Giving God His Due (Acts 12:20-23) | Jared Betts

The One Who did not Give God the Glory

Within this text we find ourselves face to face with the answer to the question that everyone in some way and at some point desires to know, which is this, what does the One, who gives to all life and breath and all things, expect us to do with the life, and the breath, and the things He has given us? What does the living God require of us? What is the purpose of our existence? The answer is revealed through the life and death of an unlikely individual, Herod Agrippa I. It is not that Herod’s life provides us with a picture of what it looks like to fulfill the purpose of life, but rather a picture contrary to it.

Let us recall that the Herod in our portion is not the one responsible for the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ. That was Herod the Great. This is his grandson, who was no different then his sadistic grandfather. We see this in our previous portion of Scripture when he had James Zebedee put to death with the sword. When he saw that this caused him to gain further approval among the people pleasing them greatly, he seized the Apostle Peter intending to do the same. God, however, intervened and freed Peter from captivity thus sending Herod into a rage for missing the opportunity to gain further prestige for himself among the people.[1]

Luke now directs our attention to a time when Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. We are not certain of the exact cause of his anger with these two regions that were outside of his arm of authority. What we do know, however, is that though Herod had no jurisdiction over them, he did still have some level power over the people of Tyre and Sidon by the fact that they were dependent upon Judea for corn and other goods. As Luke points out, “their country was fed by the king’s country.” We can, therefore, assume that Herod had vindictively established some blockade that prohibited the people from acquiring their necessities and forcing them to come to him with one accord asking for peace. Proverbs 16:14 says:

“The fury of a king is like messengers of death,
But a wise man will appease it.”

As the Scripture reveals, they attempted to do this after having won over Blastus, the kings chamberlain.

Luke proceeds to tells us in verse 21 that on an appointed day, Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The rostrum is speaking of what was known as a bema seat, which was a raised platform of the official seat of a judge. According to one source, Herod had “built a structure resembling a throne at Caesarea, from which he viewed the games and made speeches to the people.”[2]

Now, God the Spirit does not see fit to record for us his speech. He does, however, reveal to us the peoples reaction as Herod addressed them. Luke writes in Verse 22:

22 The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 

The crowd here makes a fatal error that all of fallen humanity makes, they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for a corruptible man. They worshipped and served the creature rather then the Creator. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 1:18-23:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

The renowned 1st century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, offers us some further insight into this account. He states in Antiquities of the Jews:[3]

“Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Cesarea, which was formerly called Strato’s Tower; and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar, upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety. At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons, and such as were of dignity through his province. On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) 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.”

Josephus proceeds to point out:

“Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.”

Luke tells us in verse 23:

23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.

One scholar points out that the wording in the original language used to describe him being eaten by worms indicates that he was infested with tapeworms, which would have formed a cyst within him that ruptured thus releasing millions of other worms within his abdominal region.[4] Josephus records that after Herod failed to reject the impious flattery of the crowds:

“He presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, 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 fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner…And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”

There is a certain Proverb that is epitomized within this text. Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with it:

“Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

The Living God resists the proud. He is opposed to them. God hates the proud because the proud care only for their own glory. Pride, in one sense, seeks to rob God of His due. Again, the Scripture tells us why Herod was stripped of his life. God killed him because he did not give God the glory.   

The glory of God is the summation of all of His attributes and grandeur. This is seen in Moses’ interaction with God when he asks to see the glory of God. God told Moses that He would make His goodness pass before him. Exodus 34:6-8 says:

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.”

To give God the glory means to ascribe to God what is rightfully His. When we give glory to God, we are not giving Him something He does not possess but attributing to Him what is already His. To give God the glory is to acknowledge His eternal and unchangeable qualities of being along with His holy will. As one individual simply states, to ascribe glory to God is to “affirm His glorious nature and worship Him rightly.”[5] What did Herod do but exchange the glory of God for himself and worship and serve self rather than the Sovereign, so the Sovereign snuffed him out.


Jealous for His Own Glory

It is imperative we understand that the Living God seeks His own glory, and He will not give it to another. This is clearly understood by His words from Sinai when He says in Exodus 20:3-5:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

In Isaiah 42:8, God declares:

“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.”

He later says in Isaiah 48:11:

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? and My glory I will not give to another.”

Yes, God is jealous for His own glory. It is sin for us to seek our own glory, but not God. For Him to glorify anyone but Himself would be sin, because there is no one and no thing greater than Him. He is the only being of eternal worth and He has been glorifying Himself among the Godhead before He laid the foundations of the earth. Jesus said in John 17:5:

“Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

One person put it this way:

“For human beings self-worship is the worst sin, for God it is the epitome of His righteousness.”


No Different then Nebuchadnezzar

We would do well to remember King Nebuchadnezzar who was given a vision of a tree in the midst of the earth possessing great height. He recounts the vision to Daniel in the book of Daniel 4:11-14:

11 ‘The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12 ‘Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.

13 ‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.

14 ‘He shouted out and spoke as follows:
Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it
And the birds from its branches.
15 “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16 “Let his mind be changed from that of a man
And let a beast’s mind be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes
And sets over it the lowliest of men.”

Knowing that Daniel was a man whom had the Spirit of God in him, Nebuchadnezzar sought him to interpret the dream. Daniel 4:19-27 reads:

19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’

            The king, however, did not heed Daniel’s call to repent. Daniel 4:28-33 says:

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”

What was King Nebuchadnezzar’s sin? The same as Herod Agrippa’s. He did not give God His due. He did not give God the glory for His life and prosperity. He had another god before him, himself. God, therefore, humbled him by reducing him to the station of an animal for seven years so that he might recognize that Heaven rules.

            Many of us understand that he came to realize this great truth and to give God His due in light of it. Daniel 4:34-37 says:

34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

It was Matthew Henry that said many years ago:

“God is jealous for His own honor, and will be glorified upon those whom He is not glorified by.”


Ascribe Glory to God

What does the One, who gives to all life and breath and all things, expect us to do with the life, and the breath, and the things He has given us? What is our chief end? What is the purpose of this life? It is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and the Word of God is the only inspired, inerrant, infallible, trustworthy, authoritative, righteous, holy, living and active, powerful, life-giving, and all-sufficient standard by which we may know how to glorify Him and enjoy Him. In other words, Holy Scripture is the perfect self-revelation of God whereby He reveals to us what to believe concerning Himself as well as the duties He requires of us as His creation. It was Jonathan Edwards that said:

“God glorifies Himself toward the creature also in two ways: 1.) By appearing to…their understanding. 2.) In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”

As Jesus taught, the duty of every creature that bears the very image of God, is to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is not a single person alive exempt from this command. There is not a single creature who has ever lived, nor a creature whoever will live that has been excused from obeying this charge of God. All things have been created by Him, and all things have been created for Him so that He might have preeminence in everything. He alone is worthy of all honor. He alone is worthy of all praise. He alone is worthy of all glory. It all belongs to Him. Revelation 1:5-6 says:

“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Revelation 4:11 says:

11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Revelation 5:12-13:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

As Paul said in his closing remarks to the believers in Rome, “To Him be the glory forever. Amen!”[6]

Proverb 25:27 says:

“It is not good to eat much honey,
Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.”

If we have any sense about us, we will not live for our own glory but for His. Self-glory always ends in eternal ruin. It is true that God’s normal mode of operation is not to immediately strike dead the person that does not give the glory to God or reduce them to the mental state of a beast, for if that were the case, we would all either be dead or grazing in a field somewhere having no reason about us.

We should, however, understand that though God will allow us to live on in this life for our own glory, and even permitting us to prosper in it, there is a day coming when we will have to give an account to the One to whom all glory belongs. Our only hope in life and in death is the mercy of God found in Christ Jesus the eternal Son of God, who took on flesh and knew no sin, yet became sin for us so that by faith alone we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Psalm 2:11-12 says:

11 Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”[7]

As Jeremiah said to his audience I say to you, “Give glory to the Lord your God.”[8] Do all things to His glory and not your own.[9] After all, the Scripture clearly teaches that He died for all so that they who live may no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. He graciously purchased us for Himself with a great price so that we might glorify Him with our lives out of gratitude for His grace. He first loved us when we did not love Him and He sent His Son, His only Son whom He loved, to be the propitiation of our sins.

Since He first loved us, he must have ascendancy in our hearts. All our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors should be directed at Him and no one else, and by Him and nothing. He must be given supremacy in our souls. All our feelings should find their satisfaction in Him only. He must be the dominating object of our minds. All of our thoughts are to be held captive to the obedience of Christ and none other. He must have the superiority in our strength. All our physical lives are to be lived for Him and Him alone as living sacrifices. In the end, we are to love Him intelligently, emotionally, willingly, and actively. Every area of our lives and every aspect of it is an alter on which we are to die to ourselves and live to Him.

This is the purpose of our lives. We are called to a life of loving and pursuing God, and out of that love and obedience will come a love for others with sincerity of heart. In other words, when we give God His due, and God glorifies Himself through us, others benefit.

May we conclude as David did in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 when he said in the sight of all the people assembled:

10 Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. 13 Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.”

Give God His due. As the Psalmist says:

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in holy array.”[10]

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.[11]


[1][1] Acts 12:1-19

[2] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; Strong’s G968

[3] Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus; Book 19, Chapter 8, Section 2

[4] The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12, John MacArthur; Page 327

[5] Reviving New England: The Key to Revitalizing Post-Christian America, Nate Pickowicz; Page 85

[6] Romans 16:27

[7] Psalm 2:11-12

[8] Jeremiah 13:16

[9] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[10] Psalm 29:1-2

[11] 1 Timothy 1:17

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