“And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”
One of our greatest needs in this hour is to beware of the corrupting influence of idolatry. Jesus warned us to beware of the leaven of Herod. Perhaps we would be well-advised to take a few moments and discover just what there was about Herod that made Jesus use such strong language against him.
In the first place, Herod is derived from the word “hero,” and literally means “heroic.” One of the greatest pitfalls in the life of a child of God is the tendency to want to be a “hero.” Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated, but when pursued too far, such thoughts and feelings lead to destruction. Pride, we are told, goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
It never ceases to amaze us to behold the things that people will say and do—all for the purpose of being great in others’ eyes, or a HERO, if you please. This is one aspect of the leaven of Herod. It is an overwhelming desire to be recognized as somebody great and special that corrupts, defiles and renders foul the life of all who are contaminated therewith.
Historically, there were several Herod’s mentioned in the Bible. The most notable of them was the originator of the family line, Herod the Great. This Herod was the King of the Jews when our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem. According to Bible scholars, this man was a descendant of Esau—an Edomite usurper, if you please.
Herod was apparently appointed to his political power by the authority of the Roman government. He stooped to any means to retain his position, even to that of murdering members of his own family. His private life was characterized by suspicion, cruelty and insane rage. Publicly, he was hailed as a great builder, and was praised by many for the construction of “Herod’s Temple” and other notable buildings. Here again is the leaven of Herod: publicly do grand and great things, ostensibly for the Kingdom of God; but privately be consumed with all kinds of iniquity and jealousy and hatred and murder.
Jesus’ contempt for Herod and his works is plainly seen by His response to His disciples’ words of admiration for Herod’s Temple:
“Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
When Jesus was born, Herod, after being informed by the wise men that the King of the Jews had been born, desired that they would let him know where they found Him, so he could come and “worship” Him also. His actual intentions, however, were to destroy the child—which even though he was never able to do so, he destroyed many innocent lives while attempting it. Again, here is the leaven of Herod: Make a pretense of wanting to worship Jesus Christ, while in reality only wanting to destroy the true way of worship, along with those who are true worshipers.
Notice, if you please, that even though Herod was not a true Jew, he was vested with the authority of the Kingdom of the Jews as a proselyte Jew. Here is yet another aspect of the leaven of Herod. The spiritual descendants of Esau, who actually despise the birthright and have no right to lay claim even to the blessing of the first-born, will push and pull their way until they are in control of those who are the rightful descendants of Israel.
Another Herod in the Bible was reproved by John the Baptist for his adulterous and incestuous marriage. As a result, he imprisoned John the Baptist, and ultimately had him beheaded, at the behest of his wicked wife. Another facet of the leaven of Herod is shown by this sad turn of events: If God’s anointed messenger disturbs and offends you by his message, bind him and destroy him, if necessary.
Finally, we are told of yet another Herod in the book of Acts:
“And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.”
What a great HERO this man was in the eyes of his audience. But God was angry with him, because he did not give the glory to God. How many times have we watched men become consumed with the leaven of Herod, and while they are speaking, God takes His presence from them and they are overtaken with simply the works of the flesh?! Beware the leaven of Herod!
It is tragic to see so many modern so-called Apostolics defiled by the leaven of Herod. Sometimes this deadly contaminant shows up in a local assembly, and begins to work its insidious poison through a congregation. When any member of a local church begins to rise above the pastor, beware the leaven of Herod! If an individual is blessed with abilities, then use what God has given you for His glory. Never try to take the glory for yourself. Being used by God does not give a member of the church the right to usurp authority from the Pastor.
It doesn’t matter what great things someone may have done, or how much money they may have given to the cause, if they are spiritual descendants of Esau rather than Israel, they will invariably be obsessed with becoming a HERO, instead of quietly doing what God has called them to do. Here is the essence of the leaven of Herod.
We observe that the Apostle John encountered this very same spirit in his day:
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”
(III John 9-11)
There will always be those who, although in the minority, will have bigger mouths and louder voices than all the others. Ostensibly meeting with us to worship God, they are determined to destroy the very elements that define our worship. And while they build great temples, and adorn them with awesome gifts, Jesus Christ disdains them and their buildings, and will bring them down together.
Their lives are characterized by greed and selfishness; their actions are motivated by jealousy and suspicion; and their words are full of arrogance and spite. They refuse to take a back seat, because they are obviously too much of a HERO to go unrecognized. They love to have the preeminence. They are addicted to the heady narcotic of the applause of men. Just give them the floor, and they will set everyone straight and put everybody in their place!
Yet, they are Edomites—bereft of any true spiritual birthright or blessing, nothing but spiritual fornicators in God’s eyes. Always and forever they are jockeying for positions of influence and power, vainly trying to steal back what their great-grandfather sold to Jacob so many centuries ago. The true God-called preacher that they cannot control, they will attempt to imprison and eventually destroy.
Beware the leaven of Herod! Do not regard Herod’s Temple; it is already marked by God for destruction. Do not make the mistake of believing he really wants to worship Jesus Christ; he simply wants to eliminate any and all competition to his shaky claim to a throne Esau carnally forfeited when he sold Jacob his birthright. May we always remember and heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul:
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
(Galatians 5:9; I Corinthians 5:6)
Rev. Tim D. Cormier