Herodias was ambitious. She was fed up of her husband Philip's domineering attitude. Always had to be submissive to him as Tetrarch, or governor of Ituraea, a region north-east of Israel bordered on the west by the River Jordan, an area occupied by Syria today. To the west of the Jordan River was Galilee, which included the west coast of the Lake of Tiberias, governed by Philip's half brother, recently divorced Herod Antipas, and apparently childless. These two brothers were the sons of Herod the Great, who not only governed the whole of Israel and Judah, but he refurbished the Temple in Jerusalem, and also built a shrine enclosing the sealed entrance of the Cave of Machpelah close to the town of Hebron (see my blog The Stone Bible, 1st February, 2011) - before he died following the slaughter of the Innocents in 4BC.
Where her husband Philip was authoritative over his own household, Herod Antipas had a much more malleable character, a personality she can wind around her little finger. So after a massive bust up, she left her husband, and taking her beautiful daughter, settled into Herod's palace.
For some reason historians cannot seem to agree on, Philip could not gainsay his half brother. Instead he remained at his palace alone and defeated. Soon after, Herodias married Herod and began to rule over his house as well as over the region of Galilee.
Then John the Baptist called out to them as they passed by in their chariot, saying that it was unlawful to marry someone else wife while her husband was still alive.
Herodias was furious! How dare this itinerant preacher tell her what was right and what was wrong. She ordered Herod to arrest him and thrown into the palace prison, to await execution. At least Herodias succeeded in having John silenced, if not her conscience.
I suppose Herod would have wanted a super injunction if the law courts were able to hand it out in those days. Herod rather liked John, and was willing to have him talk in his presence. He certainly would not have wanted the general population outside muttering and tut-tutting over his misdeed. He felt guilty and exposed. But unfortunately, his conviction of wrongdoing failed to result in a conversion. Had it, Herod would have sent Herodias packing, and he himself making a journey to Jerusalem to sacrifice a sin offering at the Temple.
I guess this is the outcome of State religion, in force in Israel up to the Crucifixion. God through Moses had set up this State religion - with the Law, detailed instructions on how to live, along with animal sacrifices and a special set form of worship. These applied to every Israelite, regardless of whether the person wanted to love or honour God or not. It was a disastrous failure. God himself knew this from even before such a covenant was ratified. The Law and state religion does not save, rather, it condemns. It causes one to judge another, and to compare one person's character and actions with another, even if nobody is actually "white" (having a spotless character), if someone else is "black", then even if the one judging is "grey", in front of the "black" person, he'll appear as "white".
That was how State religion was lived out in at the time of Herod, John the Baptist, the Pharisees and soon after, Jesus Christ himself.
The Pharisees were so notorious in judging and finding fault in others that both John and Jesus denounced them for their hypocrisy.
Finding fault, judging and making comparisons gives the person doing these things a sense of superiority, or a sense of self righteousness, with a deceptive idea of reaching Heaven after death by self effort.
It was easy for Israel as a whole to exalt itself on a national level, this sense of moral and spiritual superiority. During the time of Christ, no Jewish person would enter a house of a non-Jew, or Gentile, no Gentile was to enter the Temple area of Jerusalem, and they were made to stay away from the Jewish home.
Even the Apostle Peter, leader of the early Church, had difficulty in direct communication with the Gentiles. With the case of the Roman Centurion Cornelious, Peter had to have a special vision from above before he was convinced that the Roman men who arrived were sent by God. And even at Cornelious' house, Peter said that it was an abomination for a Jew to enter a house of a non-Jew. Charming! Cornelious could have shown him the door.
Even some time later, while Peter was at last settling down to dine with Gentile Christians, he suddenly rose and left the room when news of Jewish believers from James were about to arrive. Paul had to rebuke him, and he did so in public too.
On the national level, England seemed to have taken over from Israel in morality and national superiority. No greater proof of this than William Blake's poem Jerusalem which asks whether the feet of Jesus Christ once trod this green and pleasant land. Despite that there is no historical truth that he ever set foot here, this did not stop the poem from being put to music in 1916 by Sir Hubert Parry to create a patriotic hymn sung as an alternative to the National Anthem.
Jerusalem is still sung at sports venues, particularly at Rugby matches, at the Ladies Institute, and at the wedding service of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, in front of a worldwide audience of around two billion viewers. In Parliament there was a debate whether Jerusalem would become the official anthem for England, but nothing of this had so far been declared.
The statement, Our God is the God of England, I actually heard right here at Ascot Baptist Church during the early 1990s. I was the only one who disputed the statement. Most of the others in church at the time seemed to have accepted.
Jeremy Paxman backs this up in his book, The English - A Portrait of a People. In it, Paxman interviews performer George Formby, to which he replied that Englishness is very deep spirit of St. George. The idea of St George is to fight against evil. (P.81)
Paxman discusses how the English believed that they were a covenanted people of God which began to peak in the 18th Century, in very similar pattern to ancient Israel. Sir Edward Hine, for example, in 1879 delivered a lecture in Chelsea advocating the crackpot belief that Britain was Israel (literal bloodline) and America was the lost tribe of Manasseh, arriving into the British Isles centuries after the "Ten Lost Tribes" were led away to Assyria as told in the Old Testament.
The nation as a whole now rejects this idea, but still hold to its form. In my schooldays morning assembly always had a Christian element, and that's despite the rise in atheism, particularly among the boys. I have seen over the years the decline in the belief in God, let alone commitment, yet upholding its Christian roots and morals. Very much like ancient Israel.
One example I would like to quote here is the case of Donald McGill, (1875-1962) an artist who designed the saucy postcards sold at British seaside resorts. In 1953 he had his entire stock confiscated from a shop at Ryde, Isle of Wight, the result of churchy bureaucrats who wanted to keep control of public morality. In 1954 he appeared in Court and was fined £50, a lot of money in those days. He escaped prison by a narrow margin. But soon after, his saucy postcard business began to flourish across the nation. The public found those cards amusing, and refused to have their morals controlled. And the attempted ban did not result in any conversions to Jesus Christ as Saviour either.
Into more modern times, I can name three married celebrities who each betrayed their wives by sleeping with their mistresses. Each of the three attempted to hide their misdeeds by getting an injunction from the Law Courts. This means that they have their privacy protected from the Media. In other words, they can err without the public knowing anything about it.
These were public figures. One was the BBC correspondent Andrew Marr, who actually asked for his injunction to be lifted. In 2003, Andrew Marr traveled to the Galapagos Islands to advocate Charles Darwin for the BBC Greatest Briton of All Time competition, which by public voting, was won by Winston Churchill.
The second was Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin, who slept with a work colleague, and it is thought by many that this misdeed was connected to the banking crisis which brought along the credit crisis and eventual Recession in 2010.
But the most dramatic was the case of Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, who ordered an injunction after betraying his wife Stacey to sleep with Imogen Thomas. The injunction was a failure due to the many Twitter posts revealing the footballer's identity. When Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming revealed the footballer's identity to the House of Commons, Speaker John Bercow rebuked him, saying that Giggs' privacy should be respected.
But to me who don't follow football, where Ryan Giggs would have remained an relative unknown, except for those into football, now has become infamous across the nation. It was so unnecessary. For news of adultery among celebrities means little to us now. Giggs should have realised that the nation hardly tut tuts any more.
Yet journalists such as the Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell still advocates Britain as a cultural superior nation due to its Christian heritage, despite its departure from anything Biblical or spiritual. In this weekend's paper she criticized First Lady Michelle Obama who, with her President husband Barak, was visiting Britain, and was giving an emotional talk to some students at a London girls school about "Triumph over Adversity". Platell responded with these words:
Perhaps someone should have explained to the First Lady that this is Britain and we don't tend to go for all that schmaltzy, heart on the sleeve drivel.
Wow, I wonder how many people reading this turned to Jesus Christ for salvation?
Now let me get real here. There is only one message all Christians should deliver. That is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and be saved from separation from God and eternity in Hell. There is no other way to Heaven other than trusting Christ and him crucified.
Enough of this idea that just because one is British or English and was baptised in a church as a baby, one can work his way to Heaven. And don't be deceived by the sight of coffins containing war casualties passing through Wootten Basset after their heroic deaths in Afghanistan. Unless they were converted to Jesus Christ while still alive, they would now be in Hell. War death does not save one's soul.
When in Athens, Paul looked at all the pagan altars surrounding him, most if not all had occult influence. But instead of lobbying the Government to have them demolished, as we would probably have done, he just heralded the Gospel of Christ. It was the same when the Apostle was at Ephesus. He did not talk against the Temple of Diana which dominated the city. He just preached the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and faith in him for salvation.
It is not the adulterous acts committed by celebrities that sends them to Hell, it's not trusting in the Saviour. Lobbying against an occult shop about to open in the High Stret will be of no benefit whatsoever. Rather, such actions would cause Christians to be seen as miserable fun-spoilers, and further alienate the unbeliever from the local church.
We as Christians now have only one message: Repent and be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall receive remission of sins.
Who knows. If Herod Antipas heard such a message, he might have repented after all. Poor John. He told the governor that this act was wrong and he paid with his life.