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The Mess of Unrepentant Broken Lives

Mark 6:17-20
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. For John had been saying to Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.' So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 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. (NIVUK)

The fascinating thing about truth, is that it won't go away.  King Herod Antipas had big relationship problems … but let's go back in his story.  It may seem complicated, but as you read this paragraph slowly you may well see parallels in the broken relationships around you.  Firstly, the whole of Herod's family was dysfunctional relationally; more interested in political power than truth and love.  Secondly, Antipas was not really a king because the dominion of his father King Herod the Great had been carved into four areas by the Romans, and Herod Antipas was only the puppet governor of Galilee and Perea.  Thirdly, his first marriage to Phasaelis, the daughter of an Arabian King, was more politically convenient than a love match, although they lived together for years.  Fourthly, Antipas went to Rome to meet the Emperor Tiberius, and whilst there visited his half-brother Philip and his wife Herodias.  Fifthly, Antipas had a passionate affair with Herodias who schemed that he should divorce Phasaelis, and then she would divorce Philip, so that they could marry.  Sixthly, to make family relationships worse, Herodias was also Philip's niece.  Seventhly, Phasaelis angrily went back to her father who declared war on Herod Antipas and won a decisive victory, killing thousands of soldiers.  What a mess of hard-hearted broken lives!  

Herod's problems got worse when John the Baptist told him that his behaviour was out of order with God's Word (Leviticus 18:16; 20:21), and called him to repent (Mark 1:4).  Herod was fascinated by John's wisdom and enjoyed debating with him.  What John said was compelling because it was true, although the king could not reconcile it with his bedroom.  Perhaps he thought that he could patronise John and so keep God on-side with him.  Antipas could have responded to John's message in repentance, seeking God's mercy: instead, he tried to satisfy a powerfully ambitious wife who hated John, and still be interested in John's teaching.

Herodias had no such inner conflict.  She was used to getting her own way.  She hated John for speaking truth and disturbing her personal life.  So, she manipulated her husband - who thought that John's imprisonment would pacify her, and he could still enjoy his 'spiritual conversations'.  But she had murder in mind.  And the problem about nursing a wrong desire, is that you end up giving birth to it (James 1:14-15).  

There is no shortage of people who are interested in 'spirituality'.  Those with some previous Christian encounter; and also those who are puzzled, interested and apparently open to Biblical reason.  But willingness to have truth close at hand, is no substitute for obeying it (1 Samuel 15:22-23).  Indeed, it may be a spiritually fatal mistake to confuse familiarity with God's Word for a personal relationship with Him.  Let us take these lessons to heart personally, and then as repentant and forgiven sinners we can commend our broken family and friends to God's mercy too.

Dear Lord. Thank You for showing me that it is important to make right decisions about the truth I hear. Forgive me for the folly of thinking I can still have You as my Patron, without repenting of whatever offends You. Help me to repent while there is time. May my example of obedience be the encouragement to others to seek Your forgiveness. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams