Echoes From the Campfire

A man’s heart was filled with obscure promptings; it was a dark chamber of doubt and pride and honor and deceit and loyalty.”
              –Ernest Haycox  (Return of a Fighter)

    “He also taught me, and said to me: ‘Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.'”
              –Proverbs 4:4 (NKJV)
I recently read in Matthew about the death of John the Baptist.  I have read it many times before, however, this time several things struck me.  It is found in Matthew 14:1-12 where I was reading, but it can also be read in Mark 6 and Luke 3.
    John, that “wild preacher-man” from the wilderness.  The man who did not dress for the occasion and had special dietary delights.  John, the preacher who spoke the truth, did not compromise it nor water it down.  There’s the first lesson:  speak the truth without compromise.  Some of those who stand behind the holy desk should adhere to it.  Those in leadership positions should hearken to the words of John in regard to speaking the truth.
    Here is a man, Herod, who listened to the words of John.  They made him angry, they convicted him, but not enough to bring him to repentance.  He hated the words of John, but would not have him put to death.  He lived in the guilt and conviction that came from John’s message of the truth regarding him living in incest and adultery.  Being a Jew, he knew this, and he seemed to hear the message from John, but did nothing concerning it.  Alexander MacLaren writes, “Convictions not obeyed harden the heart to stone.  Frivolity, lust, and neglect killed the germ of a better life.”  Here was the chance for Herod to repent, but instead he hardened his heart.  The word was given; the word was neglected.  There will always be a response to the Word of God:  repentance or hardening of the heart.
    Herod was a man of weak character, who was lustful, superstitious, cunning, yet an easily frightened ruler.  He continued in his evil ways and because of that he was driven farther and farther into evil.  Then there came the party.  The daughter of Herodias, Salome, danced before Herod and the crowd.  It is not stated, but it must have been a sensuous dance and it pleased Herod so much that he made an oath.  When she asked for the head of John the Baptist he was aghast.   He was too weak of a man to renege on his foolish oath.  “Like most weak men.  Herod feared to be thought of as weak. (Plumptre)  He knew he should not have made the oath and he knew more so that it should not be kept.  Besides the fact that decapitation was against Jewish law.
    It has been said that no sin dwells alone.  Herod, the adulterer, had heard the words of truth spoken by John; he is lured into a false oath by the sensual Salome, and has John executed.  Here was a man to whom conviction came, he heard the word, but hardened his heart to it.  He could have changed, he could have repented, he could have broken the oath…but no, he was too weak of a man.  
    I wonder how many people have heard the Word of the Lord and have acted in similar ways to Herod?  I wonder how people can take the Word of holy Scripture and twist it to fit their evil schemes?  John was faithful, he preached the truth.  Herod would not listen and went deeper and deeper into the darkness.  When the Word is preached, faithfully and truly, we must hearken to it and neglect what is being said.  Do not harden your hearts to the wooing of the Holy Spirit.