Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two Kings and Two Tables

Reading: Acts 11:27-30; 12:20-25
After the second service on Sunday, I had one of those, “I could have had a V-8” moments. By referencing back the completion of Barnabas and Saul's mission in 12:25, it becomes clear that 11:19–12:25 belong together as a unit. However, something that wasn't as clear to me then, now seems as plain as the nose on my face: It ties together two stories about hungry people needing to be fed that result in two very different outcomes under two very different kings.
27Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30 ESV)
The believers living in Judea were about to enter into a famine. The prophecy was given in late 43 to early 44 A.D. and is fulfilled in a 4 year famine from 44-48 A.D. The newly formed community of believers in Antioch determined to respond under Christ's Lordship to the need and sent help to the believers in Judea.
Then, in 12:20-24, we have an interesting little parallel story involving hunger and the need to be fed.
20Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food. 21On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" 23Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:20-24 ESV)
The people of Phoenicia (Tyre and Sidon) were dependent on Herod's benevolence for food. Given his displeasure with them, they were coming to resolve this issue. In other words, they were hungry and suddenly had a liking for Herod. Everyone loves the political leader responsible for giving them their food—at least to their face.
This desire to eat leads to their idolatrous worship of Herod. We heard Sunday some of the amazing details from Josephus' description of this same event. But there is a contrast I had missed that speaks volumes about the difference in care under Christ's unseen reign and Herod the powerful earthly king's reign. That difference is highlighted by the closing comment of Acts 12.
25And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark. (Acts 12:25 ESV)
Herod didn't complete his service. The only feeding he accomplished that day was to feed the worms; the people under his care received nothing. Barnabas and Saul completed their ministry and, in doing so, the people under Christ's care are fed through the obedience of His people.
This brief little story reveals the importance for all believers to take Christ's teaching regarding our responsibility one to another seriously. In the body of Christ, how we live out our lives in obedience to Christ becomes an extension of His care for His people. This then reflects on the Christ's reputation before the world–His glory. May He be glorified through us.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,