Herod offers half the kingdom to Herodias’s daughter. Esther was offered half the kingdom.
Several people in the Bible made requests–dire requests. Esther (Hadassah) stood before a King to save her people. One man on a cross next to Yeshua requested forgiveness and received the promise of Paradise. Even in our silence, we are continually asking of our King Yeshua, Messiah. He tells us who He is in the Gospel of John. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;” (John 14:6, NASB). There is nothing hated as greatly as truth.
Stephen speaks truth in the book of Acts and is stoned to death. John speaks the truth and ends up on the menu.
“For Herod, himself had ordered that John be arrested and bound and imprisoned, on account of his brother Philip’s wife Herodias, whom Herod had married. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife! So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him” (Mark 6:17-19).
Grudge, in the Hebrew sense, means to cherish a fit of anger and nurture it.
Herodias wanted John dead. Her daughter dances for Herod on his birthday, and he tells her that he will give her anything, even half of the kingdom. She, like Esther, is standing before a king. What will she ask for? What will we?
“The king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom!”
Then she went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” And Herodias answered, “The head of John the Baptist.”
At once, the girl hurried back to the king with her request: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter immediately” (Mark 6:22-25).
Immediately. Chop chop–literally.
What are our souls requesting from the Master, the King of Kings? When our King waves his scepter and says, “Ask whatever you wish.” Are we coming boldly to His throne room like Esther?
“Assemble all the Jews in Susa. Fast for me: Do not eat or drink at all for three entire days. My servants and I will also fast. After that, I will go to the king, even if it is against a royal decree. If I die, I die” (Esther 4:16, GWT).
Esther said, If I die, I die? What does our request look like?
Some of my most significant accomplishments and life lessons have been birthed out of tragedies, mistakes, weaknesses, and fears. It is often on this journey under the sun that we find ourselves in incredibly uncomfortable circumstances. We may have moments that turn into seasons where we want to check out. We huddle up in a fetal position and hold our broken souls, or we run full throttle, keeping busy with life, never slowing down long enough to deal with our past or present wounds.
Can we sit still long enough to question why we take flight or sit paralyzed—why we scream to be noticed or slink into corners? Why we need to fill up a room with our grandeur, or why we feel invisible and unworthy of being seen.
As a society that makes millions off social media and reality television, can we capture sacred moments without publicizing them? Can we enjoy a sunset alone with our Creator without sharing it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter every time? Even if it’s royal purple and red? Are my treasured moments, thoughts, or accomplishments in life measured by the number of views, hearts, likes, or shares I get? Can I be silent without ‘my’ opinion being stated? Or worse, have I kept silent while Haman is erecting gallows for my people?
Who are my people?
In our sorrow or complacent posture, we ask questions to the King of the universe, or we request nothing. Is it possible that our flesh grows louder, and is in fact, screaming for red stuff because our souls are as dead as a corpse?
Yeshua said, “You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
Self-indulgence: gourmet foods, pampering, massaging, plucking, plumping, sitting on ivory couches, eating choice lambs.
Who will awaken the dawn?
In our deadened state, we tell the world we are alive and excited! Prosperous, even, but by whose standards? We say we are blessed, but how is this defined for us?
“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:21-22).
Truth can get you killed by the sword or by men with sharp tongues.
We venture outside and see each person with fresh eyes, eager to learn from their wanderings, or we smugly think they have nothing to offer us. We magnify their faults and forget their strengths. We notice their blackheads while our pimples come to a head.
They offer us clothing, but we judge their shoes and where they’ve traveled as less than and dismiss their offerings–or we crave their attention so much, we tap dance for them and parade our peacock feathers in prideful fashion.
We get so caught up in the hustle, we forget about our soul and leave it on the counter like our lukewarm coffee cup.
“The soul is always whispering to us,” taught Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz.
“Then why don’t we change?” asked the disciple Reb Raphael of Bershad.
“Because,” said Reb Pinchas, “the soul never repeats itself.”
Spring arrives, and we are still naked. In our effort to sprout or bud with some form of life, we speak to our soul in the silence and say things like, ‘Has anyone ever truly loved me? How can I love my neighbor as myself after what I’ve done or failed to do?’
Why am I here?
What am I created to do?
We stare at scars where our breasts used to be. We remove the wig and see a few spry hairs. We study the MRI report. We look at our ex’s new lover and make comparisons. We receive a frightening diagnosis, a foreclosure, job loss, or family issues that seem irreparable, or worse, a call in the middle of the night.
We replay the past and multiply our guilt. We say words like ‘if.’
“If I had only done this or said that, perhaps things would be different. Suppose I would have taken a different route that day. If I just would have made the phone call. If I would have taken them to the doctor sooner—replaced the batteries in the smoke detector, showed them love, and not just enunciated the words carelessly—flinging them from my keyboard or lips with such ease.
l o v e
y o u
But can we love like a lamp with all its warm glowing light?
Can we love like Yeshua?
Would we know what love looked like if it slapped us in the face?
Have we ever felt it from someone? Who was that person that created a space for our voice, our sorrow, our joy, and our accomplishments? Can we be like them?
Have we returned an ear?
A shoulder to cry on?
Been silent long enough to listen—really listen.
When we lack stillness– we forget the birds sing to us every morning—when we don’t absorb the Sonshine or actually taste our food, we wander over hills searching for manna on day 7, forgetting how it arrived effortlessly on days 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and doubled on day 6.
We purchase hair extensions instead of waiting like Samson for new growth. We try and fight for ourselves instead of being still or letting Him. We toss memes up with sharp points that stab people. “Aha, take that!”
We clean out our cabinets, closets, cars, toxic people list. We apply for new occupations, start new projects, enroll in a class, and rearrange the furniture. Finally, we open the mini-blinds and allow light to sweep over us like a vacuum collecting debris. Our eyes squint at this beam of radiance as if it’s some foreign object of torture.
We forget that we are lamps.
We forget to buy oil.
We proclaim that we have oil. Meanwhile, our oil light flashes for all to see, but we don’t notice it.
We go through the motions and never enjoy the moments that make up our lives.
We are corrected and can’t admit that the other person has light to give us.
Have we ever really seen the other person?
“We each have blind spots, just as every candle casts its own shadow. Only when you place a second candle next to the first, do the shadows disappear, illuminated by the other’s light.” Ariel Burger.
We study other humans and decide that we know them. We gaze at people over seasons and form an opinion of their soul—what needs removed, added–like a cake recipe, we have the formula.
Yes, we have the ingredients they need for success, knowledge, health, better posture, greater peace, cleaner foods and how to live their best life now.
We don’t listen.
We don’t have empathy, because after all, our pain is more considerable.
We want them to measure our pain, and so we tolerate theirs until we can chime in.
Tolerate? Elie Wiesel, explains,
“I don’t like the word tolerate. Who am I to tolerate you? I prefer the word respect. I must respect you even if I do not agree with you. In fact, my disagreement may be an expression of my respect for you. If I truly respect you, don’t I owe you my honesty?”
Honesty? Didn’t John (Yochanan) say honest things to Herod?
Can we handle such a big word in a day and time where everyone gets a ribbon, a medal, and must never be offended? Isn’t pride the reason behind most of our offenses? Our flesh wasn’t noticed. Our feelings were hurt. Our work wasn’t honored or seen. Our talents overlooked. Our children were left out. No one thanked us for our generous gift or time. Or worse, the truth they spoke enraged us to cut off their head.
We wander about not knowing what those we meet daily are going through. We express the rudeness of the bank teller. Like Haman, concerning Mordecai, we say things like, “He didn’t even smile at me or greet me.” We look at the gas station attendant and say, “It can’t be that bad, smile.”
For all we know, they just lost a loved one, a pet, their home, etc.
“Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.” Proverbs 25:20.
We bounce words off the walls to describe the waitress who leaves our glass empty of tea or never returns with our check, never weighing that possibly she was raped the night before. Abandoned. Had a miscarriage. Is contemplating suicide.
We disregard our family members who put on smiles and utter “life is great! Sales are at an all-time high.” We call him or her pompous on our car ride home, not knowing they hide behind horrific loneliness, addiction, and depression. We accuse others of being hypochondriacs and needing attention. Meanwhile, they suffer with chronic conditions unseen to the naked eye.
We lack empathy.
What have we become? Mere mortals scrolling through our phones, computers, remote controls. Do they control us? Desensitize us? Entertain us? Are we becoming more remote due to them? “Remote–distant, having very little connection with or relationship to.”
We place on mask and hide behind them.
We lack vulnerability, so we build walls to protect ourselves.
“From the Latin word vulnerare, “to wound,” vulnerability is our susceptibility to be wounded.”
At times, there are people in our lives, who blurt out their sufferings with great vulnerability, but where are we while they stand naked before us? Where was Yeshua’s disciples when he cried out,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 20:18-19).
This passage is just placed in-between two bookends. We read no responses to Yeshua’s words. There are no words of sympathy. No, “I wish you wouldn’t have to suffer so.” There’s not even a “But on the third day, you’ll be fine!” Matter a fact, the next verse we read is the words of James and John’s mother requesting that her sons may sit on the right and left-hand side of Yeshua when he sits as King in his kingdom.
She bows before him and makes her request. It seems vastly different from Esther’s appointment with a king.
What are we asking of him to do for us in this season?
The gentile Kings, Herod, and king, Ahasuerus both offer up to half their Kingdoms. Kingdoms they wouldn’t have if it weren’t given to them by Adonai.
Herod means to flee or be a afraid. Are we afraid of the truth? Haman’s Name means a multitude of noise. He proclaims truth is what he says it is. Do we make noise when we hear truth?
“The council members shouted and covered their ears. At once they all attacked Stephen and dragged him out of the city.” (Acts 7: 57).
“Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.” (Luke 7:20-23).
Haman’s request is to kill a people– Esther’s is to save. The sons of Zebedee and their mother request positions and titles. What are we requesting from such a Holy King?
In part II of this teaching we will look at more request given to kings and what the heart of the matter is.
Quotes from Witness, by A. Burger