Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high   officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:21-29

Herod’s downward slide began with his illicit rendezvous with an evil woman and ended with blood on his hands. His unwillingness to rein in his lust had serious and sinister repercussions and, once he had allowed himself to start the slide, nothing could stop him. “The fear of man brings a snare”. Herod reminds me of Israel’s first king, Saul. He was also driven by the fear of man.

Throughout Scripture, there are patterns of people who had similar characters and showed similar tendencies in their behaviour. Compare Herod and Herodias with Ahab and Jezebel, for instance. Weak kings were manipulated by evil and scheming women. Both situations led to murder. Both men were warned by caring prophets whom they chose to ignore and persecuted instead.

What is the lesson in this story for us? Firstly, we must be on our guard against making the first poor decision that will set us on a downward path. The antidote is clearly stated in Proverbs 3:5, 6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” No-one knows where one wrong decision will lead, especially if it is driven by the fear of man. How much better to do the right thing even if it costs than to shrug off responsibility and open oneself to greater and greater pressure from the enemy.

Secondly, everyone must ultimately take responsibility for their choices even if they are made under pressure. We are either victims of forces outside of ourselves which makes us helpless against whatever happens, or we accept responsibility for our responses and our actions and can change the whole situation by taking positive action. What if Herod had stood up to Herodias and refused her request on the grounds that murder was not included in his offer? Would he have lost face with his guests or would he have won a new respect for doing the right thing? We will never know but it is a resolve we must make before we ever get into a situation where we must make a similar choice,

Luella Campbell

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