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God’s Word for You

Mark 6:19-20 The sin of Herodias

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, January 8, 2023

19 So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him. He knew that he was a righteous and holy man. When Herod listened to John, he was very much at a loss. But he liked to listen to him.

John was imprisoned in the desert fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea. Herod treated John better than many other prisoners, even allowing John’s disciples to visit him (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:19). Mark tells us that Herod liked to listen to John. Here we see the effect of the Word, that when the truth is preached, hearts will often listen even when they are swayed by sin and unbelief. Perhaps something from Herod’s childhood faith was stirred by John’s preaching. John’s words were the kind of thing Herod may have heard when he was still attending the synagogue and listening to sermons on Moses and the Prophets. Moses said: “Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 24:4). And perhaps Herod remembered the words of Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, who said when he was caught in a sin of malcontent, “Please, my Lord” (he was speaking to his younger brother), “Do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed” (Numbers 12:11).

Here was the difference between Herod and Herodias. The law of Moses was still touching Herod’s heart, even if only in a very small way. But Herodias? The law wasn’t doing anything in her black heart beyond making her all the more enraged. Her fury burned against John. The prophet openly spoke out against her private life, her personal choices, and what happened in her bedroom. She felt that she should be able to make whatever choices she wanted to make with her own life and her own body, and she didn’t care one bit for what God said, or God’s prophet. She wanted the prophet dead. Pastor Harold E. Wicke observed so rightly: “How often murder and adultery go together!” (People’s Bible: Mark, p. 90). Remember Abraham’s fear that men of other countries would kill him to get his wife from him (Genesis 12:13, 20:11). And even when David fell into adultery, his sin clouded his judgment so completely that he thought that murdering his friend was the only way to cover his guilt from the country (2 Samuel 11:14-15).

So Herodias hated John and wanted to kill him, but she knew that her husband would never agree to killing John unless something drastic changed. It was such a change that began to occupy her mind and her wicked heart; she needed to bide her time.

Herod had no such resolve. He feared John. This was not the religious fear that is equal to respect, but the simple everyday fear a man has for anything he doesn’t understand. He was afraid of John. But he also protected him. He very much liked to listen to John, but he was also at a loss about John’s message. The childhood faith of the king, if that’s at least partly what is was, was being crushed by the worldliness and possessiveness of his lover. Herod was caught, and Herod was stuck. In his mind, things were not going to change. But Herodias was of another mind altogether.

May God spare us from such wicked corners of the world. Yet we know that evil days will come, sometimes because of sin from the devil’s ruining of God’s creation, sometimes on account of the sins of unbelievers, sometimes as a result of the mistakes of our loved ones and friends, and sometimes, yes, sometimes, because of our own failings. “Trouble and distress have come upon me,” the Great Psalm says, “but your commands are my delight” (Psalm 119:143). A double-minded man like Herod is unstable in all he does, but the Lord God gives his people “singleness of heart and action” (Jeremiah 32:39). For it is better to be even a tool, a household utensil in the service of the Lord that serves his needs, than to strive for false glory or pretend divinity. Fame and fortune and all that the greedy desire is nothing but the income of the wicked. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Proverbs 15:16).

May the Lord our God make your faith straight and true, strong and resolute like John’s in prison, yet free from the danger that John faced. Yet whatever comes, let our eyes be fixed on all of God’s Word, the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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