Bit Players in the Main Story

‘Are there any new shoots on our orchids yet?’

My husband bent over to part the foliage and showed me a small green stalk beginning to poke its way up at the base of the other fronds. ‘Here’s one’, he said.

I love to see the tiny things as they work to rise above their small beginnings. I love to see the bud fattening before it’s barely tinted. They give me a sense of hope. Have you noticed how a young girl changes like a bud that demurely displays its colour and develops into its own flowering? And a teenage boy as he starts his walk towards full manhood. In these small ways, God keeps me full of hope for the future.

The other morning I was reading my Bible and noticed something I’d never seen there before. It was in the account of the ghastly death of King Herod (Acts 12). I suppose I’d always been so shocked by the horror of the scene that I missed the details at the beginning where we see the reason why the king was involved in this story.

He’d been violently quarreling with the people from the cities of Tyre and Sidon. They wanted to negotiate a peace with him so they could continue to access the food they received from his country, otherwise they’d starve. They didn’t go direct to Herod; they spoke to his trusted personal servant and asked him to put in a good word for them with the king. So he arranged an audience for them with his master.

This influential man’s name was Blastus. We might wonder why his parents gave their child such a name, but in Greek it has a great meaning. Blastus means ‘that which buds’, or ‘brings forth’; in other words, ‘that shoots’ (like our cymbidium orchids). I suppose they hoped his name would always remind him of his expected role in life. They must have wanted him to become a productive man; an important player in future events. Well he did, in a way. And I never even noticed him! In fact, I’d also forgotten about the peace delegates from Tyre and Sidon! I’d only focussed on Herod.

Like an orchid shoot, Blastus had been prepared for the very place in history that God had saved up for him. Now was the time for God to deal with Herod, and he used Blastus in his plan.

How much activity floats past us while we’re looking at the things we think are important? For instance, when we watch a movie, hear the latest news, or witness something in a public place, how do we know who has been the most influential person in that event?  And do we make assumptions that are based on the largest piece of the story? Perhaps there’s a bit player at work whose role is more influential than we realise.

I wonder what became of Blastus after Herod died? Did he gain employment with another famous person, or did the merchants from Tyre or Sidon take him in as a reward for his help? And what happened about the treaty with them once the king was taken to his grave? These questions will probably remain forever unanswered for me. But in the wider drama, God was showing, for all readers of history, the fact that he won’t allow anyone else to take the glory when he’s the main player. He’ll use whoever he’s chosen to act for him in the background.

Are we prepared for our place in God’s drama? And are we satisfied to be a bit player?

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