The Scriptorium

For Whom the Law?

What do we learn from John about the Law? Matthew 14.1-5

Matthew 14: Son of God (1)

Pray Psalm 19.12-14.
Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Sing Psalm 19.12-14.
(St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me!
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be.
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight
be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!

Read and meditate on Matthew 14.1-5.

1. Why was John put in prison?

2. Why did Herod keep him there, and not execute him?

Let’s review what we have learned about John the Baptist. First, he preached a message of repentance from sin and unto good works, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. This begs the question: How did John define sin?

Second, he captured the respect of all the people, who “counted him as a prophet.”

Third, Jesus said that of those born of women – including Abraham, Moses, David, and all the prophets – none was greater than John the Baptist. He was accounted at least as great as the greatest saints of the Old Testament.

So why was John in prison? Because he preached the Law of God to the pagan king, Herod. Herod was not a Jew; he was of Edomite descent. The Romans knew how to humble and subjugate the people they ruled. Rather than give them a king of their own race, the Romans established an Edomite to rule over them – a people with historic ties to the Jews, but whom the Jews had come to despise (cf. Ps. 137.7). Puppet kings like Herod acknowledged only one law – the law of survival.

But that did not deter John from holding Herod accountable to the Law of God. He upbraided the king because he had taken his brother’s wife for himself, in clear violation of the Law of God (cf. Lev. 18.16; 20.21). John understood that, from the very beginning, God intended the wisdom and beauty and love encoded in His Law to guide not only His people, but all the nations of the world (cf. Deut. 4.5-8; Mic. 4.1-5).

The world may not like the Law of God, but those who would be great in the Kingdom take their cues not from the world of men, but from the Word of God (Matt. 5.17-19).

Herod’s folly is evident in his not being willing to be held accountable to God and His Law. Where the Law of God is concerned, do we stand with Herod, or with John and Jesus?

1. What did Jesus say about the Law of God in Matthew 5.17-19? What does this require of you?

2. According to Matthew 24.12, what happens when people neglect or scorn the Law of God? How can you see this in Herod?

3. John preached the Law of God as the defining standard for sin. Can we know and repent of sin apart from knowing and following the Law of God (cf. Rom. 7.7)?

John the Baptist, who had come in the spirit and power of Elijah, with the same authority whereby the latter had rebuked Ahab and Jezebel, upbraided Herod and Herodias because they had entered into an unlawful marriage. He did so because it is not lawful to take the wife of one’s own living brother. John preferred to incur the king’s anger rather than, through fawning, be unmindful of God’s commandments.
Jerome (347-420), Commentary on Matthew 2.14.4

Guide me today by Your Commandments, O God, that I may love you by obeying Your Law as I…

Pray Psalm 19.7-11.
Ask the Lord to line your path and direct your steps today according to the perfect, sure, wise, right, pure, and righteous Law of the Lord.

Sing Psalm 19.7-11.
Psalm 19.7-11 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure.
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.

The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last.
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast.
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet.
Be warned by every word and line; be blessed with joy complete.

T. M. Moore

For more insight to the abiding importance of the Law of God – and how to read and understand it – order a copy of our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore