My daughter informed me yesterday that she had read the Bible story about how John the Baptist died. Being familiar with the story, I asked her to tell me all about it, but I also kind of ‘checked out’ as she shared what I expected. However, she is a newer reader. She’s only just begun a regular habit of reading the Word independently. So, everything is fantastically interesting to her! As with other reading-lovers, my daughter has discovered the excitement of mining treasures from stories. Needless to say, her enthusiasm drew me into this familiar story in a whole new way.
The jealousy, the offense, the hatred of King Herod’s wife, Herodias, did not get past my young daughter. As she described the sad ending of the prophet who baptized Jesus, my girl understood how Herodias was harboring bitterness and was determined to have John the Baptist killed as a result.
And God used my daughter to convict my heart of wanting my own John the Baptist heads on a platter.
Woe to us all on that day that we read the Word of God and wish that other person would only hear these truths. Woe to us when we think this only applies to others. Woe to us when we’ve given in to such a hardness of heart that we cannot hear the truths being spoken about ourselves.
I could just imagine myself being transported back to King Herod’s palace. The lust and passion surrounding the great king himself and his sister-in-law. The secret affair that led to the betrayal of brother against brother, woman against husband. The insistence of the woman to get her way, though. And, soon, after finally marrying the king himself, Herodias had to listen to the pesky prophet as he challenged King Herod (“how dare he?!”) with the truth that everyone in the room knew: the king himself was an adulteress. He had uncovered his brother’s nakedness, as the law would have stated, and he was as good as a public outcast. But, the passion, the power…Herodias would do anything to hold onto what she wanted.
I could just imagine the late-night talks. Herodias explaining her side to her king-husband. How dare this rough and lowly man accuse the king of such immorality in front of others? John the Baptist must be dealt with!
And I could just imagine, based on the Word, how impotent Herod must have felt. Wanting to appease his nagging wife, but knowing how much the people–his people–loved John the Baptist, he couldn’t go through with killing him. His wife’s grudge held fast. Her bitterness and offense were insatiable against this prophet who faithfully spoke the truth. But, Herod knew in his heart that John was righteous and holy so, in his fear, he kept him safe.
But, a woman who is bitter and offended will not be easily satisfied. The anger builds, the thinking becomes more twisted, and she builds her case for death to the offender. When the timing was just right, she knew exactly what to ask for.
Herodias was waiting. She was ready. Her death sentence against her offender was planned, likely savored, many times over in her hard heart as she nursed the offenses and attributed motives day in and day out. And John the Baptist was killed.
I don’t know what happened to Herodias after that punishment against John was doled out. Was she really satisfied? Was her guilt assuaged? I wonder if her husband-nagging ended? For a heart that was so filled with bitterness that it hungered after murder, I doubt that John was the last person to get in her cross-hairs.
Is this one of those posts that moralizes you and warns you not to be Herodias? Or, for any men reading this, not to be Herod? Actually, no. This post, instead, is warning you to realize you ARE Herodias, ladies. I am Herodias. We get offended, we harbor bitterness, and in the depths of our hearts, we are murderers who want our enemy’s head on a platter.
This is the sad, ugly truth of our hearts apart from Jesus Christ. Will you have the humility and eyes to believe this? You may think I’m talking about that unbeliever, or that rebel child. But, I am talking…about…you. I am talking about me.
Until we acknowledge that this is the state of our hearts, even after we know and love Jesus, then we will stand by dumbfounded every time a marriage breaks up, a friendship is ruined, or a church body is severed. Bitterness is a tactic of the enemy of our souls and we must believe that we can become its victim, we must believe that we have to fight it with every big or slight offense, and we must strive to live at peace with others as much as it depends upon ourselves.
Our hearts cannot house bitterness and love at the same time. If we are bitter, any love we are giving others is self-serving and temporal. Bitterness is hatred. And we learn from the New Testament that anyone who hates his brother (or sister) is a murderer. (1 John 3:15)
We must examine our hearts and ask God to give us hearts that are soft and filled with His love. May we purpose not to be offended by others and not to hang onto those offenses when they come. Be aware of the evil one’s tactics to destroy us and our relationships and fight hard against him.
Yes, we are Herodias. But, if you have been given a new heart–one that has been changed to love God and others–then be convicted and repent so your life reveals this kind of love, one that is free of selfishness and hatred.
I’m praying this for myself. I pray this for you. Jesus is our only hope.