sure you get built up in the faith, because that has great promise not just for _this_ life but also the life to come.
**"It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things."** You guys know we're a kingdom of priests. That's what we're called. This is not just a message that's to be given to young Indian men who are training for the ministry. This is a message to be given to every one of you.
We are one church, three campuses, thousands of locations. Everywhere God's people are, when they gather, they are to counsel each other biblically and to make disciples. So this is written for you. If you want to be useful and fruitful, pay attention. **"Let no one look down on your youthfulness…"** That's not just chronological age. That might be your spiritual birthday. **"…but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."** In other words, you persevere and pursue these things.
Then Paul says this in verse 13. This is one of the verses written under my feet. I came in here the last night we had before I knew they were going to put down this wood. There's a bunch of Bible all over here. I sat up here until late at night one night and just wrote. One of them was 1 Timothy 4:13-16. **"Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching."** I'm going to do that really well tonight.
I'm going to finish this section, because it's just great. Verse 14 goes on to say, **"Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you…"** We all have spiritual gifts. **"…which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery."** In other words, by the leaders of the church. "You're God's man for Ephesus, Timothy." That's where he was. I love this. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. First Timothy 4:15: **"Take pains with these things…"**
What did you take pains with this week? What did you obsess over? Did you redo your bracket? Did you obsess over the fact that you _couldn't_ redo your bracket and it was awful, you little NCAA fans? What did you take pains with this week? If it's not 1 Timothy 4:1-13, then your life was a bit out of whack. **"Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."**
I had a conversation this week with an individual who is a pastor in this community who is teaching some things that are inconsistent, in my humble opinion, with God's Word. One of the largest, most influential churches in his particular branch of leadership in a particular church that we would say is liberal. I just said, "Here's the thing. You can believe this for yourself, but the Bible says, 'Let not many of you be teachers.' Because when you embrace error yourself, it's really expensive, but when you lead others into that same error, you'd better be very careful."
This section of Scripture is what's influencing me to teach you the way I want to teach you tonight out of Acts 12. Let's look at it. We saw the amazing story last week of how there is an enemy on the church. One of the things that is going to be exceedingly true if you read your Bible is that there are men in positions of authority who have always been after and hate God's people. If you want to be God's people, brace yourself. You will be persecuted, because there are many people who are given authority by God who do not love those who are given to God.
This Book, God's Word, tells you to brace yourself. This world is not your home. You're aliens and strangers. You're not going to play like they play, and you're not going to suggest that what they do is right, and they're not going to like that. Now you speak to them with gentleness and reverence. You live a holy life in their midst, but when your life offends them or when your life in some way tells them there's trouble for them in the life to come, they're going to want to move you aside, and they're going to call you all kinds of names.
That has been true ever since Cain killed Abel and said, "I don't like the way he makes me look when he does for you what you want done." Abel brought a sacrifice to God that was from the fold and from the flock. Cain was a tiller of the soil. God said, "Bring me your best from a flock," and Cain said, "I don't have a flock, and I'm not going to humble myself and go ask my brother for a fine animal. I'll bring you my best work."
God said, "Hey, listen. I love what you're doing. I have no problem with you being a farmer, but I don't want a grain offering, because sin leads to death, and the reason you're not walking around naked is I covered your nakedness with an atoning sacrifice. Your mom and dad, when they sinned, I killed an innocent animal and covered them in it as a symbol of one who would come later who would take away the sins, a perfect, unblemished eternal Lamb of God."
Cain said, "I'm not going to give you a sacrifice by faith that you say is necessary. I'll give you the best of my works, and if that isn't good enough for you, to heck with you. And _this_ guy? I'll take out my anger on him, because he says he's pleasing to you, and you say he's pleasing to you, and I don't like that." It has been going on since Genesis, chapter 4, and it accelerates.
One of the things that happens in Genesis, chapter 12, when God starts to reach out to the sons of Cain, rebels on earth, which is all of us, he says, "I'm going to bless those who bless you, and I'm going to curse those who curse you," but that doesn't mean you won't have a day when you feel very cursed and not very saved by your Christ. See also Acts, chapter 12, verse 1, where it says that James, one of Jesus' closest friends, didn't make it halfway through the beginning of the church. He is dead and gone, because Herod is oppressing the church.
What we're going to see right here… Is God going to care for this new people who represent him, this new body, this new nation made up of Jew and Greek, the way he cared for those who were to represent him when he worked through the specific sons of Abraham? Is he going to bless those who bless them and curse those who curse them? Acts 12:20-25 answers that question. Let's read it.
We have a guy named Herod. There are a lot of Herods in the Bible. The first one is a guy named Herod the Great. He lived 37 BC to 4 BC. He's the one who was in charge of the slaughter of the Bethlehem babies when the wise men from the East had seen a star at night that led them… I don't want to ruin your Christmas, but it wasn't like there was a star right over baby Jesus that night, kind of like a big spotlight that says, "Come get the big sale on." It wasn't like one of those lights that was there.
I think the Bethlehem star was what's called the _shekinah glory__of God_. It's the pillar of fire that led Israel through the wilderness. It's the glory of God. There was something that led these wise men. We know stars are fixed in the heavens, but this is an unusual star. It was there and it was gone, but it was there long enough for these men from the East to get there. There's a reason Herod said, "We're going to kill all of the babies 2 years old and younger." Why? Because these guys said, "We started traveling about two years ago."
So Jesus was probably around 2 years old when the wise men finally showed up and brought their gifts. We don't know that there were three wise men. We know that they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so we go, "Those are three things, so there must be three kings from orient are." The next thing you know, we've bought manger scenes and we think it's all just like that. Probably not.
All I will tell you is that there was a Christ child who was there, and Herod said, "I don't want anybody to compete with me and my glory, so we're going to kill this prophetic deliverer that is to come." That's Herod the Great, and I'm going to show you some things he did. You go to Israel today, and all over Israel there are these amazing, "wonders of the world" things that Herod built, one of which is still standing today, or at least some aspect of it. It's called the Western Wall on Herod's temple.
There's the mausoleum. This guy built himself a mountain that has intricate pathways inside of it that he would be buried in. When he died in Jericho, there was a processional and a parade that took him, and they buried him inside a man-made mountain. Up on top of a huge plateau in the middle of the wilderness down by the Dead Sea he built this amazing palace called Masada, and I'm going to show you in a minute that in a little town on the Mediterranean Sea called Caesarea he built this port, a man-made port, 2,000 years ago.
This guy sunk pillars into the Mediterranean Sea, because he knew to compete with the folks from Tyre and Sidon, the Phoenicians, he needed to have his own port, and there wasn't a port. So what do you do when you're a king and you don't have a port and you're some building megalomaniac? Whatever Trump is today, this is who Herod was. He puts his name on everything. He built a massive port out into the Mediterranean Sea. To this day, it's like, "How in the world did he do it?"
Not only that, but he decided to build himself a palace out into the Mediterranean Sea and put a freshwater pool in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. This guy had it going on, except he didn't know the God who made it all go, and he was in trouble, and so was one of his five sons. It was said of Herod the Great that he was so ruthless it was better to be one of Herod's sows than his sons, because in his insecurity he was always killing his sons, because he was afraid they were going to kill _him_.
One of his sons, Herod Antipas, became the one who killed John the Baptist and the one who was involved with Jesus' trial. _That_ guy is the uncle of the Herod you're about to read right here. _This_ Herod in Acts, chapter 12, verse 20, and following, had a madman for an uncle and a great madman for a grandfather, and you're going to find out that he had learned from Granddaddy and from his uncle that if you are a man you act like you're a god.
It cost his granddaddy everything, it cost his uncle everything, and it's about to cost him everything, and it's going to cost _you_ everything if you follow and try and be like Trump or Herod. What I mean by that is you find fame in this world. I don't know Trump's eternal destiny, but I would tell you that I _do_ believe I know Herod's.
**"Now** [Herod] **was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon…"** They were in Phoenicia, which is just modern-day Lebanon, two of the major port cities, and they were racking up some good business, but they didn't have a lot of land they could grow grain in, so they relied on Palestine for their food. Because Herod had built a man-made port that had special relationships with Rome, it was hurting their business.
Something was going on in Phoenicia that they didn't do everything that Herod, who was kind of the big dog in that area, wanted them to do, so he was mad at them, and he was probably cutting off their trade in some way or he wasn't giving them what they needed. They had lumber, which is great. They had spices, which is great, but if you don't have any bread, it doesn't matter what kind of house you live in.
He was basically probably intimidating them and saying, "We're going to change the way you use your import/export business over there, because I'm going to feather _my_ bed some more." Those guys were hungry, and they came to him with one accord. **"…and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain…"**
Now this is what is so great. You're about to see me talk about a historical figure that nobody debates ever lived, who has in his court a man named Blastus. To my knowledge, we can't verify whether or not _he_ lived, but it's in a town called Caesarea. I'm going to tell you about Caesarea in just a second. It's a Mediterranean port city. It still exists today. It doesn't exist as a port city.
It basically was extinct as a village in the 1800s until some Bosnian fishermen made it a fishing village, and then later it was seen for archaeological value, because archaeologists started to take this Bible that they found out was right everywhere they dug and said, "Hey, some things happened up there in Caesarea. Let's go."
People mocked the Bible because they had never found the existence of a guy named Pilate, but in 1950 and 1960 they started to excavate Caesarea, and guess what they found? What is today called the _Pilate stone_. They found a stone that had inscribed on it that Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Palestine, had built a temple to the father of Tiberius, who he believed was a god. People went, "I'll be. There's another reason we have to believe this stupid Book is more than mythology."
One of the things I kept saying to these young pastors over there is "Why is your Bible reliable as opposed to the Vedas?" which is the Hindu holy books. Why do you trust this Book? How is it different from the Qur'an? How is it different than all the myriad of books inside Hinduism? Answer: it's not nonsensical. It's why it's different than the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. This Book is God revealing himself in the context of history.
God is showing you you can make sense out of it. If you can't make sense out of something because Homer wrote it or some other great creative individual wrote some story about all of these gods in Sanskrit, but you can't test them, because Joseph Smith camped out under a sycamore tree in Upstate New York and decided to speculate, because Muhammad wrote some pretty amazing poetry and called it the Qur'an… There is no way to test it.
God says, "Test this Book." That's why many an atheist archaeologist has come to believe, because they go, "You'd better not start digging in Israel without this Book in your hand, because what this Book says is true." In 1950 and 1960, somebody went up to Caesarea and started digging around, and all of a sudden they bumped into this guy named Pilate, and they go, "Well, I'll be."
I'll tell you what else they bumped into. I've been there. They bumped into _this_. It's a Roman amphitheater, and it's still standing today. They dug it out. That thing was buried. It has been refinished a little bit. What is interesting is the Pilate stone was found… What you do when you're building in an area is you find all the good already quarried marble and things and reuse it.
They had taken this temple built to this man who they thought was a god that had been broken and fallen down when the Mamluks came in, and before that the Crusaders, and before that the Muslim invasion of 1640, which we know happened all there at Caesarea… They rebuilt this amphitheater, each different civilization that came, and they had used this Pilate stone as a step out to the back of this amphitheater.
Here's the picture of this amphitheater again. You can see some scale. This is a 4,000-seat amphitheater. That is a recreation of it. Look at that thing. That's the Mediterranean Sea. Up there you see a recreation of Herod's palace that he built into the sea. That little thing at the very top, that rectangle with a hole in it, is his freshwater pool. There's about three miles of aqueduct pipe built…
There's no fresh water anywhere near there, but there's an aqueduct that still stands today that Herod the Great built that was an amazing engineering feat that brought fresh water down for the people, and he in his excess put a freshwater pool in the middle of the Mediterranean. That guy could throw a party, don't you know. That's Caesarea.
In that amphitheater… You're like, "Why in the world did they close in the amphitheater so you can't see the Mediterranean Sea?" Because the Mediterranean Sea is beautiful, and you wouldn't watch anybody act, so they built this wall. That's what you're looking at. Here's a picture of the Mediterranean Sea today. This is Caesarea. It is this incredible cool water. That's part of where the ancient port was that he built.
Why am I showing you all this? Because your Bible isn't just a bunch of folks talking about Shiva's elephant-headed son. You can test it, and you can see if it's true. This, by the way, is why you don't want to give away Genesis, chapter 1. The Bible is not a science book, but what it says is true. When you say the Bible can't be trusted in terms of creationism, in the hard sciences of biology and geology and the origin of species, then why would you trust it in things you can't test?
In other words, if the hard sciences show the Bible to be foolish, why would you trust it in the soft sciences of metaphysics? It matters what you do with Genesis 1, people. In case you haven't studied the science that became the great intellectual assault on the Bible, evolutionism, _that_, my friends, was never a science. It was always theory, and if you go look at the science, that theory does not stand, and yet so many of us are bullied into believing that if you're really intellectual you'd better get rid of Genesis 1.
Let me tell you why they want to get rid of Genesis 1. It is the foundation upon which righteousness is built. If you show the Bible stupid by chapter 2, why would you trust it Genesis 3 through Revelation 22? What we're doing is attacking the world on its ideas about abortion and marriage and life, and what they're doing is going right at the foundation of why we say you should believe this about human sexuality.
They go, "You guys are nuts. You believe in this Book that can't be trusted. We're the intellectuals." I'm telling you they're not. They have professed to be wise, and they are fools. Pay attention to the Scripture. If you need help, we have so many resources for you on these things. Get equipped. I kept telling these guys… This is a true story. I did not know that Shiva's son was an elephant-headed boy, and I said, "If I told you that there was a pink elephant with wings that had the stories of life…"
I made up as crazy a story as I could. Little did I know it's one of the most beloved gods in all of Hinduism. I said, "Guys, don't believe me, because you have to test it. Test to see if these things are true." Acts, chapter 12, is a story about a guy who lived who mocked God, and you can test it. In fact, let me leave my Bible for a second and read you from another historian. Do you guys know when I'm reading you Acts I'm reading you a story by a historian? I think you're going to be able to follow along with me.
This is a guy named Flavius Josephus. Here's the record. "Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea…" You go, "Wait a minute. Who's Agrippa?" Herod Antipas was the uncle. Herod Agrippa was the nephew. "…he came to the city Caesarea […] There he exhibited shows in honor of the emperor […] On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful contexture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time…"
You are facing east. I've been there at sunrise. When that sun pops over and comes into that theater and the Mediterranean is behind you, it is a beautiful bright sun. It's like Carmel. In fact, it's not far from Mount Carmel, where Carmel in California got its name. It's this beautiful high blue sky. Out comes this guy. "…at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it. It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him."
He's shimmering. Elton John is starting a concert. That's what's going on right here. It's Liberace. (You guys don't know who Liberace is. Young pastors like me know, but the younger ones won't know who Liberace is. Just go Google "Liberace.") This guy is wearing one of those things. Also remember who's there, the people he's ticked at who need him to like them. They go, "Let's take advantage of this." So what do they do?
Josephus says, "At that moment, his flatterers cried out […] that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.' Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head…"
Because he was prone to mythology, where in an earlier time in his life an owl had showed up that was favorable to him, he thought this owl was an omen to evil, and he was right, not because the owl was there but because God was, and he doesn't take kindly to man saying, "I am like you."
"…and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and he fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death.'"
What he's saying is, "I'm not as immortal as you or I thought I was." At 53. "But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots…" As are all men. "…as it pleases God…" Isn't it funny how men when they start to rot start to rethink? "…for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner." Watch what Jesus says about that in a moment. "After he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace…"
Jesus in Luke, chapter 22, had cursed a fig tree that was alive and vibrant and throwing off fruit and a source of glory. He cursed it because it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do. He went back that night, and the fig tree had withered. The apostles said to him, "How in the world did _that_ happen?" and Jesus said, "If you knew what I knew, you could tell a mountain to go into the sea, and it would be there in a moment."
A mountain, biblically… I think Peter remembers this. A mountain, biblically, is always a sign of an immovable nation, a great power. You're going to find this great power, Herod, is about to be cast into the sea, because God is done with him. His pain became violent. He was carried into the palace, which was in the sea. "…and the rumor went abroad that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery."
Do you guys remember somebody else who was praying for somebody to be delivered from certain death? Go read Acts 12:1-19. It matters who your God is. Don't you dare tell me that all roads lead to heaven. There was a prayer that was heard just verses before that delivered a person who was bound to certain death, and here the whole nation is praying for him, but because they don't know God, it doesn't matter how they pray.
"All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign." Flavius Josephus.
Nobody is going to tell you _that_ isn't true. Can I tell you something about Flavius Josephus? A manuscript is a copy of the original autograph. An autograph is the first time when Josephus sat down and wrote that sucker out. A manuscript is somebody copying that. We couldn't do that manually until Gutenberg got busy in the sixteenth century. Nobody will debate whether or not Flavius got that story correct. Everybody will mock at your New Testament.
Do you know how many manuscripts there are on Josephus' histories? I don't know. I wish I would have looked. But all scholars will quote him like it's fact. I _will_ tell you this. Homer's _Iliad_ that you read and your teacher tested you on has about 600 and something manuscripts. Your New Testament has upwards of 26,000 to 30,000 known manuscripts, and we can lay them side by side and go, "What did the original autographs say?"
We know what God wanted us to know. He has uniquely preserved this Book, which is not just stories about mythology handed down from our forefathers; it is anchored in history, and you would do well to pay attention to it. Let's go back now to an even more reliably accurate story because we have more manuscript evidence to tell you it's right.
Acts 12:21: **"On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum…"** Which is basically a pulpit. **"…and began delivering an address to them."** About 4,000 people. That's what this theater holds. **"The people kept crying out, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!'"** What does that sound like? It sounds like he and Josephus heard the same thing. **"And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory…"** Luke had a different insight. That isn't just worms, or maybe it was that God gave him. **"…and he was eaten by worms and died."** He was dead.
Men look glorious sometimes in their rebellion against God. This is a guy who lived on the Mediterranean Sea. I mean, you think about having a house on the 17-mile drive by Carmel on the sea in California. This is one of the guys who has it going on. Herod was that in spades, looking glorious, but he was dead. He didn't have life. If you don't have the Spirit of God in you, you are a dead man walking.
**"And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory…"** How do you give God the glory? You humble yourself before him. You acknowledge him for who he is. You don't _tell_ him who he is. You don't _tell_ him what he wants. You don't _tell_ him what you're going to give him. You say, "O King, what do I owe thee?" The answer, God would say, is your life.
"But in my love for you I will provide for you a way. That lamb I gave for Adam and Eve was a picture of the grace that is to come. There is a perfect, unblemished Lamb of God. It is my Son, the very incarnate of God. He told you he was going to lay his life down and pick it back up and give it to you. Trust in him. I don't care how righteous you are, Cornelius. You need a Savior. I don't care how righteous you are, devout men of Acts 2. You need a Savior, and there is no other name under heaven given among men by which you must be saved."
This cat heard of him and knew him. His uncle had interviewed him, and they both denied him, and he was cast into the sea. But contrary to great men who await a great judgment, there was a great God who was going to continue his great work that even the gates of hell could not stand against. There is a pivot in verse 24, and it says, **"But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark."**
The story is about to get great, because we're going to sail off the Syrian coast and take the gospel to places it has never been. That's next week. Let me tell you why I insisted that JP stopped at verse 19 last week so I could teach this text alone. There are going to be political rulers over you who will seek your demise, and you need to fret not, because whether your God puts an owl on a rope over their head or not, and they have some sense of their foreboding trouble ahead of them, when God wants to he will allow them to be eaten alive and stand before him in judgment.
I don't care how luxuriously they live. I don't care what power this world gives them. There will be a day when they will be cast into the sea, and you should fret not. I told you I was going to give attention to the public reading of Scripture. The Bible is thick with right responses to Herods, but I'm going to read my favorite. It's in Psalm 37, and this is what it says. Do not fret because of Herod. Don't you fret because of anybody who tells you there is no future in serving God and who prosper in their mockery and do really well.
You don't fret because of evildoers. You don't be envious toward wrongdoers. I wrote a note to a kid this week who was on spring break with his buddies who were 21. He was watching them have sex and watching them party and watching them get after it, and he was troubled…troubled because his flesh wanted the same thing and troubled because he knew that those mighty little young Herods having the time of their life by the sea didn't know his God. He was tormented on two ends: for their salvation and for his flesh's death that by faith he purposed to live by.
I've been on those same shores with that same torment. You need to remember the future of Herod in Acts 12. You need to remember that they will "wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb." You should not delight in their death. The Lord doesn't. Ezekiel 18 says just that. "I take no pleasure in the death of Herod." It says specifically in Ezekiel 18, verse 23, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked; rather that they should turn from their wicked ways and live."
Men can't turn from their wicked ways unless you leave your little seaside villa in Joppa and get your heinie up to Caesarea and tell them who the Savior is who lives. That is your job this week, church. You live in a city that's not by a sea, but you live in a city surrounded by resplendent men and women who can buy things to make them more resplendent in their form, and they parade them proudly through the city, and they think they're all right because they show up in places and the guys want to look at them.
You need to be the wise owl that sits on a perch near them and with grace and gentleness tells them the truth. The Scripture says, **"Trust in the** **Lord** **and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the** **Lord ; and He will give you the desires of your heart."** In other words, even though men thought he was a god, Herod knew he was no god. He didn't know when he was going to die, but he knew he was going to die, and he knew when he did there was something out there he had to deal with.
He had heard from his uncle that there was one he tried to put to death who would not die who claimed to know a God that he needed to know. In all his kingship, he was haunted. Men always are. I've been by a deathbed holding the hand of a billionaire, feeding him ice chips, and he begged me, probably a 32-year-old impoverished punk, to give him something he didn't have. Herod always knows, and there is no peace for those who prosper in this world without Christ.
You have your Bible. You have your God. You know him, and you sleep well. Herod was by the Mediterranean Sea, and he was tormented, holding his stomach. Peter was in jail waiting to be executed, and he slept like a baby. You be like Peter. That verse doesn't say, "If you live right and you pray you'll get what you want." That verse is saying that if you know God, that's the only place you're going to find peace.
**"Commit your way to the** **Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it."** Don't you follow Herod. Don't you be his disciple. You be Jesus'.**"He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way…"** There was nobody who prospered like Herod.
**"Cease from anger…"** That you don't have what they have, that your James is dying. Your James isn't dying; your James is being accelerated into glory. **"…and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there."** Herod's palace is gone, just like him.
**"But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth."** That is Acts 12. "Kill James. Let's get Peter." **"The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming."** This text is for you, because there are Herods all around you, and they make you fret and they make you envious, and you're not reading the text correctly.
The laughter of the wicked is short. It is a loud laughter, it is a convincing laughter, but it is short. Ecclesiastes, chapter 7, verse 6. It is like the thorns that crackle under a pot. They are bright and loud, but they are soon to be ashes. "So is the laughter of the fool," the Bible says. Don't you let them suck you into the vortex of their lack of peace. Quit watching their movies and their sitcoms and looking at their women like they have life. It is futility. Jesus is where life is. Herod was dead, but the Word of the Lord continued to increase. May that be your story.
Father, thank you for this amazing, anchored-in-history story. We see that you are cursing those who curse your people, the church, the nation you have chosen to reveal your Savior to the world. So, Lord, we this week want to trust in you and do good. We want to dwell in this land called Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth, and all over the globe, folks who watch this, and we want to do good. There is nothing "gooder" than following your Son, singing his praises, and sharing with others about the judgment that is to come.
May we walk in humility. May we, as we stand on the rostrum of revelation, never think that we are something special. I am a sinner who by your grace has come to know words of life. May all praise only be for you. All we are is your feet which carry good news, and we want to be better at it. Father, we want to tune in right now and be entertained by song. May this song carry a tune in our hearts all week. May we praise the name of our sovereign and matchless King, that we might not be seduced by dying kings like Herod. Help us to praise your name and walk according to it. Amen.