Daily Devotional January 28th
“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.” (Acts 12:1-3)
My Bible reading this morning has had me contemplating family legacies; there is one particular family in the Scriptures that played a significant role in Christian history during the time of Jesus’ life on earth and the early Church—that of the Herodian family line. In the New Testament we often read about ‘Herod’ but the stories account for not just one, but four separate individuals from four successive generations, all belonging to a family with a legacy of murder and opposition to God’s good plan.
First, we have Herod the Great, the Roman appointed King over Judaea at the time of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2). During his jealously guarded rule he had three sons and a favourite wife killed. When he heard of the birth of a new king of the Jews, he determined to stamp out this threat to his rule and ordered all the baby boys, two years of age and under, in and around Bethlehem, murdered.
His son, Herod Antipas, would be next to take the throne. His story is well-known for he is the Herod who married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias (John 14). He imprisons John the Baptist because John dares to call out his sin. His wife Herodias, herself a granddaughter of Herod the Great, seized her opportunity to extract revenge on John and had his head cut off and brought to her on a silver platter. He is also the same Herod to whom Pilate sent Jesus during his trial prior to being crucified.
The next Herod, Agrippa, nephew to Antipas, has derived notoriety for having murdered the first of the martyred apostles—James the brother of John, sons of Zebedee (Acts 12). When he saw how much this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested too, with the intent to put him on trial and then to face the same end as James. Peter escapes with the help of an angel, and Agrippa has all the guards killed as punishment for having let his prisoner go.
His son, Agrippa II, was the last of the Herodian line to bear the name ‘king.’ It is to this Herod and his sister, Bernice, that Paul appears to give a defense of his faith (Acts 25-26). Little more is known about him from biblical accounts, but early Roman writers record his incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice, never having married or of having children. The death of Agrippa II signaled the end of the Herodian dynasty, as Rome assumed full governance.
As interesting as the history is, I can’t help but be amazed at how much this one family is so intricately interwoven with God’s plan. Satan attempted to use this family—with their desire to hang onto power, desire for revenge and murderous problem-solving—to put a stop to God’s plan to provide a Saviour and to grow his kingdom on earth. They got played…bad! Each of the Herods could not have known the role they as a family were playing in a greater spiritual battle. Only on this side of history does it become so blatantly obvious. And while Satan thought he was using them to his great advantage, what he didn’t count on was that he was helping to create the scenario that would see God defeat him through his human pawns.
I am left with a number of thoughts from our quick perusal of the history of this family.
• What legacy can be traced through my family? Is it one worth expanding or is it time to write a new page?
• What sinful desires do I have that leave me vulnerable to being ‘played’ by the enemy of our souls, Satan?
• Even though Satan continues to try and interfere with God’s plan, he’ll never win. God sees the ‘end game’ and is more than capable of turning Satan’s plan on its proverbial head.
• Those of us on this side of history can see how the machinations of the Herodian family were all about self-promotion and the destruction of all rivals, but how God used them anyway to promote His plan; during the time they lived this was not so evident. There are many ugly scenarios and legacies playing themselves out in our world even today, but they will not have the final say. We can trust God…always and for eternity!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!