Right now is the first moment of quiet I have had all day, and I can think of no better place to spend these last few moments of July 20, 2012 than thinking of God and meditating on the holy scriptures. The ink on these pages is precious to me, as I hold in my hand words that bring life and flourishing—if I would but live them. I realize as I sit here now, Bible beside me, that there are people in this world who do not have access to the hope that sustains me. Father in heaven, let me never take for granted the gift that your words are to me! May I treasure your words in my heart and commit them to my memory. May they be the wisdom by which I live and the light that guides my path. When things are not black and white, and discernment is required, may your words be road signs—”this is the way, walk in it!” I long to do your will, oh Lord. I long to do your will.
Tonight I am reading Mark 6:14-29. Read through the verses at least twice. Make a note of whatever phrases strike you as particularly worth further contemplation. Then sit for a minute or two and let your imagination fill in the missing details. Imagine Herod. Imagine John the Baptist. Herod’s wife. His step-daughter. The party guests. The whole scene. And pray as you read that the holy spirit will give you divine insight.
Tonight when I read this passage, I came upon a sentence that was already underlined in pink colored pencil from a prior reading of this passage, and that same sentence hit me again. Speaking of King Herod, it says, “And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.” (v. 26)
Let’s recap: John the Baptist has been incarcerated by King Herod. His primary offense seems to be that he pointed out that Herod should not “have” his brother’s wife, Herodias. (She was married to Herod’s brother, Philip, and then she left Philip, or was taken from Philip, and began acting like Herod’s wife.) We don’t know the ins-and-outs of how that panned out, but what we do know is that Herodia was offended by the fact that John the Baptist said Herod shouldn’t be acting like she was his wife.
So Herod has a party, his daughter dances at the party, and he is so impressed—and possibly so drunk—that, as a reward for her good entertainment, he promises, in front of everyone, that she can have anything, “Whatever you wish… up to half my kingdom, I will give you.”
Have you ever said something and then immediately regretted it? That’s what I’m pretty sure happened with Herod. He was caught up in the moment, and he made this promise. But once she came to cash in, he realized what a foolish promise it had been: she asked for a man’s head. And not just any man, but a man whom Herod actually really liked.
“And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.”
This is where I roll my eyes and shake my head. Why couldn’t he just laugh it off and admit he had gone a bit overboard on that promise? It seems to me that his pride won out, and a man lost his life because of it. And not just any man: John the Baptist. Cousin of the Messiah. Preparer of “The Way.”
Because he was worried about what people would think.
It’s super easy to roll my eyes at Herod when I read this. Foolish man, I think. Letting a woman and her daughter cause you to have a good man executed? Pathetic!
But then I realize that the same pride that filled Herod’s heart fills mine too. It really, really does. How I hate to admit when I’m wrong! How I hate to say I’m going to do something and then go back on my word! It is one of the worst sins, in my opinion. (Yes, there are some that have a much further-reaching affect that others, and that’s what I mean by “worse sin.”) Herod had said something in front of his guests, and because he didn’t want to go back on his word—because of his pride—he had to follow through; he had to have John executed.
Pride can keep us on the wrong road, the road that leads to total destruction. Herod made a stupid promise, putting him on “the wrong road,” but he could have corrected his course. Have you ever felt trapped by something you’ve said? Don’t wait until it’s too late to clarify and self-correct. Speak up! Give grace the chance to show up. Don’t let your pride keep you from doing the right thing. Is there something hovering right now? Some decision you made in a moment of panic or peer pressure that you wish you cold un-promise? You can. Today. Don’t commit the same mistake as Herod. Don’t let “death” come because you are not willing to correct yourself. Humble yourself now rather than living with regret. Herod could never go back and undo John’s beheading. But we can. We can do a course-correction right now. Let’s do that!
I am thinking right now of a situation I know of where a woman who is a mom and wife is involved with a man who is not her husband. She has done and said things that seem to be completely redirecting her path away from her family. But as I think of her, I am praying: change direction. Correct your course today. You’ve made mistakes—big deal. Don’t keep making mistakes! One mistake does not need to result in many irreversible mistakes. Learn from Herod. Humble yourself, and change.