“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14

Note – This is the second of two devotionals for today.

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee (a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province, Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage was not only an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist persistently condemned such wickedness in Israel, and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s rebukes he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). He wished to put the prophet to death, yet, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

A great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias was part of the entertainment. After being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, she was asked what she would like for a reward (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s directions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Herod, too proud to confess his error, complied to the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

When news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14), Herod thought “that John the Baptist was risen from the dead” (Mark 6:14). Herod said, “It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16). Rather than confess his sin, Herod wrestled with guilt, and fear (Proverbs 29:25). He had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience. Later, when Jesus was arrested, Herod would have one meeting with Jesus (Luke 23:6-11); however, Jesus “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). Though uncaring and brutish, the blood of John the Baptist lay solely upon Herod’s hands– a decision for which he would ultimately answer to God.

Closing thoughts – Take a spiritual lesson from Herod: There are many who seek solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and salve their conscience with prescription drugs or other vices. Nevertheless, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer: “Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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