Herod the King liked John the Baptist. Even though John spoke against Herod, telling him the truth about his life, Herod appreciated him. Maybe it was because he did tell him the truth. We can imagine that King Herod would have been surrounded by ‘yes’ men…
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
21 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.
Yesterday we heard about letting your yes be yes and your no be no. It’s interesting to consider an example like Herod’s, in which everyone would have been saying yes, even when the answer should have been no, and along comes a prophet who speaks God’s word – the truth is the truth with the prophet of God. And so Herod appreciates that John is different from everyone else in his kingdom.
Herodias, on the other hand, doesn’t have an appreciation for John, though, because John spoke against her marriage to Herod. Herod and Herodias were married after Herodias divorced Herod’s brother. Herodias clearly wanted to do what she wanted. And let’s notice (while we are studying vows, oaths, and swearing) that she decided to break her marriage vow to Herod’s brother. The prophet’s challenge made her furious.
We can see that Herod’s oath to his step-daughter gets him in trouble. This is what happens when we make oaths lightly. He is willing to give her up to half of his kingdom, because of her beautiful dance before him. And thinking that she will ask for gold or silver, Herod misses the mark. He doesn’t realize how conniving his wife is, and when his step-daughter asks for the head of John, Herod is stuck. He has made an oath.
He should have backed out, right? Would you have? John falls victim to the oath of Herod, who was actually a fan of John the Baptist. Herod was caught by two things: he was caught in an oath which he made publicly before God; and he was caught making an oath in front of his dinner guests. He would be greatly embarrassed if he went back on his word.
I am not sure that his embarrassment before God matters as much to Herod as his embarrassment before his dinner guests. Which brings me back to me…
When we make commitments, are we concerned about what people think or about what God thinks? Too many times, it’s people isn’t it? And too many times we end up doing that which pleases man and which greatly displeases the Lord. We don’t feel like we have an alternative, and so we behead the prophet of God.
We compromise our principles and offend our God. We walk in the direction that takes us away from God rather than toward him.
And it all starts with a silly promise that we never should have made in the first place. And then head’s roll…