God’s Word for You
Mark 6:24-25 The sin of Salome (Part 2)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, January 15, 2023
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptizer,” she answered. 25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptizer on a platter right now.”
Offered anything in the kingdom by her drunken stepfather, the girl runs out to see what her mother wants (Jewish women did not recline at the table with men when there were guests). Herodias had only gambled a little with this whole scheme. She is the one who prompted her beautiful daughter to show herself off with her dancing. She knew that her husband would make some rash promise of a reward to Salome. The only variable was that he might have suggested some prize rather than allow the girl to ask for something. In that case, she might have been coached to try to make an exchange of what was offered for something far less valuable (John’s head). As it was, Herod played right into his wife’s hands. The girl had anything in the kingdom before her eyes. What the king didn’t expect was that she would race out of the room to ask Herodias what to ask for.
There was only one thing Herodias wanted. Delighted by her mother’s gruesome answer, the girl hurried back before the spell of her dancing had left the hazy thoughts of the king and his guests, and made her demand: “John’s head.” But the girl had her own twisted sense of humor to satisfy. She wouldn’t see John’s head marched into the room by its hair the way men handled one another’s mangled remains. This was a banquet, and she wanted everyone to remember this moment forever. So she added to the demand for John’s head. “On a platter,” she said. “Right now.”
Herod was a fool to have made his vow, and he was a sinner to keep it. A rash vow that will result only in worse sin should not be kept. This was a lesson Jephthah should have learned, but didn’t (Judges 11:30-31). To compound a sin with more sin is only more sinful. There is a clause in the Law of Moses about this: “If anyone swears a careless oath with his lips to do evil or to do good—whatever it is that a man might carelessly swear an oath about, even if he is unaware of it—when he learns of it, then he will be guilty” (Leviticus 5:4). The answer in the law for such an offense is just about the same answer for any sin: “When he is guilty of one of these ways, he must confess the manner that he has sinned. He must bring his sin offering to the LORD for the sin he has committed a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement for him for his sin” (Leviticus 5:5-6). If Herod had believed God, he would have known about this law, or could have asked his court priest or scribe about it and they would have told him. But he didn’t think there was any way out. He didn’t think that God could help him.
The despair of the sinner over his sin clouds his heart to God’s grace. For the Word of God also says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). If only this king would have one single godly adviser! He could have been turned back from his rash act as soon as he started upon this path, but Herod was proud, and probably more than a little afraid of his paramour. She had all of the power; the power of life and death. Another king, more far-sighted than this one, would have had Herodias and her daughter put to death for this suggestion. It was just the sort of grab for authority that ended Adonijah’s life (1 Kings 2:22-25). But having made a promise, Herod was so weak a man, so miserable a sinner, that he didn’t think that there was anything for him to do than bow to the wish of a teenage bimbo and her mother the whore.
Spare us, O Lord, from foolish sins and foolish pride! Guide us even when we are lost on the path of recklessness to come back to you, to lay our sins before the cross, and to ask you what should be done! Do not let us compound sins upon sins! Draw us closer to you every day so that we confess our sins and cherish the forgiveness you hold out to us through the gospel. We believe in you, O Lord. Do not count our sins against us, but count our faith as the righteousness you look for in us; the righteousness we have in Jesus.
Pastor Timothy Smith